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Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. It is short acting and cannot be seen, tasted or smelled when mixed into other drugs.

The presence of fentanyl in the New York City drug supply has dramatically increased the number of overdose deaths, and fentanyl is now the most common drug involved in overdose deaths. In 2017, 800 New Yorkers died from overdoses involving fentanyl.

Pharmaceutical Fentanyl

Pharmaceutical fentanyl is prescribed for severe pain and end-of-life care. Various types of fentanyl are used in medical and veterinary care, including sufentanil, alfentanil, remifentanil and carfentanil.

Fentanyl is a strong opioid. You must be careful when taking it to avoid an overdose. Do not take more than prescribed, and do not use fentanyl that was prescribed to someone else.

Non-Pharmaceutical Fentanyl

Non-pharmaceutical fentanyl is produced illegally. Fentanyl has been found mixed in heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine. It can also be pressed into counterfeit pills to look like prescription painkillers or benzodiazepines, such as Xanax® Klonopin®, and Valium®. Non-pharmaceutical fentanyl has not been found mixed into cannabis in New York City.

Anyone who uses drugs that may contain fentanyl, even occasionally, is at risk of overdose.

If you use drugs, including prescription fentanyl, learn how you can reduce your risk of overdose:

  • Use with others and take turns, or have someone check on you.

  • Get naloxone. Naloxone is an emergency medication that can reverse an overdose from heroin and other opioids, including fentanyl. When you use drugs, leave naloxone out where others can find it.

  • Avoid mixing drugs. Using different drugs together, including alcohol, increases your risk of overdose. If you do, go slow.

If you would like to talk to someone about substance use services or treatment, contact NYC Well.

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