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Illicitly manufactured fentanyl and its dangers, while well-documented by health professionals and law enforcement, are largely unknown to the general population and even more so to its most vulnerable population: youth and young adults. According to the CDC, fentanyl is involved in more deaths of Americans under 50 than any other cause of death, including heart disease, cancer, and all other accidents. Among teenagers, overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl tripled in the past two years, yet 73% have never heard of fake prescription pills being made with fentanyl.


Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid. 

  • POTENT: Up to 50x stronger than heroin and 100x stronger than morphine.
    A few grains of sand worth can be lethal.

  • SYNTHETIC: Not plant-based. Made in a lab. 

  • OPIOID: Pain reliever like oxycodone, morphine and heroin.

There are two types of fentanyl: medical grade (prescribed by a doctor) and illicitly manufactured. Medical grade fentanyl can be safely administered by healthcare providers. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is not safe, and has permeated the street drug supply due to its potency and cheap cost. 


This is a national public health crisis. People, especially young people, are ingesting illicitly manufactured fentanyl without knowing it and dying at alarming rates as a result.

Fentanyl is very cheap and extremely addictive. Drug dealers are dangerously mixing illicitly manufactured fentanyl w​​ith, and disguising it as, other common drugs like Oxy, Percocet and Xanax to increase profits. It has also been found in party drugs like cocaine and MDMA. This production process is not regulated and does not undergo any kind of quality control. Users have no way of knowing what they are getting in these street drugs, putting them at significant risk of poisoning and overdose – and as little as two milligrams of fentanyl (two grains of sand) can kill a person.

The practice of cutting drugs with fentanyl is relatively new, so public awareness is low.



Learn the facts & start the conversation.

Educating the public about this crisis is the first step to reversing the tragic outcomes. Teach yourself and your community about the facts. Tips for communication:

  • If you are a parent, don’t avoid the topic. Initiate an open dialogue with your family about fentanyl to understand their knowledge of the issue and if they’re aware of fake pills.

  • If you’re an educator, start the conversation in the classroom. Our partners in Beaverton, Oregon’s school district have developed free lesson plans for middle school and high school students available for use here.

  • Don’t stigmatize drug use. Emphasize the high risks of encountering illicitly manufactured fentanyl and how individuals can protect themselves and their community.


Be Prepared.

Above all else, keep in mind that any pill or powder drug not prescribed by a doctor may contain fentanyl. Learn how to respond accordingly:

  • Know the signs of an overdose: Loss of consciousness, unresponsiveness, irregular breathing, and inability to speak are a few of the signs to look out for.

  • Carry naloxone: Naloxone (also referred to as Narcan) is a life-saving opioid reversal medication. It commonly comes in the form of a nasal spray. Some states and cities are making it available for free. Find naloxone near you and learn how to administer it.

  • Test the product: Some cities and states are making fentanyl test strips available. Caution: There is no such thing as a pill that has been tested for fentanyl, since the test strips require that you fully dissolve each and every entire pill in water. Test strips also do not test for every fentanyl analog.

  • Be prepared to call for help: If you witness someone experiencing the symptoms of an overdose/poisoning, call 911 and request emergency medical services. All 50 states and D.C. have enacted Good Samaritan laws, which typically provide immunity to those who call emergency services when experiencing or witnessing an overdose.


Spread the word.
Join the National Fentanyl Awareness Day coalition of 500+ partners to spread the word on May 9, 2023. Assets for social media posts, email drafts to stakeholders, and additional ways to activate are available in our toolkit.

Additional Resources:

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