What You Need To Know About Fentanyl
What You Need To Know About Fentanyl

What You Need To Know About Fentanyl

Blog and Opinions Red Slashes Sep 25, 2017
By: CannAmm

Fentanyl is something that has been in the media seemingly on repeat in the last while, and there doesn’t seem to be any signs of it slowing down. Though we know that it is a dangerous drug, what else is known about it? What are its effects? How is it detected? What are the statistics behind it? These are all questions that we have the answers to.

What is it?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate classified as a painkiller that is available in prescription form. Fentanyl is 100 times more powerful than morphine at the equivalent dose by weight. The drug is typically in the form of skin patches which releases the drug over 72 hours. Abuse involves removing the entire volume of the patch and injecting the contents as a single dose. Intravenous fentanyl is extensively used for anesthesia and analgesia, most often in operating rooms and intensive care units.[1,2,3] Street names of the drug include apache, china girl, china white, dance fever, goodfella, and TNT.


As seen in many media reports, the abuse of fentanyl has caused death. Due to the short-lived effects of the drug, regular users become addicted very rapidly and require increasing amounts to produce the same effects. Critical issues arise due to the potency of the drug in comparison to heroin. Also, due to the intense respiratory depression the drug causes, common with anesthetics, there is a larger risk to the user. Fentanyl is most commonly used orally, however, it can also be smoked, snorted or injected. Fentanyl is sometimes sold as heroin, which often leads to overdoses due to the extreme potency of fentanyl. In fact, fentanyl overdoses are initially classified as heroin overdoses.   

As with most drugs, fentanyl has both short and long-term effects that take over the user of the drug.

Short-term Effects [3] Long-term Effects
Inability to breath causing death Criminal activity to support habit
Sleepiness Depression
Euphoria Weight loss/loss of appetite
Relaxation Anxiety
Vomiting Tremors/withdrawal symptoms
Confusion Tolerance requiring higher doses
Concentration impairment  

Statistics [2-7]

  • From 2004-2008 emergency room visits involving non-medical use of fentanyl increased 105%
  • Most identified occupational abusers are medical staff
  • Alarming increase of fentanyl abuse in teens resulting in death
  • 10% higher incidence of abuse in women vs. men


Fentanyl is detectable in urine utilizing currently available forensic testing processes. Typically fentanyl testing is performed in medical monitoring programs, and on a case-by-case basis as part of recommendations by a substance abuse expert. Currently, employers are encouraged to educate their staff for both their personal safety and the safety of their family, as the likelihood of overdose of this drug is very high and can ultimately result in death.

This drug, however, is not necessarily something that companies will be testing for on a regular basis. This is due to the fact that those individuals taking fentanyl likely are not going to be showing up for work, simply because they cannot. The potency and overall effect of fentanyl is so high that it would inhibit the user from moving very far, let alone making it into work.


  5. Canadian Pharmacists Association. Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties 2010. Pg 792-795.
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