Here’s what you need to know about the drug fentanyl

Local media is reporting an alarming number of overdoses and deaths tied to the powerful opioid painkiller fentanyl.

Intended for hospital use only to treat pain, it’s increasingly becoming common on the black market. Spikes in fentanyl overdoses have occurred in Ohio and Chicago. While often laced with heroin, because it’s so much stronger and cheaper to make, many people with substance use disorders are taking fentanyl on its own.

Here are some facts on fentanyl:

What is fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a depressant drug, which means it slows down the messages travelling between the brain and body. It belongs to a group of drugs known as “opioids” that are from the opium poppy. It is prescribed for the control of chronic, severe pain as a result of cancer, nerve damage, back injury, major trauma or other causes.


Symptoms that may be experienced include: nausea/vomiting, constipation and/or diarrhea, reduced appetite, indigestion or cramps, drowsiness, confusion, weakness or fatigue, dizziness, euphoria, headache, incoherent or slurred speech, impaired balance, slow pulse, lowered blood pressure and rash.

More severe symptoms can include: chest pain, slowed breathing, bluish lips and complexion, seizure, fainting, coma and death.

Regular use of fentanyl can cause: mood instability, reduced libido, constipation, menstrual problems and respiratory impairment.

How is fentanyl used?

Its most common form is a transdermal patch. Some people use fentanyl illegally to become intoxicated by extracting the fentanyl from the patch and injecting it. This is very risky as there is little difference between the amount needed to get “high” and the amount that causes overdose. It is also extremely hard to judge a “correct” dose size.

Fentanyl also comes in lozenges and IVs. Heroin, cocaine, oxycodone and other drugs can be cut with fentanyl, in powder, liquid or pill form.

Why is it so popular?

It is about 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. You also can’t see, smell or taste it.

What can you do if you know someone who needs help?

In the event of an overdose, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and use of an antidote like naloxone can reverse the effects of fentanyl. Fairbanks offers a variety of programs including: detox and rehab, outpatient treatment, long-term residential living and recovery management. Our goal is to provide each person battling a substance use disorder with the tools to identify the changes they need to make in their life and to give them the recovery tools they need for a substance free and successful life.

To make an appointment for an assessment please call 317-849-8222 or visit for more information.