Fentanyl Illicit Use

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Fentanyl is a potent analgesic almost a hundred times stronger than morphine that is used as an anesthetic and in the management of chronic and breakthrough pain.

However, drug abusers also sometimes use fentanyl as a recreational drug. This first started to happen in the mid 1970s, almost a decade after fentanyl was first synthesized and introduced into medical practice. Fentanyl is classified by the US authorities as a narcotic and to date, twelve fentanyl analogues that have been developed for use on the street have been identified by drug traffic teams.

The effects of fentanyl and its analogues are similar to that of heroin, although users of the drug report that the “high” is less intense than with heroin, while the sedative effects are stronger. Fentanyl is also a very short-acting drug which means it quickly becomes addictive to users who want to maintain their high. Fentanyl is nearly a hundred times more potent that heroin and users are at an even greater risk of respiratory depression when using fentanyl. Fentanyl is taken in different ways and can be smoked, snorted or injected.

Fentanyl transdermal patches are also sold on the black market for drug users to buy. Aside from applying the patches to the skin, abusers may cut up the patches and eat them or take the gel from inside and smoke it. To prevent this abuse, the fentanyl patch the Durogesic patch was developed which contains the fentanyl throughout its plastic matrix rather than inside a gel. Fentanyl lollipops and lozenges are also sold on the black market. Actiq fentanyl lollipops, for example, are sold as percopop on the streets.

Some drug dealers mix fentanyl with other drugs to make them stronger or to improve low quality drugs. In 2006, mixtures of fentanyl with cocaine or heroin caused an outbreak of deaths in various cities across the United States including Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, New Jersey and Dallas, amongst others. Two of the street names that exist for a mixture of fentanyl and heroin are “magic “ and “bomb.”

Some examples of fentanyl analogues inlcude α-methylfentanyl, 3-Methylfentanyl, Acetyl-α-methylfentanyl, 3-Methylthiofentanyl, α-methylthiofentanyl, β-hydroxyfentanyl, β-hydroxy-3-methylfentanyl, Thiofentanyl, and ''p''-flurorofentanyl.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jun 19, 2023

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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  1. Melissa Almas Melissa Almas United States says:

    I'm from Detroit area, and knew some people that died from the heroin mixed with the fentanyl.  I always wondered why a dealer would spend money adding fentanyl when it seems like it would cost so much and esp. instead of just selling heroin and not using as much cut  ( I heard it's cut with anything from milk powder to vitamin B, but I'm positive there's many things used that are very unhealthy ). Someone kinda answered by telling me it's bathtub fetanyl, but who would know how to do that!? I do know how serious and strong this medicine is after seeing and hearing all the deaths that year, very sad.

  2. Penny Pen Pen Saxon Penny Pen Pen Saxon Canada says:

    Well its reared it's ugly head in many countries cities communities recreational (weekend warriors)  users getting it in their blow  . Needless to say it's a horrible drug to ever have been made. It's for people dying so their pain isn't so bad. Now it's killing street people 9..to 10 a day in the Dtes in Vancouver BC.. I hadn't heard of this drug until intervention a few yrs back... Still quiet then the Liberals get into power and BAM... Is it a coincidence??!?! Is it a cleansing?. Sad sad world.

  3. Mark See Mark See United States says:

    I've been at stage 4, with advanced prostate cancer for 5 years, which has gone to the bones. Have had 5 separate radiation treatments, which has helped killing some of the lower spine tumors. Currently on my second chemo treatment with sudden new, highly elavated liver numbers, bringing the 4th treatment to a hault. Reasons for round 2 of the chemo (3 weeks of cervical radiation occurred before the chemo started) was a large mass of cancer in the cervix C-1 through C-7. Removal of the mass, left me as an incomplete quadriplegic. Learned to walk again but my hands are close to useless. Sorry to bore anyone reading this 💤. I've been prescribed 20 mg roxicodone, which is losing its effectiveness. Recently they prescribed me 25 microgram fentanyl patches to take with the Roxicodone. It's causing a little bit of nausea for me or maybe an OD feeling? Any thoughts or suggestions would be much appreciated. Thank you!
    MS in SW Florida

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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