How is Fentanyl Made?

Part of the complete guide to understanding addiction

Table of Contents
  1. Fentanyl Misuse
  2. When Was Fentanyl Developed?
  3. Names for Pharmaceutical Fentanyl
  4. What Is Fentanyl Made From?
  5. Illicitly Manufactured Fentanyl
  6. Where Does Fentanyl Come From?
  7. How Is Fentanyl Transformed in Labs Across the USA?
  8. How Is Fentanyl Prepared for Public Consumption?
  9. Fentanyl Cut into Other Drugs
  10. Street Names for Fentanyl
  11. Prevention
  12. Sources

This past year alone, opioids were responsible for over 75,000 deaths in America. Synthetic opioids have been the biggest driver in the increase of overdose deaths, with fentanyl being the most fatal of them all. The relatively low price of illegal fentanyl and its strong potency has led to its rapid spread and misuse. As the opioid crisis has continued to grow, the addiction community and government have attempted to prevent the crisis. Educating the public on fentanyl use, what fentanyl is made of, and how fentanyl is produced, can be an effective preventative measure for accidental overdoses.

Fentanyl Misuse

Fentanyl is produced legally in the U.S. by pharmaceutical companies and distributed through medical professionals. Fentanyl is highly potent and can be fatal when used without a prescription and medical oversight. The potency of fentanyl is approximately 100 times more than morphine and 50 times that of heroin.

There are two sources of fentanyl on the streets, pharmaceutical fentanyl, and illicitly produced fentanyl. Legal fentanyl is obtained through fraudulent prescriptions, theft, and illicit distribution. However, it is more common for users to use illicitly produced fentanyl from Mexico and China. Most fentanyl overdoses have been linked to illicitly manufactured fentanyl.

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When Was Fentanyl Developed?

Fentanyl was first discovered by Janssen Pharmaceutica, a pharmaceutical company, in 1959. Their intention was for the drug to be used as an anesthetic in hospital settings. Doctors soon discovered the powerful painkilling abilities of the drug, and it began to be used as a painkiller. Fentanyl has since been prescribed for patients that are resistant to other opioids.

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Names for Pharmaceutical Fentanyl

Pharmaceutical fentanyl is available in various forms with different brand names.  

  • Intravenous injections- Sublimaze
  • Fentanyl patches- Duragesic
  • Fentanyl lozenges- Actiq
  • Fentanyl films- Onsolis
  • Fentanyl buccal (cheek) tablets- Fentora
  • Fentanyl sublingual (under the tongue) tablets- Abstral
  • Fentanyl sublingual sprays- Susys
  • Fentanyl nasal sprays- Lazanda

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What Is Fentanyl Made From?

Fentanyl is made of an organic compound called Piperidine. In laboratories, the chemical is manipulated to form fentanyl. While fentanyl is not a natural opioid, its reaction in the body mimics an opioid. When it enters the body, fentanyl will attach to the same pain receptors as opioids and block them. This creates an increase in pleasure sensations in the body, or the “euphoric” effect.

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How is Fentanyl Produced? Illicitly Manufactured Fentanyl

Many times, fentanyl is produced illicitly in labs outside the U.S. and is trafficked illegally, often through the southern border. Illicit fentanyl is available in different forms, including liquids and powders. Powder fentanyl appears the same as other drugs and is indistinguishable when mixed with other medications. It is often transformed into a pill form for distribution. Liquid fentanyl is sold on the market as nasal sprays, eye drops, and dropped into paper or small candies in liquid form.

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Where Does Fentanyl Come From?

The majority of those who abuse fentanyl use illicitly produced fentanyl. Creating fentanyl is challenging and risky, and most of the illicit fentanyl in America is produced in other countries. According to the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), Mexico remains the primary source of illegal fentanyl. A large amount of fentanyl entering Mexico is created in labs in China and then trafficked through Mexico. The fentanyl enters through international mail and trafficking routes along the Southern border.

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How Is Fentanyl Transformed in Labs Across the USA?

Once fentanyl enters the US, it is often transformed in labs across the US before being distributed on the market. The labs will transform fentanyl powder into pills and liquid forms. Many of these labs are located in California.

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How Is Fentanyl Prepared for Public Consumption?

In the labs known as pill plants, fentanyl powder is transformed into a pill or liquid form before entering the black market. Pill plants will often use a stamp or signature to resemble other drugs. This can lead to a high risk of overdose for unsuspecting consumers.

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Fentanyl Cut into Other Drugs

Another unsafe practice of pill plants is cutting fentanyl into other drugs. This is done to increase the potency of other drugs and decrease the costs of production. However, this practice is extremely hazardous and has caused accidental overdose in unsuspecting consumers. Laced weed is one common way that fentanyl is ingested unknowingly, as the fentanyl is hard to detect. To learn more about laced weed, including what laced weed smells like, read our online resource.

Learn more about lacing other drugs with Fentanyl

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The U.S. government has addressed the fentanyl crisis through the legislature, enforced laws, and funding to prevent fentanyl use. The hope is that with proper measurements the flow and use of fentanyl in the U.S. will be considerably decreased.

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Fentanyl in all its forms is addictive and often leads to fatal overdose. There is a way back, there is the possibility of healing, of living a life without the constant need for fentanyl. Please, if you or someone you love are suffering from addiction call us today, we are waiting to help you find your way home.

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Fentanyl (
Fentanyl Facts (
Fentanyl: The dangers of this potent “man-made” opioid – Harvard Health
How Fentanyl Is Made (
Fentanyl: MedlinePlus Drug Information

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