Explain the role of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids in Pennsylvania’s opioid epidemic.

Fentanyl is a potent, fast-acting opioid that’s 50-100 times as strong as morphine. It is a growing contributor to the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania. In 2017, approximately two-thirds of people who died of drug overdose had fentanyl in their bodies, which means fentanyl contributed to more overdose deaths than heroin or prescription opioids that year.

Fentanyl overdose has grown sharply in Pennsylvania because heroin is often mixed with fentanyl to make it more potent. Because fentanyl is so strong–and so fast-acting–overdose risk is very high.

The same responses to other opioid use still apply to fentanyl. For example, naloxone (brand name Narcan) reverses a fentanyl overdose, just as it does with an overdose from heroin or painkillers. Addiction to fentanyl can be treated in the same way as other opioids: medications like buprenorphine and methadone can be effective, so can individual and group therapy. Recovery support over the long-term is important for people with fentanyl addiction, just as it is for people addicted to other opioids.