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What Is Fentanyl?

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic (manmade) opioid that doctors can prescribe to treat pain. Fentanyl (FEN-tih-nil) is also made illegally and sold as a street drug. It is often mixed with other street drugs (such as xylazine, heroin, or cocaine) to increase their effects, make a drug more addictive, or lower the cost.

Even in very small doses, fentanyl can be deadly.

What Else Is Fentanyl Called?

Apache, Dance Fever, Goodfellas, Jackpot, Murder 8

How Is Fentanyl Used?

Illegally made fentanyl is available in liquid and powder form. It can be made into pills, used as a nasal spray or eye drops, injected, or dropped onto paper or candies.

Sometimes people don’t know that fentanyl is being mixed into their street drugs. Or they're told that the pill is a brand name drug (for example, oxycodone) when it is really fentanyl. They may overdose because they don’t realize how strong the drug is.

What Does Fentanyl Do?

Fentanyl makes someone feel high. It can also cause drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, and urinary retention (not being able to pee), slowed breathing, and even death.

Fentanyl is highly addictive. If someone tries to stop using it, they often develop withdrawal symptoms, like feelings of panic, sleeplessness, bad chills and sweats, muscle pain, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

What Else Should I Know About Fentanyl?

Deaths from overdose of synthetic opioids like fentanyl are a public health crisis in the US. The new trend of mixing xylazine with fentanyl has made this crisis even worse. The White House issued a statement calling xylazine mixed with fentanyl an “emerging threat” and is taking steps toward prevention, treatment, and supply reduction.

Where Can I Find Help?

If you or someone you know is fighting drug addiction, recovery is possible. Talk to your health care provider or check your state or local health department websites.

You also can get more information and support by calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357), or online at:

Reviewed by: Amy W. Anzilotti, MD
Date Reviewed: Apr 12, 2023

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