What is Fentanyl?

September 20, 2018. Article by: Government of B.C.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is more toxic than most other opioids. Fentanyl is sometimes prescribed by doctors to help patients who are dealing with severe pain (for example, pain from cancer). But in recent years, it’s also being made in illegal labs and sold on the streets, often mixed with other drugs.

The illegal drug supply is contaminated with fentanyl and led to more than 1,400 overdose deaths last year, leaving countless people in unimaginable grief. Fentanyl has been detected in over 80 per cent of drug overdose deaths in 2018. These overdoses are happening all across the province to people from all walks of life.  

The solution is far more complicated than, “people should just stop doing drugs.” Many people who suffer from years of deeply rooted physical and emotional pain use substances (including from the illegal supply) to find relief. Learning the facts, however, and speaking about substance use without judgement can help prevent overdose and save lives.

Fentanyl Facts


  • Fentanyl is up to 100 times more toxic than morphine and up to 50 times more toxic than heroin.
  • As little as two milligrams of powdered fentanyl can cause an overdose and death (that’s about the same amount as two grains of salt).
  • Fentanyl can be mixed with pills, powder or injectable liquid in drugs like fake oxycodone, heroin, cocaine, or ecstasy. People may take fentanyl without knowing it.
  • Pills or powders made in the same batch can have different amounts of fentanyl – one pill may have little traces of fentanyl while another may have deadly amounts.
  • Fentanyl is odorless, tasteless and colourless. There is no easy way to know if fentanyl (or how much of it) is in a drug – people can’t see it just by looking.
  • Using fentanyl at the same time as alcohol, cocaine, other opioids (like heroin, morphine, methadone or codeine), benzodiazepines, or methamphetamines, increases the risk of overdose.

How to Keep Yourself and Those You Care About Safe?

Getting informed and talking with people you trust are great places to start. Watch this video to learn more about fentanyl.



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