It’s deadly. It’s almost impossible to detect. And it’s often disguised as less-powerful drugs.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used to treat the most severe pain. While all opioids can be deadly, fentanyl is especially dangerous because it is so strong—much stronger than heroin or morphine.
Fentanyl is often disguised as other drugs
Many of the opioid pills and powders sold on the street are fake. They often contain fentanyl in potentially deadly amounts but are mislabeled as other opioids. The DEA sampled tablets seized nationwide between January and March 2019. It found 27 percent contained potentially lethal doses of fentanyl.
That means if you buy things like Percocet, Vicodin or OxyContin you didn’t get from a pharmacy with a prescription, you need to assume they are fakes that contain fatal amounts of fentanyl.
You can’t see, smell or taste fentanyl when it’s mixed with other drugs. If you use heroin, cocaine or crack—even rarely—you’re at risk of a fentanyl-involved overdose.
The rapid rise of a deadly drug
Until recently, fentanyl was mostly only a problem on the East Coast. But related overdose deaths increased in Washington in the past two years.
The number of overdose deaths in the U.S. from synthetic opioids doubled from 2016 to 2017. In 2018, 744 people from Washington died from an opioid related overdose and 198 of these deaths included fentanyl.
What you can do
If you use opioids:
- Save a life: Always carry naloxone. You can get it with no prescription at any pharmacy.
- Never use alone and go slow with any dosage.
- Buy fentanyl test strips and use them every time. Get free fentanyl strips at any Tacoma Needle Exchange location.
If people around you use opioids:
- Encourage them to get help.
- Always carry naloxone.
- Call 911 if you think someone has overdosed. Our state has laws that protect you and the victim from prosecution if you call 911 or take them to the hospital. That’s true even if there are drugs in the room when help arrives.
If you are a parent:
- It’s never too early to talk to your kids about drugs.
- Remember, emotional well-being is key to your child’s overall good health.
- If you or your child needs mental health help, substance services or resources, contact Pierce County 211. Read more about them or dial 2-1-1.
How to get help
For many people, the best solution for opioid use disorder is medication-assisted treatment (MAT). We serve about 920 clients in our methadone clinic. Thousands of people have their lives back thanks to our work.
You can return unused medicines to one of 46 kiosks spread across Pierce County.