There is a lot that has been said about the opioid epidemic, but there are illicit opioid drugs that also need to be talked about. For instance, many people find themselves leaning towards more dangerous opioids because of the affordability and accessibility of the substances, especially if greater monitoring has been done for traditionally prescribed opioids in doctor’s offices. In fact, previous studies have shown that of the thousands of deaths that have occurred from opioids, the deadliest one – fentanyl – has taken the majority of these lives.

What is fentanyl

Fentanyl is an opioid analgesic (painkiller) that is similar to morphine 50-100 times stronger. As a prescription drug, it’s often called Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze – but sold illicitly on the street, it tends to goes by Apache, China Girl, Dance Fever, Friend, etc. When taken as prescribed, fentanyl is taken by injection, lozenges or through a patch. It’s often used for pain after surgery – but when misused, it has much more dangerous potential.

Fentanyl was created about 70 years ago and is pretty inexpensive to make in the lab. Because of this, drug cartels have tried to sell a lot of it – with many cartels even creating their own fentanyl and other drugs. Despite the common belief that drugs are drugs, they’re not always what they say they are. Important policemen have stated that it’s nearly impossible to tell if fentanyl – an incredibly dangerous drug – is even in a product. Labs are the only sources that can test this kind of information. Because of this, individuals need to be extremely cautious as to not experience fatal harm.

Fentanyl doesn’t work any differently in the brain than other drugs would – it still causes dopamine to produce in excess (feel-good chemicals in the brain), which naturally causes the brain to want more and more The difference between fentanyl and other drugs, however, is how quickly the drug’s chemicals bind to opioid receptors in the brain. Since fentanyl binds to receptors in the brain so quickly, that also makes the “high” pretty intense – which only further can harm a person compared to other substances which may take more time to affect a person. Even the smallest dose of fentanyl could significantly harm a person, yet some people are not aware of this type of seriousness so they take it anyways.

With such a strong potency, this means that fentanyl would need to be taken at an extremely low dose in order to achieve a similar “high” – and in many unfortunate cases, lives are lost due to the amount of misinformation surrounding this type of drug.

Fentanyl Deaths

Not only does fentanyl bind to opioid receptors extremely fast, but it also causes considerable uncomfortable side effects – such as nausea and vomiting, sedation, and respiratory depression (respiratory arrest is how most people die from this drug). Deaths from this substance have left many children in neglect, and many families devastated. Unfortunately, rates have increased for deaths of fentanyl around the country and it’s been such a major concern that policy officials, local organizations and community members aren’t sure how to address it. There is a great need for education on this type of substance around the United States – and for Americans to be increasingly cautious about the type of drugs they buy off the street as well as becoming more aware of what’s in these substances.

There are currently 20 states that have a higher rate of death from fentanyl compared to other states, including Florida, New Mexico, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, amongst others. 

One could only speculate on the reasons for why fentanyl has taken so many lives. There are a number of potential reasons, including the concern of harm-reduction, naloxone treatment, public safety organizations and targeted treatment for abusing fentanyl. There is still a major concern, however, for how people across the nation can be reached so they can seek help from this deadly drug as well as other incredibly harmful substances. 

Researchers, policymakers and community leaders alike are working together to find ways to combat this issue – because we can’t continue losing lives.

Fentanyl and our nation

Last year, a 21-year-old girl died from a fentanyl overdose and her mother was left in shock and devastated. The young girls’ mother had worked in the healthcare profession and while she’d heard of fentanyl and what it can do to people, she had no idea that her daughter may be involved in it. It’s stories like these that really shed light on what people are going through.

 Seek Help


If you or a loved one has been struggling with drug addiction, seek the help you need before it’s too late. Your life matters – and there are people who can help you get through this. For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with mental health challenges, addiction, and substance use problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783 or visit us online.