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Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid painkiller that is used to treat severe pain or postsurgical pain. It is between 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.1
Fentanyl is used in hospital settings as an injectable solution, but it may also be prescribed as an orally dissolving tablet, a spray, a transmucosal lozenge, or in extended-release transdermal patch formulations. But on the street, illicit fentanyl may be encountered as a powder, spiked on blotter paper, combined with or substituted for heroin, or sold as tablets that resemble other opioids.1
Detection times may vary by the specific assay used, but on certain tests, fentanyl may be detected in urine for up to 3 days, in blood for up to 48 hours, and in hair for up to 3 months. Saliva tests are not reliable detectors of fentanyl.
Worried about your fentanyl use? Take our free and confidential addiction assessment today.
Fentanyl’s half-life can vary depending on how it is administered or abused. A drug’s half-life is the period of time it takes for its concentration in the blood to drop by 50%.3
Other factors that may contribute to differences in drug metabolism, which can affect how fast a person processes fentanyl, include:
This opioid drug was first used in the 1960s as an anesthetic under the brand name Sublimaze. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has indicated that fentanyl abuse (non-medical misuse) first appeared in the 1970s.2 Despite its abuse liability, a potent opioid like fentanyl still plays a valuable role in certain treatment settings, as it is used to treat people with severe, chronic painwho have developed tolerance to other opioids.1
Fentanyl may be abused by people who seek its euphoric effects. They may steal it, forge prescriptions, or get it through patients, physicians, and pharmacists. In other cases, it may be inadvertently used as an adulterant of heroin. Much of the current fentanyl abuse and overdose epidemic involves illegally manufactured fentanyl.2
Fentanyl’s potency greatly increases the risk of overdose. It acts on areas of the brain that control breathing, which can lead to pronounced respiratory depression and death. People may not be aware that they are using fentanyl, since illicit forms of the drug are sometimes found mixed with heroin or cocaine.1