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Fentanyl is "a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine. Pharmaceutical fentanyl was developed for pain management treatment of cancer patients, applied in a patch on the skin. Because of its powerful opioid properties, Fentanyl is also diverted for abuse. Fentanyl is added to heroin to increase its potency, or be disguised as highly potent heroin. Many users believe that they are purchasing heroin and actually don’t know that they are purchasing fentanyl – which often results in overdose deaths. Clandestinely-produced fentanyl is primarily manufactured in Mexico."[1] It is currently in Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act[2], meaning that while highly addictive, dangerous and restricted, it is recognized as medically useful for the treatment of pain in extreme cases.

In Canada, law enforcement officers carry a drug that acts as an antidote to fentanyl, as even skin exposure to the powder can be lethal.[3]

Medicinal Uses

Fentanyl is usually an opiate of last resort, used when a patient is highly tolerant to most other opiates including morphine.[4] When used in accordance with a doctor's orders and properly prescribed, it can be safe for patients recovering from extreme pain, or in cases of terminal cancer.

Illegal Uses

In addition to being commonly added to heroin, fentanyl can be purchased directly from China through the Dark Web. 2 milligrams of pure fentanyl is fatal.[5] Based on that data, it would take about 1,450 pounds of pure fentanyl to kill every person in the United States. It is no wonder that some see fentanyl as a potential weapon of mass destruction.[6]