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Fentanyl Addiction: History, Types, Uses And Effects

Fentanyl is an opioid analgesic used in anesthesia, for breakthrough cancer pain, or for round-the-clock pain management. Fentanyl, a potent opioid agonist, was developed in the 1950s to fill a need for strong and rapid analgesia. Because of these characteristics, fentanyl is commonly used to treat chronic cancer pain or in anesthesia.

Fentanyl is related to other opioids like morphine and oxycodone. Fentanyl’s high potency has also made it a common adulterant in illicit drugs, especially heroin.8 In 2017, 47600 overdose deaths in the United States involved some opioid (over 2/3 of all overdose deaths).

Opioid overdoses kill an average of 11 Canadians daily. Fentanyl was FDA approved in 1968. Fentanyl is classified as Schedule II on the DEA drug list.

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Fentanyl is a Schedule II drug

Fentanyl is a Schedule II which means it is . Other drugs like ‘Etorphine hydrochloride’, ‘Racemorphan’, ‘Dronabinol or ‘hydromorphone’ which are also classified as Schedule II by the DEA.

Chemical Compounds in Fentanyl:

1-Phenethyl-4-(N-phenylpropionamido)piperidine,1-phenethyl-4-N-propionylanilinopiperidine,Fentanil,Fentanila,Fentanilo,Fentanyl,Fentanyl CII,Fentanylum,N-(1-phenethyl-4-piperidinyl)-N-phenylpropionamide,N-(1-phenethyl-4-piperidyl)propionanilide,N-(1-Phenethyl-piperidin-4-yl)-N-phenyl-propionamide,N-(1-phenethylpiperidin-4-yl)-N-phenylpropionamide,N-phenethyl-4-(N-propionylanilino)piperidine,N-phenyl-N-(1-(2-phenylethyl)-4-piperidinyl)propanamide,Phentanyl

Fentanyl is a Small Molecule that is categorized for Approved, IllicitFentanyl image, Investigational, Vet approved but can be dangerous when used recreationally or misused.

What Is Fentanyl Made Out Of? (components & Structure)

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is a class of drugs that are naturally found in the opium poppy plant. Some opioids are made from the plant directly, like heroin while others, like fentanyl, are made by scientists in labs using the same chemical structure (semi-synthetic or synthetic). That means that fentanyl is similar to morphine & heroin because it is in the same opiate category but it is different because it is not derived directly from the poppy plant, rather it is produced in a lab and is actually 50 to 100 times more potent. It is a prescription drug that is also made and used illegally.

Lifespan Of Fentanyl In The Human Body

The half-life of Fentanyl means the amount of time that stays in your system before it is fully absorbed. The half-life of Fentanyl is about 90 minutes, meaning that it is very quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and metabolized. Its onset of action is less than 60 seconds with a half-life of 90 minutes and a duration of action near 30–60 minutes. The peak effects of fentanyl occur is 2–5 minutes.


Brand Names for Fentanyl

List of the main fentanyl brands:

  • Actiq®
  • Duragesic®
  • Sublimaze®

The risk of adverse effects with Fentanyl can be increased when mixed with other drugs.

What Is The Primary Difference Between Fentanyl and Other Painkillers

Fentanyl is an opioid analgesic used in anesthesia, for breakthrough cancer pain, or for round-the-clock pain management which is different from other painkillers because of how strong it is and fast acting. Many other painkillers like Percocet and Vicodin have time releases and do not have the immediate onset that comes from fentanyl.

Fentanyl: Frequently Asked Questions

How is Fentanyl used?

Fentanyl intravenous or intramuscular injections are indicated for short-term analgesia during induction, maintenance, and recovery from general or regional anesthesia. These injections are also used with a neuroleptic for premedication, induction, and as an adjunct to the maintenance of anesthesia. Finally, fentanyl intravenous or intramuscular injections are used with oxygen for anesthesia in high-risk patients. Fentanyl sublingual tablets, transmucosal lozenges, buccal tablets, sublingual sprays, transdermal systems, and nasal sprays are indicated for the management of breakthrough pain in opioid-tolerant cancer patients who require around-the-clock pain management. In recent years, many heroin producers have started to cut heroin with fentanyl which has increased overdose rates.

How Does Fentanyl Become Activated?

Fentanyl produces strong analgesia through its activation of opioid receptors. It has a duration of action of several hours and a wider therapeutic index as patients develop tolerance to opioids. Fentanyl is associated with a risk of addiction and abuse and should not be mixed with alcohol or benzodiazepines.

What is The Difference Between Fentanyl and Carfentanyl?

According to the DEA, Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid that is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl, which itself is 50 times more potent than heroin. Carfentanyl is a synthetic opioid which means it does not occur naturally from poppy plants and must be created in a laboratory.

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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021, June 30). Fentanyl drugfacts. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved December 20, 2022, from

DEA issues Carfentanil Warning to police and public. DEA. (2016). Retrieved December 20, 2022, from,times%20more%20potent%20than%20heroin.

Fentanyl. Uses, Interactions, Mechanism of Action | DrugBank Online. (2022). Retrieved December 20, 2022, from

Gold, M. S., Melker, R. J., Dennis, D. M., Morey, T. E., Bajpai, L. K., Pomm, R., & Frost-Pineda, K. (2006). Fentanyl abuse and dependence. Journal of Addictive Diseases, 25(1), 15–21.

Phillips, T., Lenhart, S. & Strickland, W.C. A Data-Driven Mathematical Model of the Heroin and Fentanyl Epidemic in Tennessee. Bull Math Biol 83, 97 (2021).

U.S. National Library of Medicine. Fentanyl. National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Database. Retrieved December 20, 2022, from

Volkow, N. D. (2021). The epidemic of fentanyl misuse and overdoses: Challenges and strategies. World Psychiatry, 20(2), 195–196.

Medical Advice Disclaimer

Magnified Health Systems aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.

This content is verified and moderated by Dr. Brendan Bickley

This content is verified and moderated by Dr. Brendan Bickley

Dr. Bickley graduated from U.C. Irvine with honors: Phi Beta Kappa, Golden Key International Honor Society, Cum Laude. He has been featured on national radio and print media. He is also a frequent lecturer at National Conferences. He holds an A.S. degree in Drug & Alcohol Studies, and two B.A. degrees in Criminology & Psychology, and masters and doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology. He is a licensed California Drug & Alcohol Counselor Level II, a licensed Clinical Supervisor and is certified in treating Eating Disorders.

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