What you need to know about fentanyl

Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin.

Story highlights

  • Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid up to 50 times more powerful than heroin
  • The drug can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled
  • Just a quarter of a milligram can kill someone

(CNN)The United States is in the midst of a drug crisis, with a 200% increase in the rate of opioid overdose deaths since 2000. Opioids are a class of drugs derived from the opium poppy, like morphine, codeine or heroin, but they also include the latest concern: synthetics like oxycodone, hydrocodone and the extremely potent fentanyl.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5,500 people died of synthetic opioid overdoses in 2014, most of them related to fentanyl. That's an 80% increase over the numbers reported in 2013.
Last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a national alert stating that "drug incidents and overdoses related to fentanyl are occurring at an alarming rate." In 2013, the DEA made 942 fentanyl seizures; in 2014, it made 3,344.

    Street version vs. hospital version

    Used by doctors, fentan