Fentanyl Overdose

Learn about a fentanyl overdose, its symptoms, risks, side effects, and aftercare. 

What is Fentanyl?

Death because of a fentanyl overdose became the leading cause of death between adults ages 18 and 45 in 2020.1 Fentanyl overdoses killed more people than Covid 19, cancer, suicide, accidents, and all other causes of death. Fentanyl is a huge problem in the United States and must be addressed.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that was created for the specific purpose of managing pain in cancer patients.2 It’s 80-100 times stronger than morphine and is often added to other drugs to make them stronger. Heroin and similar opioids are often laced with fentanyl to make them more addictive and potent. Many overdose deaths result from users abusing heroin and not knowing that it’s mixed with fentanyl.

Fentanyl Overdose


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What Is Fentanyl Used For?

While fentanyl was initially intended for medical purposes and is becoming a favorite for drug dealers.2

It’s used to treat pain and is often prescribed to cancer patients and those that deal with sudden bursts of pain.3

 However, it’s used illegally for the feelings of euphoria and the high that it brings.

How Strong Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is 80-100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin.4

There are two basic types of fentanyl: illicitly manufactured fentanyl and pharmaceutical fentanyl. Both are equal in strength and addiction potential, but illicitly manufactured fentanyl is often the drug of choice for illegal users. 

Fentanyl Overdose

Fentanyl overdose has been a problem growing steadily for over a decade. Between 2020 and 2021, nearly 79,000 people between 18 and 45 died from fentanyl overdoses.1 That means that over 150 people die every day from fentanyl abuse.2

Raw fentanyl or other drugs laced with fentanyl has become one of the top killers in the United States.

What Causes Fentanyl Overdose?

Fentanyl overdose is often the result of people not realizing the strength of fentanyl and taking too much of it. Overdose is also caused by users not realizing that other drugs they’re taking are laced with fentanyl. In fact, not realizing that you’re taking fentanyl is the leading cause of overdose among users.

To give drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and meth an extra kick and increase the chances of addiction, dealers add in a touch of fentanyl.4

Because of how potent fentanyl is, it may lead to an increased risk of overdose. 

Can a Fentanyl Overdose Be Prevented?

Preventing fentanyl overdose is difficult, especially when people don’t realize they’re taking it. You won’t be able to see, smell, or taste fentanyl in drugs that are laced with it. However, test strips have been developed to detect fentanyl because of the growing problem.4

These strips are inexpensive and often result in as little as five minutes. By simply taking five minutes to test drugs before taking them, you can know if your drugs are laced with fentanyl and act accordingly.4

Alternatively, the best way to prevent a fentanyl overdose is to avoid street drugs or drugs entirely. Test strips are accurate to a point, but desperate users will often take the drugs anyway at the end of the day. The only way to stay safe and prevent a fentanyl overdose is to put your addiction to an end.

Symptoms of Fentanyl Overdose

The symptoms of fentanyl overdose aren’t pretty. However, you must know what the signs are if you or someone you love has overdosed and needs medical attention. Symptoms start slow but get progressively worse. 

They range from reduced blood pressure to feeling cold and clammy to drowsiness and vomiting. Eventually, you pass out, and there’s nothing more you can do. It’s important to catch fentanyl overdose before you pass out. Here are the symptoms of overdose.

Risks and Side Effects of Fentanyl Overdose

Anytime you put illegal fentanyl into your system, you’re risking an overdose. You simply have no way of knowing how much fentanyl you’re taking and how strong it is. Even a slight miscalculation is enough to kill you. Here are some of the other risks and side effects of a fentanyl overdose.

Risks and Side Effects of Fentanyl Overdose

Fentanyl Overdose Treatment

The problem of fentanyl overdose has become such a problem in many areas that reported overdoses are no longer punished with jail time. Police and medical staff would rather save the lives of those who have overdosed than have them refuse to call 911 out of fear of going to prison.

While this has helped prevent fentanyl overdose deaths to a certain extent, it’s only effective if the user can call 911 before they pass out. If they’re lucky enough to receive medical attention in time, two treatments are used to combat fentanyl overdose.

Aftercare for Fentanyl Overdose Victims

The biggest component to providing aftercare for fentanyl overdose victims is connecting them to an aftercare facility. Victims who are simply put back out on the streets without any aftercare are more likely to overdose again.7 The only way to prevent this from happening is to get overdose victims the help they need.

Aftercare for fentanyl overdose victims should include mental health support, ongoing medical monitoring, social support, housing if necessary, and medication-assisted treatment.7 Aftercare for overdose victims isn’t complete until they’re no longer addicted to fentanyl. Anything less puts the victim at risk for a second, potentially fatal overdose.