Common Drug Names:

Apache, TNT, tango and cash, goodfella, jackpot, China girl, China white, friend, dance fever, murder 8, percopop, King Ivory, he-man, great bear

Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever, approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain. Fentanyl works by blocking pain receptors in the brain and increasing production of the happiness-inducing chemical dopamine. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and is prescribed in the form of transdermal patches or lozenges and can be diverted for misuse and abuse. Legal brands of Fentanyl may be seen as: Antiq, Duragesic, Sublimaze, Subsys, Abstral, Lazanda.

The image to the left shows the amount of each drug needed to cause the average person to overdose. Carfentanil, classified as a synthetic opioid and used to tranquilize large animals, is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl.

Like heroin, morphine, and other opioid drugs, fentanyl works by binding to the body's opioid receptors, which are found in areas of the brain that control pain and emotions. After taking opioids many times, the brain adapts to the drug, diminishing its sensitivity, making it hard to feel pleasure from anything besides the drug. When people become addicted, drug seeking, and drug use take over their lives.

Fentanyl's effects include

  • extreme happiness
  • drowsiness
  • nausea
  • confusion
  • constipation
  • sedation
  • problems breathing
  • unconsciousness

Overdosing from fentanyl:

A person can overdose on fentanyl. An overdose occurs when a drug produces serious adverse effects and life-threatening symptoms. When people overdose on fentanyl, their breathing can slow or stop. This can decrease the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain, a condition called hypoxia. Hypoxia can lead to a coma and permanent brain damage, and even death.

People addicted to fentanyl who stop using it can have severe withdrawal symptoms that begin as early as a few hours after the drug was last taken. These symptoms include:

  • muscle and bone pain
  • sleep problems
  • diarrhea and vomiting
  • cold flashes with goose bumps
  • uncontrollable leg movements
  • severe cravings

These symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and are the reason many people find it so difficult to stop taking fentanyl. There are medicines being developed to help with the withdrawal process for fentanyl and other opioids.

Although rarely life-threatening, cutting out fentanyl “cold turkey” can be a miserable process. Those struggling with a fentanyl addiction will likely experience painful withdrawals if they stop taking the drug or reduce their dose. Specialized treatment centers offer inpatient and outpatient resources to help those addicted quit fentanyl


Because of its powerful opioid properties, Fentanyl is also diverted for abuse. Fentanyl has been added to heroin, or other illicit substances to increase its potency. Many users believe that they are purchasing heroin or other substances and don’t know that they are purchasing fentanyl – which often results in overdose deaths.