Synthetic opioids are responsible for over 150 overdose deaths in the United States on a daily basis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl is a major contributor to non-fatal overdoses as well as those that result in death.
Because of the dangers of fentanyl, the penalties associated with its unlawful possession can be severe. Here are some reasons why fentanyl can be so dangerous.
Fentanyl is an extremely potent opioid drug. It is 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. Because fentanyl is so strong, it is easier to overdose on it.
It is fairly common to prescribe fentanyl to treat severe pain. With the knowledge and approval of the government, drug companies produce pharmaceutical fentanyl for this purpose. However, there are also clandestine facilities around the country that manufacture fentanyl illicitly for recreational use.
It is common to mix illicitly manufactured fentanyl with other drugs, such as cocaine, methamphetamine or heroin. Fentanyl may be present in dangerous doses, or it may react adversely with the other substances. Sometimes the person who buys the drugs does not know that they contain fentanyl. It is also common to form fentanyl into pills that resemble other drugs and sell them that way. Overdose is more likely when the person who buys or uses the drug does not realize it contains fentanyl or does not know the quantity.
For these reasons, the criminal justice system takes fentanyl very seriously. Possession can lead to severe criminal penalties even if the amount seems small.