Looks Can Be Deceiving.

Understanding Fentanyl and its Unseen Dangers in Recreational Drugs

The Hidden
Dangers of Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is


more potent than heroin


more potent than morphine

Initially developed for pain management in cancer patients, illegal non-pharmaceutical fentanyl has found its way into recreational drugs, often without the user’s knowledge. Its high potency increases the risk of overdose, especially for those who are unaware of its presence in in the drug they are using.

In the Chicago region, fentanyl is commonly found in heroin, and in some supplies of cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, MDMA, counterfeit prescription pills (fake Oxycodone, Xanax, and Adderall) and other substances.

Fentanyl kills. Even the smallest amount, equivalent to a few grains of sand, can be deadly. You can’t see, taste or smell fentanyl, so it is nearly impossible to detect on your own. 

Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are the most common drugs that cause overdose deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Stay Safe

If you choose to use drugs,

Go Slow.

Fentanyl acts fast. Wait to see how your body reacts to a small amount of a drug to reduce the risk of an overdose.

Never use alone.

Make a plan with a safe person around you who is prepared to help you in the event of an overdose.

Carry Naloxone.

Naloxone is an FDA-approved medication that can be used to temporarily reverse opioid overdoses. Naloxone can be administered as a nasal spray or injection.

Know first.

Know what you are taking. Only take pills that are prescribed to you and come directly from your doctor or pharmacy. If you choose to use marijuana, purchase it legally from a regulated dispensary

Test before using.

Fentanyl test strips are an effective and inexpensive tool to detect the presence of fentanyl in drugs within five minutes. However, keep in mind that these strips may not detect more potent fentanyl-like drugs and that a negative result doesn't ensure safety.

Reach out for help.

if you're struggling with substance use, there are numerous resources and support groups available to assist in your journey to recovery. Click here to learn more about receiving care at Cook County Health.

Overdose Warning Signs

Recognizing the signs of a fentanyl or other opioid overdose promptly is crucial, as every second counts in preventing serious harm or death.

Here are the symptoms to watch out for:

  • Shallow or stopped breathing

  • Small, constricted pupils

  • Unresponsiveness

  • Blue lips and nails

  • Pale or clammy face

  • Slow or irregular heartbeat

  • Vomiting or gurgling noises

  • Loss of consciousness or unresponsiveness

Take Action

If you see any signs of overdose, it's important to take action immediately. 

  1. Call 911.
  2. Administer naloxone if available.
  3. Try to keep the person awake and breathing.
  4. Lay the person on their side to prevent choking if they vomit.
  5. Stay with the person until emergency responders arrive.

Remember, an overdose is a medical emergency. It’s important to act quickly and get professional help.

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