What is fentanyl and how does it work in the body?

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid, similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent. In its prescription form it is prescribed for pain, but fentanyl is also made illegally and distributed as a street drug. Illegal fentanyl is sold as a powder or made into pills that look like real prescription opioids (pain relievers).

Fentanyl works by binding to the body’s opioid receptors, which are found in areas of the brain that control pain and emotions. Its effects include euphoria, drowsiness, nausea, confusion, constipation, sedation, tolerance, addiction, respiratory depression and arrest, unconsciousness, coma, and death.


Why is fentanyl a problem in Arizona?

Fentanyl is the most common substance found in opioid overdose deaths in Arizona – teens as young as 14 years old have overdosed and died.

Illegal fentanyl is being mixed with other drugs, such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. This is especially dangerous because people are often unaware that fentanyl has been added. The high potency of fentanyl greatly increases risk of overdose, especially if a person who uses drugs is unaware that a powder or pill contains it. Naloxone is a medicine that can be given to a person to reverse a fentanyl overdose. Multiple naloxone doses might be necessary because of fentanyl’s potency.


TALK | It’s never too early to have a conversation about alcohol and other drugs. The sooner you talk about the dangers of underage drinking and substance use, the greater chance you have of influencing your child’s decisions about using them.


GET SPECIFIC ABOUT FENTANYL | When you talk to youth, don’t leave out the details. Be specific about the drug fentanyl and the dangers of its use. Let youth know that it is being sold as counterfeit OxyContin®, Xanax®, and other prescription drugs. Knowing one of these pills could be deadly, a child may consider the consequences of trying one of these too risky. Visit TalkNowAZ.com to help get this conversation started.


MONITOR | Because substances, including counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl, are being bought and sold through texting and social media sites be sure to monitor where youth go online and ask about who they follow and what they are seeing and hearing online. Before allowing youth to go online and set up accounts consider having them sign a social media safety contract with you.

Find a social media contract at TalkNowAZ.com.


TAKE ACTION | Naloxone is medicine that can reverse an overdose. Naloxone can be purchased at pharmacies in Arizona without a prescription or free from a local substance use prevention coalition. It is easy to administer and can be lifesaving. To find naloxone near you visit NaloxoneAZ.com. Always call 911 if there is an overdose.


Treatment works and there is hope. Medication along with behavioral therapies have been shown to be effective in treating those with an addiction to fentanyl and other opioids. If you’re concerned about someone’s opioid or fentanyl use call the Arizona Opioid Assistance Referral line at 1-888-688-4222 for information about treatment and counseling options.



Helpful Resources


1-888-688-4222 — Opioid Assistance and Referral Line

Local medical experts offer patients, providers, and family members opioid information, resources and referral 24/7. Translation services available.


1-800-662-HELP (4357)— SAMHSA’s National Helpline

Free, confidential treatment referral and information service available 24/7 (in English and Spanish).



See where the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone is available near you.



Find a location to dispose of unused, unwanted, or expired medication.



Find treatment resources available in your area.



Get tips on talking with youth about substance use.


Youth Resources

Text HELLO to 741741 to text anonymously with a trained crisis counselor for free, 24/7


Teen Lifeline — Available 24/7    1-800-248-TEEN (8336)

Arizona support line for teens operated by teens.


Suicide Prevention Lifeline — Available 24/7   1-800-273-8255

Helps individuals in suicidal crisis with support.


Trevor Project Lifeline — Available 24/7 1-866-488-7386

Confidential suicide hotline for LGBT youth.


Teens Helping Teens — Available 6p to 9p PST 1-800-TLC-TEEN

Text TEEN to 839863 to speak with another teen.



How to Help

The opioid crisis is escalating at alarming rates. But, you can help save lives during this crisis.

Individuals who have overdosed are being left to die because those around them are afraid to call for help. Having an overdose reversal drug in your first aid kit could save your child… a friend… even a neighbor. It’s called naloxone and it’s saving thousands of lives in Arizona.

Naloxone is easy to use. You don’t need a prescription, and anyone can administer it. And while it may not cost you a thing today, it could be the reason someone lives to see tomorrow.