Myths about fentanyl to dispel right now

Fentanyl is all over the news, but are the headlines missing something? Read about 6 common fentanyl myths and the truth behind them here.

Ophelia team
Fentanyl myths
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Fact checked by
Arthur Robin Williams, MD

Fentanyl has made headlines in recent years, primarily as the cause of increasing overdose deaths. But there’s so much that these headlines miss. Increasing fentanyl awareness is critical to ending drug-related deaths. Here are some common myths about fentanyl and the truth behind them.

6 common fentanyl myths we’re calling BS on

1. You can’t get addicted to fentanyl

One of the most common misconceptions about fentanyl is that people can’t form an addiction to the drug. The myth is born from the idea that a person is more likely to consume a lethal dose before developing an addiction. In reality, there’s no way to tell who might experience an overdose and when.

A certain dose of fentanyl could be lethal to someone who takes it for the first time; for another person, it could happen much later. The takeaway? Even though there are single-time users who die from their first use, it’s certainly possible to use fentanyl long enough to form an addiction. And since the powerful drug is extremely addictive, surviving that first use can increase that likelihood. The point isn’t that fentanyl can’t be deadly (it certainly is). It’s to raise awareness that there are many who struggle with fentanyl addiction, and those people benefit from traditional treatment, just like any other opioid users.

2. Fentanyl is only found in a small number of street drugs

Fentanyl is inexpensive to produce, making it a common additive in lots of other street drugs. Illicit drug manufacturers choose fentanyl because it’s more addictive and potent, increasing the odds that people will return for more. Today, fentanyl is found in drugs like heroin, cocaine, MDMA, and methamphetamine. You can’t see, taste, or smell fentanyl, so it’s an extremely dangerous time to use street drugs.

3. You can just use test strips to detect fentanyl

Fentanyl test strips typically give results within five minutes. But even if a test is negative, it’s important to remember that the drug could contain traces of other fentanyl-like substances, such as carfentanil, a synthetic opioid used to tranquilize elephants.

Believe it or not, fentanyl test strips can be hard to come by. Possessing them has been decriminalized in some states, like Pennsylvania, but other states still think of test strips as drug paraphernalia—and that makes them illegal and harder to acquire.

4. Fentanyl is only something other drugs are laced with

While virtually any street drug could be laced with fentanyl, that’s not the only way to get it. Some people do seek illicitly manufactured fentanyl on its own. This is especially true in areas of the U.S. where heroin has become difficult to find, such as the Northeast. In these regions, people with opioid dependence may seek out fentanyl as a potent, readily available alternative to heroin.

5. Only certain doses will cause an overdose

Fentanyl is a fast-acting opioid that can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Due to its extreme potency, it’s more powerful—and therefore more dangerous—than other drugs. Since there’s no way to tell what’s in illicitly manufactured drugs, it’s possible for even small amounts to cause a fentanyl overdose.

6. Treatment is impossible

Treatment for fentanyl addiction is especially challenging, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get better. The drug stays in a person’s system for extended periods, so even after their last use, it could take days or even weeks before the body is able to tolerate treatment. Working with a knowledgeable clinician will ensure you have the right guidance and support. And as with any other type of opioid, withdrawal can be unpleasant. But there are medications designed to help you get through this period. Ophelia offers medication-assisted treatment (MAT) with buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone®) to help patients dealing with fentanyl withdrawal.

Effective treatments based on research + facts 

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to fentanyl or another opioid, we can help. Ophelia offers private, personalized approaches to treatment designed to empower people to overcome drug use in a way that best meets their needs.

Our clinical team is ready to start with virtual support and determine whether Suboxone or another buprenorphine-naloxone medication is a good fit. From there, you’ll have easy access to a dedicated care team and appointments that fit into your schedule.


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