What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a powerful, synthetic opioid used to treat pain. It can be injected into the veins or muscles, inhaled through the nose via a nasal spray, or applied as a patch on the skin. A health professional can prescribe fentanyl legally for a patient with pain. However, fentanyl can be made and used illegally.

Why is Fentanyl Dangerous?

Fentanyl is sometimes added to drugs to increase a person’s high and can be disguised as heroin, cocaine, meth, marijuana, and counterfeit (fake) prescription pills. As a result, many people believe that they are purchasing a certain drug and do not know that they are buying fentanyl – which often results in overdose deaths. Fentanyl is extremely dangerous. A dose as small as 1-2 grains (2mg) of salt can cause a fatal overdose. In Georgia, from 2019 to 2021, drug overdose deaths increased by 61%, and fentanyl-involved overdose deaths increased by 230%.

Persons who use drugs (PWUD), healthcare professionals, and the community must understand there is a significant risk of overdose when using opioids, stimulants, and other illicit drugs, as they may be mixed with fentanyl.

What can be done?

The increase in overdose deaths highlights the need to ensure people most at risk of overdose can access care, as well as the need to expand prevention and response activities. CDC issued a Health Alert Network Advisory to medical and public health professionals, first responders, harm reduction organizations, and other community partners, recommending the following actions as appropriate based on local needs and characteristics:

  • Expand distribution and use of naloxone and overdose prevention education
  • Expand awareness about and access to and availability of treatment for substance use disorders
  • Intervene early with individuals at the highest risk for overdose
  • Improve detection of overdose outbreaks to facilitate a more effective response

Page last updated 2/22/23