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Fentanyl Dangers and How to Avoid Them

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

Fentanyl is a powerful opioid drug that has a high risk of overdose, especially when taken in combination with other drugs. Fentanyl can be prescribed by doctors to treat chronic pain, but it's also used illegally for its euphoric effects. While the drug is effective at relieving pain, it also has a high potential for abuse and addiction—and even death. Here's what you need to know about fentanyl and how to stay safe.

Fentanyl is Extremely Potent

Fentanyl is up to 100 times more potent than morphine, making it extremely dangerous. Just a small amount can lead to an overdose, and it is often mixed with other drugs, which can increase the risk of overdose. To avoid this danger, it is important to be aware of the signs of an overdose and to get help immediately if someone shows these signs.

Respiratory Depression

Fentanyl can also cause respiratory depression, which can lead to death. This danger is increased when fentanyl is mixed with other drugs, such as alcohol. To avoid this danger, it is important to be aware of the signs of respiratory depression and to get help immediately if someone shows these signs.


Fentanyl can also cause seizures, which can be dangerous and even life-threatening. To avoid this danger, it is important to be aware of the signs of a seizure and to get help immediately if someone shows these signs.

Cardiac arrest

Cardiac arrest occurs when your heart stops beating properly due to an electrical malfunction in your heart muscle cells (cardiomyopathy). This can happen because Fentanyl suppresses your central nervous system, which slows down your heart rate and reduces blood flow to your heart muscle cells (myocardium).


One of the most common side effects of fentanyl is constipation because it slows down bowel movements. Constipation can cause abdominal pain and cramp as well as bloating and swelling in the abdomen.

If you have severe constipation from taking too much fentanyl, go immediately to an emergency room because severe constipation can lead to other complications such as bowel obstruction (blockage of the intestines).

It's Addictive

Fentanyl can be addictive, especially when taken in large doses or more frequently than prescribed by a doctor (or if the patient takes other drugs with fentanyl). When people are addicted to fentanyl, they may experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop using it suddenly or don't get their usual dose one day.

This makes them likely to keep taking fentanyl despite its harmful effects on their health and personal relationships. To avoid this it's important to use it as prescribed by the doctor.

Nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are common side effects of fentanyl use, especially when it is taken intravenously. These symptoms can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances that can lead to seizures or cardiac arrest. Vomiting can also lead to choking or aspiration pneumonia if the vomit is inhaled into the lungs.


Fentanyl can be lethal if too much is taken or if you take it with other drugs or alcohol. Coma is one of the most serious side effects of fentanyl overdose and often occurs when someone takes more than 40 mg of fentanyl. Coma can also occur if someone takes the drug with alcohol or benzodiazepines, like Valium and Xanax.

Fentanyl can be deadly even in small amounts

It's 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin on a milligram-per-milligram basis. It works by binding to cells in the brain that respond to pain; these cells then send messages back to the brain that says "it feels good." When those cells are overstimulated by fentanyl, they can stop sending messages that keep you breathing normally. This can lead to overdose and death.

Fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin or accidentally inhaled, so avoid contact with bare skin, eyes, and mouth

To avoid accidentally absorbing fentanyl through your skin, eyes, or mouth:

  • Do not touch your bare skin with powder or dust.

  • Avoid breathing in dust or powder.

  • Avoid touching fentanyl and then touching your eyes, mouth, or nose. This includes if you have accidentally touched fentanyl on your fingers while handling the drug. If this happens, wash thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately if symptoms persist (such as a rash).

  • Do not touch another person who has been exposed to fentanyl unless it is necessary for their immediate care (for example, when administering CPR).

General ways to Avoid the Dangers of Fentanyl

  • Avoid using alone. A trip to the hospital or overdose can be fatal, so make sure someone knows where you are at all times while using drugs.

  • Use with a friend or family member who can recognize signs of an overdose and call for help

  • Never use more than prescribed by your doctor

  • Inject into areas not covered by clothing (arms, legs, stomach) because it could get into your bloodstream through your skin if injected into muscle tissue. This can cause severe reactions such as anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction).

  • Don't buy drugs from strangers or dealers who don't have a reputation for quality products and safe practices.

  • Avoid mixing alcohol or other drugs with fentanyl. The effects of both can be deadly when mixed together, even in small amounts.

  • Know your tolerance for fentanyl before taking any amount larger than usual. If you don't know how much Fentanyl it takes for an overdose, start small and wait until you know how much is safe for you before taking more than once every few days or weeks.


Hopefully, we've equipped you with enough information to know what to do if fentanyl exposure occurs. The key is to act quickly and get the patient medical attention as soon as possible. Because of its potency, even a small amount of fentanyl can be fatal if not treated immediately.

If you suspect someone has been exposed or accidentally inhaled fentanyl, call 911 immediately so that trained professionals can help them safely recover from any effects they may have suffered.


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