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Fentanyl is a deadly, undetectable opioid making its way into street drugs

Hands holding a pill

What you should know about fentanyl

Synthetic fentanyl has been found in cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, pills, and marijuana, causing overdoses and deaths. Fentanyl has no smell or taste. If you use drugs, you may be at risk for taking fentanyl without even knowing it.

What is fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Pharmaceutical fentanyl was developed for pain-management treatment of cancer patients. Illicitly manufactured, fentanyl is added to heroin, disguising it as highly potent heroin. Many users don’t realize that the heroin they are purchasing may contain fentanyl — which often results in overdose deaths.

Fentanyl is now a leading cause of drug overdose deaths in Delaware.

View Source: Drug Overdose Deaths in Delaware

It takes only a few grains of fentanyl to cause an overdose

Below is a lethal dose of heroin compared with lethal doses of carfentanil and fentanyl.

A comparison of lethal doses of carfentanil and fentanyl in relation to a lethal does of heroin

(Credit: DEA)

What does fentanyl look like?

Illicitly manufactured powdered fentanyl looks just like many other drugs. It is commonly mixed with drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, or made into pills that resemble other prescription opioids. In its liquid form, illicitly manufactured fentanyl can be found in nasal sprays and eye drops, and it can be dropped onto paper or small candies.

What does it feel like to use fentanyl?

Fentanyl produces effects such as relaxation, euphoria, pain relief, sedation, confusion, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, urinary retention, pupillary constriction, and respiratory depression (you could stop breathing).

Two milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal

Two milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal. DEA analysis has found counterfeit pills ranging from .02 to 5.1 milligrams (more than twice the lethal dose) of fentanyl per tablet.

How does fentanyl get into the drug I want to use?

Fentanyl is often added to other drugs to make them cheaper, more powerful, more addictive, and more dangerous. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, most of the illicit supply comes from outside the United States, where clandestine laboratories synthesize fentanyl into counterfeit pills. These fake pills are designed to appear nearly identical to legitimate prescriptions, such as Oxycontin®, Percocet®, Vicodin®, Adderall®, Xanax®, and other medicines. Fentanyl powder is also being added to other street drugs to increase their potency. You can’t tell if fentanyl is in the drug you are about to use. The only way to be sure is to test street drugs for fentanyl.

How to test for fentanyl and prevent an overdose

How do I test for fentanyl?

Fentanyl test strips can help you determine if the street drug you are about to use contains fentanyl. Here’s how to test a drug for fentanyl:

  1. Put a very small amount of powder (about the size of a half a grain of rice) in a shot glass half filled with water. Swirl it until the powder is completely dissolved. If you want to test something that isn’t a powder, crush it first. If you are testing a stimulant like meth, use a full shot glass of water.
  2. Hold the solid-blue end of the test strip and dip the other end in the water for about 10 seconds.
  3. Take the strip out of the water and wait 60 seconds.
  4. Look at the strip under a bright light and count the red lines (even light red counts) within 10 minutes of doing the test.
  5. Two red lines means there is no fentanyl. One red line means there is fentanyl, so do not use!
Narcan nasal spray

When using, go slow and carry Narcan®.

Always carry Narcan, a lifesaving medication that can stop an overdose while it’s happening. Narcan is available at all pharmacies in Delaware, without a prescription, or through distribution centers.

When using drugs, start with a very small amount and go slow to test the strength. Never use alone, but if you must, have someone check on you. Talk to friends and family about what to do if you overdose. Delaware’s Good Samaritan Law offers criminal and civil protection for individuals acting in good faith to assist someone who has overdosed from drugs or alcohol. When an overdose occurs, call 9-1-1.

Learn the signs of an overdose.

Recognizing the signs of an opioid overdose can save a life. Here are some things to look for:

  • Small, constricted “pinpoint” pupils
  • Falling asleep or losing consciousness
  • Slow, weak, or no breathing
  • Choking or gurgling sounds
  • Limp body
  • Cold and/or clammy skin
  • Discolored skin (especially in lips and nails)

If an overdose occurs, call 9-1-1.

Where to get Narcan

NEXT Distro - Stay alive, stay safe.

Narcan can be mailed directly to you.

Narcan, also known as naloxone, is available through Naloxone distribution centers at treatment providers in the state.

Learn More

Find it at pharmacies.

Participating pharmacies dispense Narcan without a prescription.

View Participating Locations

Attend a community overdose prevention event.

Narcan is distributed at special events held throughout the state, and on-the-spot Narcan training, overdose rescue information, and other resources are available.

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Monthly Narcan Distribution and Training Events

Special Narcan distribution events that will happen monthly.

Chapel on DHSS Herman Holloway Campus

1901 N. Du Pont Highway, New Castle, DE 19720

2nd Thursday and 3rd Saturday of each month

Training

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POD

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New Castle County

Bear Public Library

101 Governors Pl, Bear, DE 19701

4th Monday of every month

Training

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POD

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New Castle County

Dover Public Library

35 Loockerman Plaza, Dover, DE 19901

3rd Saturday of every month

Training

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POD

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4th Thursday of every month

Training

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POD

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Kent County

Georgetown Public Library

123 W Pine St, Georgetown, DE 19947

1st Tuesday of every month

Training

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POD

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Sussex County

Shipley State Service Center

350 Virginia Ave, Seaford, DE 19973

3rd Tuesday of every month

Training

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POD

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Sussex County

Lewes Public Library

111 Adams Ave, Lewes, DE 19958

2nd Saturday of every month

Training

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POD

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Sussex County

Ocean View Police Department

201 Central Ave, Ocean View, DE 19970

4th Thursday of every month

Training

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POD

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Sussex County

Exchange syringes through the Syringe Services Program.

Used syringes can be exchanged for sterile ones at Brandywine Counseling locations throughout the state. Test strips, which detect the presence of fentanyl in other drugs, are also available — fentanyl was linked to 29% of overdose deaths in 2017.

Learn more