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Drugs & Health Blog

Fentanyl: A Big Danger in Small Amounts

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.

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The NIDA Blog Team

Prince isn’t the only person who has died from an overdose of the drug fentanyl. In fact, a recent report found that nearly half of overdose deaths that are related to opioids involve fentanyl. Fentanyl is a very powerful synthetic (human-made) opioid that doctors can prescribe for patients who are in extreme pain. It’s similar to morphine—but it’s 50 to 100 times more powerful.

In 2016, more than 42,000 people in the United States died from overdosing. And almost half (about 19,000) of these deaths were related to fentanyl.

Most people use fentanyl without knowing it, because street dealers often add it to other illicit (illegal) drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and counterfeit (fake) prescription drugs sold on the street. Even the smallest amount of fentanyl can be deadly—and very hard to detect.

That’s another reason why using drugs is so risky. Most of the time, people don’t intend to overdose. It happens by accident.

In the video below, Dr. Wilson Compton, one of the authors of the report about fentanyl-related overdose deaths, explains more about what the report found.

Learn more about the true, deadly scope of America’s fentanyl problem.

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


If fentanyl is that deadly why do doctors still prescribe it? Is there no other drugs for pain they can prescribe?

Fentanyl helps many people who are in pain. It is dangerous when it is not used as directed. To learn more about fentanyl, please visit NIDA’s page on this topic:

This info is very useful. I know a few people that have overdosed and been laced by this drug. Its almost scary to know even the smallest amount of fentanyl can be so deadly and cause overdoses.

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