What Is Fentanyl, and Why Is It So Dangerous?

Updated July 18, 2023

Have you heard the term fentanyl used in conversations about drug abuse and the opioid epidemic? This powerful pain-relieving drug is commonly used in the health care industry and can have some valuable benefits for chronic pain management and surgical operations. However, when used improperly, it also has some dangerous consequences. Here, we'll explore the realities of everything you need to know about fentanyl abuse.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a strong synthetic opioid analgesic that is often used to treat cancer patients or those struggling with chronic pain. In a surgical setting, it's often delivered through an IV. To treat chronic pain, it can also be administered via a fentanyl patch. Like morphine and many other opioids, fentanyl binds itself to the body's opioid receptors in the brain, boosting dopamine levels to intensify relaxation and euphoria.

Why Is Fentanyl Dangerous?

As with any other opioid, fentanyl can bind to opioid receptors anywhere in the brain, including those that control breathing. While it successfully triggers a strong pain-relieving high, it can also lead to damage, addiction and even death.

Fentanyl's danger lies in its strength and its potency. Just 2 to 3 milligrams can be fatal, as it has the ability to block opioid receptors and cause respiratory depression. Rated as 80-100 times more potent than morphine, its intense strength can overpower a user's brain and respiratory center.

Fentanyl has become one of the leading culprits behind the opioid crisis, as its high potency and powerful addictive qualities have caused it to run rampant on the drug scene. It is considered to be more lethal to its users than other illegal drugs because of the very small dose it takes to cause respiratory failure and death.

The Risks of Lacing Fentanyl With Other Drugs

The concept of lacing drugs — that is, combining potent substances together to form a mixed concoction — is not a new one. However, fentanyl is rising in the ranks as one of the most dangerous drugs to lace in a concoction. Fentanyl delivers an incredibly powerful kick at a much lower cost than a drug like heroin. This makes it a popular choice to lace with drugs like cocaine and heroin and sell on the street to users.

This is leading to accidental and fatal overdoses in a rising rate across the country. Users choose it for its powerful high, while dealers gravitate toward it because of its increased addictive qualities and lower cost. As a result, deaths caused by drug overdoses are steadily growing. Deaths due to fentanyl use led to over 67,000 preventable deaths in 2021, a 26% increse from the year prior. 

Contact Diamond House Detox for Help Healing From Substance Abuse

If you or a loved one is suffering from opioid abuse and addiction, there's no time to waste. The dangers of fentanyl abuse are high, with the rate of fatalities increasingly on the rise. Don't hesitate to reach out to Diamond House Detox to schedule an in-patient medically-assisted detox program and substance abuse rehabilitation. We are here to help you overcome your addictions and go through every step of our medication-based rehab program.

Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on April 14, 2020.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet