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Fentanyl: The Legal Analgesic Illegally Killing Thousands!

by David Smith

| Updated March 11, 2024 |
Have you heard about “The Faces of Fentanyl?”

That’s one of the initiatives the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has devised to involve the public and people who have lost loved ones to Fentanyl overdoses in its efforts to stop the deadly consequences of uncontrolled Fentanyl consumption.

Unfortunately, data from the National Institute of Drug Abuse suggests that Fentanyl is causing plenty of deaths.

In 2021, for example, Fentanyl was responsible for the majority of the 70,601 deaths from synthetic opioid overdoses. What’s more, most other deaths from overdoses in antidepressants, stimulants, and other types of drugs also involved Fentanyl.

With such figures, it’s no wonder the DEA Administrator, Anne Milgram, has described Fentanyl as the deadliest drug threat ever witnessed in the US.

So, what exactly is Fentanyl, why is it so deadly, and what else should you know about this potential killer drug? Read on for answers to all these questions.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a lab-made opioid. Opioids are pain-relieving drugs that activate the opioid receptors in the central nervous system to block pain signals from reaching other parts of the body.

Natural opioids like morphine and heroin are derived from the opium poppy plants. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid created in laboratories. Regardless, it has the same effects as natural opioids.

Not all opioids are legal, and the legal-illegal issue around Fentanyl is complicated. We’ll break it down for you in the next section.

Is Fentanyl Legal?

Opioids are classified as legal or illegal. The classic example of an illegal opioid is the drug heroin.

Fentanyl is among several opioids classified as legal and used as prescription drugs to relieve acute pain in advanced cancer and post-surgery patients. As a prescription opioid, Fentanyl was first used as an intravenous analgesic and approved by the FDA in 1968.

In the Federal Control Substance Act, Fentanyl is a Schedule II drug controlled by the US Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This means it is considered to have low to moderate potential for psychological and physical dependency.

Other prescription opioids include morphine, oxycodone (OxyContin®), codeine, hydrocodone (Vicodin®), and methadone.

Fentanyl is tens or a hundred times stronger than other prescription opioids in its pain-relieving properties. For example, it is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin.

Because of its potency, some physicians, pharmacists, and even patients fraudulently divert prescription Fentanyl for illegal purposes. This explains why its illegal production and consumption have increased in the past years.

Illegal Fentanyl is sold as candies, powder, nasal sprays, eye drops, or pills under different street names, including China Girl, Dance Fever, Goodfellas, Great Bear, He-man, Poison, King Ivory, and Jackpot.

Worse still, because a small amount of Fentanyl has amplified effects, illegal Fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, or ecstasy. Unfortunately, illegal consumption of Fentanyl has caused thousands of deaths.

Why is Fentanyl So Deadly?

Like all opiates, Fentanyl produces feel-good effects in the consumer. These include:

●A sense of relaxation and ecstasy/euphoria.
●Relief from pain.
●A feeling of calmness or sedation.

However, Fentanyl also creates unpleasant effects such as nausea and vomiting, confusion, dizziness, drowsiness, pupillary constriction, urinary retention, and respiratory depression.

It is the feel-good effects of Fentanyl that cause people to want to consume it continuously. And because of its potency, a small amount of the opioid can cause intoxication or overdose.

A person with a Fentanyl overdose will show signs such as:
●Change in pupil size.
●Sweaty skin.
●Blue or greyish skin (cyanosis).
●A state of daze (stupor).

In severe cases of Fentanyl overdose, the user can go into a coma, experience respiratory failure, and even die. The severe effects of Fentanyl overdose from just a tiny dose answer our question of why Fentanyl is so deadly.

Final Tips

If you witness a person with a Fentanyl overdose, the most advised move is to call 911 immediately. You should also keep the person awake and lie him/her on the side to prevent choking.

Nevertheless, administering naloxone can be the life-saving move the person needs. In March 2023, the FDA approved Narcan, a naloxone hydrochloride nasal spray you can purchase over-the-counter (without prescription) to save the life of a person intoxicated with Fentanyl.

All in all, the ultimate choice is to stay away from illegal Fentanyl.


1.National Institute on Drug Abuse. Drug Overdose Death Rates.
2.Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Faces of Fentanyl. #JustKNOW.
3.Stanley, TH. The Fentanyl Story. The Journal of Pain, 2014:15(12): 1215-1226.
4.DEA. Drug Fact Sheet: Fentanyl, 2020.
5.FDA. FDA Approves First Over-the-Counter Naloxone Nasal Spray.

Article by
David Smith
David is a urologist with over 9 years of experience. He is also the Co-fonder of BladGo, where he regularly shares his expertise in the field of urology. David is committed to keeping readers up-to-date on the latest urological research and to sharing other beneficial healthcare tips and information so that they can live healthier lives.

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