Fentanyl Identification

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Did you know that it takes just two milligrams of fentanyl—or the equivalent of 10-15 grains of table salt—to kill a person? Since fentanyl cannot be easily identified, could you be ingesting the drug without knowing it?

Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that is similar to morphine but about 100 times stronger. It is cut into many other drugs because of its potency and low cost. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to detect fentanyl, as it has no noticeable smell, taste, or texture.

In Maricopa County, Arizona, more than three people die every day from fentanyl.  Even less populated areas, including Yavapai County, are at risk. Fentanyl overdose deaths have increased by over seven times in six years and were a contributing factor in 59 percent of deaths in 2021. With the high prevalence of this substance in our communities, fentanyl identification is incredibly important.

Knowing what to look for when it comes to fentanyl can save lives, whether it be a friend’s, family member’s, or your own. Wolf Creek Recovery in Prescott, AZ treats fentanyl addiction, and we want people to know that it is possible to recover. Below is more information regarding fentanyl, how to identify its presence in other substances, and the best ways to avoid it.

Fentanyl Identification

As a lethally potent substance driving the rapid increase in overdose deaths, fentanyl kills thousands of people every year, and many don’t even know they have taken it. In fact, when talking to people who inject drugs, the majority say they do worry about fentanyl being in their supply. Of these individuals, 86 percent say they would use fentanyl test strips to protect themselves from overdose.

Fentanyl comes in different forms, including pills, powder, and liquid. It’s often mixed into other substances such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and counterfeit pills, or it can replace the substance entirely. Due to its potency, a relatively small amount of fentanyl can be deadly. Unfortunately, fentanyl has no distinct smell, taste, or texture, making it nearly impossible to determine if it has been mixed into another substance.

What Does Fentanyl Look Like?

Fentanyl is typically available in two main types: powder and liquid. Powdered fentanyl can be made to look like other substances, being pressed into pills that look exactly like prescription medication. Fentanyl can also come in liquid form, intended to be a replacement for heroin. Some reports have even found liquid fentanyl in eye drops and nasal sprays, as well as dropped onto paper or in small candies.

Another phenomenon is “rainbow fentanyl.” This type of fentanyl is mixed with dyes and either pressed tightly into brightly colored pills that look like candy or sold as powder in various colors. It’s believed that drug traffickers use these dyes to avoid detection and appeal to young people, including children. Some people have said that certain colors indicate stronger fentanyl, though laboratory testing shows that this is not the case.

wolf creek fentanyl identificationWhat Does Fentanyl Smell Like?

Fentanyl is odorless, meaning that it doesn’t have an identifiable smell. At one point, there was a social media post going around saying that burned fentanyl smells like popcorn. However, this has proven to be false. Fentanyl can only be detected by test strips and other similar tools — not from any particular odor.

So where did the “popcorn smell” rumor come from? When fentanyl is mixed with other substances, it may produce a smell. For example, some people report that meth can smell like ammonia, while PCP can smell like a permanent marker. This may be the odor that some people smell when they heat up a drug. Fentanyl, however, has no detectable smell, and relying on this is not an accurate way to identify the substance.

What Does Fentanyl Taste Like?

Not only is fentanyl odorless, but it’s also tasteless. Some people have said that you can taste fentanyl when it’s laced with heroin, as heroin is bitter and fentanyl makes it sweeter. However, this evidence is anecdotal and not based on valid research. Fentanyl does not change the taste or texture of another substance, which means you won’t know it’s there.

Different Types of Fentanyl

There are two different types of fentanyl: pharmaceutical fentanyl and illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is used by doctors to treat severe pain, particularly after a medical procedure or in late-stage cancer.

Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is distributed through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effects and is available in powdered and liquid forms. Powdered fentanyl looks like many other substances and is mixed into drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Liquid fentanyl, on the other hand, can be found in nasal sprays, eye drops, and candies.

Official Brand Names of Fentanyl

In 2021, there were 2.4 million fentanyl prescriptions dispensed. Most commonly, prescription fentanyl is used to treat breakthrough pain in cancer patients who are already receiving opioids. The official brand names of fentanyl include:

  • Actiq – oral transmucosal lozenges, also called “lollipops”
  • Fentora – effervescent buccal tablets
  • Abstral – sublingual tablets
  • Subsys – sublingual sprays
  • Lazanda – nasal spray
  • Duragesic – transdermal patches
  • Sublimaze – injections

Other Names Fentanyl is Known by and Street Names for Fentanyl

There is a long list of street names for fentanyl, and this list is by no means exhaustive. Here are some common street names:

  • Apache
  • China Girl
  • China Town
  • Dance Fever
  • Fenty/Fent/F
  • Friend
  • Goodfellas
  • Great Bear
  • He-Man
  • Jackpot
  • King Ivory
  • Murder 8
  • Poison
  • Tango & Cash

How to Avoid Fentanyl

The best way to avoid fentanyl is to not use illicit substances. Unfortunately, in today’s world, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, ketamine, and other pills from nonmedical sources can put you at risk for fentanyl poisoning. If you do use these substances, it’s recommended to test your drugs before you take them. Fentanyl cannot be detected by taste, smell, or touch—you can only test for it using test strips. Knowing if the drugs you use contain fentanyl can lower your risk for overdose.

Test strips can tell you if your drugs contain fentanyl, but they cannot tell you the quantity. You can find these low-cost strips online (even Amazon carries them) or from distribution sites in your community. The steps are easy to follow, though there may be some differences based on the type of strips you purchase:

Step 1: Put a small amount of your drugs (about 10 mg) aside in a clean, dry container.

Step 2: Add ½ teaspoon of water to the container and mix together.

Step 3: Place the wavy end of the test strip down in the water and let it absorb for 15 seconds.

Step 4: Take the strip out of the water and place it on a flat surface for 2 to 5 minutes.

Step 5: Read the results. A single pink line is a positive identification for fentanyl. If you get a positive result, it’s best to discard the batch of drugs, as they can kill you. Two pink lines indicate a negative. However, remember that no test is 100% accurate and it’s possible that the drugs could still have fentanyl in them. If you get an invalid result (no lines or a line in the wrong spot), discard the test and test again.

fentanyl identification wolf creek recovery

Get Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction in Prescott, AZ

The road to recovery can be uncomfortable, but fentanyl addiction treatment is within reach. Recovery starts with a process called detoxification, which is where drugs and toxins are eliminated from the body. Since fentanyl is such a powerful substance, other medications are often used in the treatment process. For example, medications like buprenorphine bind to the same opioid receptors as fentanyl, helping to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

To address the mental and emotional aspects of opioid use, cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and group therapy may also be included in your treatment plan. Treatment is subjective, and some therapies may work better for you than others. By choosing a treatment center that offers both evidence-based and holistic therapies, you can experiment with multiple treatments and find what works for you.

Wolf Creek Recovery treats opioid use disorders in a comfortable and caring setting. Not only do we address the emotional, physical, and mental impacts of substance use, but we can also help you build a life that you love. With our Extended Care program, you will receive ample time in treatment, learning new ways to cope and manage stress. To learn more about our programs, contact us today at 833-732-8202.

FAQs About the Identification of Fentanyl

What is fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. It produces effects like euphoria, relaxation, pain relief, and sedation.

What does fentanyl look like?

Powdered fentanyl looks like many other drugs and is commonly mixed with cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine. Liquid fentanyl is often found in nasal sprays, eye drops, and candies.

Does fentanyl have a distinct smell or taste?

No, fentanyl is tasteless and odorless. You cannot determine if fentanyl is mixed into another substance based on smell or taste alone.

What equipment is used to detect fentanyl?

Fentanyl test strips are available online or from local distribution centers. These strips are easy to use and can tell you if fentanyl is in a particular substance, though they cannot tell you how much.

What happens if a test strip comes up positive?

Because it takes just a couple of milligrams to kill a person, any positive identification of fentanyl should be taken seriously. It’s best to throw away any supply that contains fentanyl.