Why Is Fentanyl So Dangerous? A Detailed Look

September 23, 2022

From May 2020 to April 2021, there were approximately 100,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. Around 64% of those deaths are due to illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMFs). But what is fentanyl, and why is it so dangerous?

Prescription medication is strewn about, with pill bottles in the deep background.

Keep reading to learn more about fentanyl drugs, how they’ve become an immense problem in America, and how you or a loved one can get help with fentanyl addiction. 

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is prescribed to help with pain management. Fentanyl is most often prescribed to cancer patients, those recovering from major surgery, or for pain relief for patients who are already tolerant to other opioids. 

Natural opioids are created from the opium of poppy plants. Fentanyl is called a synthetic opioid because it is made in a lab. 

When prescribed, fentanyl can be used in the following forms:

  • Patches
  • Lozenges
  • Shots
  • Pills 

Side Effects of Fentanyl

Both prescribed and illicitly made forms of fentanyl have the same side effects. The typical symptoms are nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, and constipation. 

Other side effects to look out for include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headaches
  • Itching
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Urine retention
  • Mellowness
  • Hallucinations
  • Shaking
  • Fainting
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Extreme happiness 

Why Is Fentanyl So Dangerous?

Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. The reason death by fentanyl has become so widespread is that even a small dose can kill you. 

All it takes to overdose is just two milligrams.

Maybe the most dangerous aspect of fentanyl is how quickly someone can become addicted. Just a single use, like what doctors prescribe after surgery, can cause dependence or addiction. All it takes is one use

Fentanyl addiction doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter what your social status is, where you live, or how much money you make. It doesn’t even matter if you’ve never touched a drink or drug before in your life—you can still become easily addicted just like anyone else.

Fentanyl can also become quickly tolerated by the body. This means people need to use higher doses to feel that same “high” they got the first time they used the drug. 

Why Are There So Many Fentanyl Overdoses?

This can be a tough question to answer because there is no single reason. As mentioned before: 

  • Anyone can be addicted to this drug, leading to a wider user base
  • It’s easy for the body to develop a tolerance to the drug—meaning a person will need more to receive the same high
  • Fentanyl is extremely powerful; it takes only a small dose to be lethal

But there is also one other large problem. Drug dealers cut their drug supplies with fentanyl and don’t tell their customers.

Designer Drugs Are Being Cut with Fentanyl

“Cutting” is the common practice of adding different chemicals to a drug. People in the illegal drug trade cut designer drugs with fentanyl to expand their supply and increase profits. If they cut a drug with fentanyl, they don’t have to use up all their supply and can still give their clients the same high they’re looking for. 

Fentanyl is easy to mix with other drugs because it can be made into powder, pills, eyedrops, and nasal sprays. It’s also tasteless and odorless, making it difficult to tell when a drug has been spiked. Buyers of designer drugs like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and MDMA (ecstasy), may not realize that they are taking fentanyl. 

But what does this have to do with overdoses?


Drug dealers don’t tell their customers that fentanyl is in their drugs. When someone buys cocaine, they think they’re using pure cocaine and then overdose because what they’ve actually used is a mixture of cocaine and a lethal dose of fentanyl.

It only takes two milligrams to cause death by fentanyl

The “M30 Blue” Pill

Several counterfeit pills exist with dangerous levels of fentanyl. These pills, also known as M30 Blue, can be mistaken for Oxycodone, Xanax, or Adderall. 

M 30 fentanyl pill opiate in plastic bag in hand close-up

The pills are sold online, usually through social media, and they look legitimate—with only a few minor differences people wouldn’t think to look for. M30 Blue is often found among high school and college student populations. 

Testing Strips for Fentanyl

With all these unseen dangers, is there a way for people to reduce the chance of harm when they take drugs? Yes, they can use fentanyl test strips (FTS). 

FTS are inexpensive and employ the same technology used for urinalysis. These strips can detect fentanyl in different drugs, which is a great way to reduce harm. This isn’t the end-all-be-all solution, however, because these strips can’t reveal how much fentanyl is in a drug.

How to Help a Loved One with Fentanyl Addiction

If you know someone with a fentanyl addiction, it can be hard to watch them struggle. Fortunately, there are ways you can help.

Have Empathy

The most important way to help is to have empathy for your loved one. This drug is so dangerous because it’s everywhere and addiction can happen to anyone. Part of having empathy is to understand your loved one may not be able to go “cold turkey” because withdrawal is a painful process. 

Business People Reassuring Upset Businessman

Medical Detox

Because withdrawal can be such a painful experience, Buena Vista Recovery offers an in-patient medical detox program. Having a supervised detox can help jumpstart the recovery process and make other programs like therapy and inpatient/outpatient treatments have a higher chance of success. 

We have board-certified physicians and nurses on staff to keep you or your loved ones safe through the process. The length of this treatment can be anywhere between two to ten days—It all depends on how long the detoxification process takes.

Buena Vista Recovery Can Help With Fentanyl Addiction 

At Buena Vista Recovery, we see people as people with addictions instead of “addicts”. We want to help you or your loved one get their life back through a variety of treatment options. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with a Fentanyl addiction, contact us to start treatment right away. 

“Buena Vista Recovery works with most insurance plans, including but not limited to Cigna, Magellan, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Humana, and Aetna, among others. On rare occasions, if a plan is not included in our network, our clinical outreach director will assist you in finding a placement that is in your network.” 

Link to form fill: https://buenavistarecovery.com/insurance-verification/.