Harm Reduction Issues


Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is about 50 times as potent as heroin. People use fentanyl because it is cheap to manufacture and a small amount goes a long way. Many individuals consume fentanyl without knowledge while others use it intentionally because of its potency.

Overdose deaths involving fentanyl have quadrupled in recent years. Because of the War on Drugs and criminalization of people who use drugs, people often are unaware of the exact composition of the substances they’re using. This makes evidence-based harm reduction strategies such as fentanyl test strips, safety planning, and access to safe supply more vital than ever.

fentanyl test strips
Credit: Dr. Kim Sue

Search the Resource Library

Explore our resource library for practical resources to promote the health and dignity of people affected by drug use. You’ll find up-to-date fact sheets, webinars, manuals, training guides, and more.

Fentanyl: What You Need to Know

Fentanyl is a very powerful synthetic opioid. It comes in both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical forms.

Fentanyl is a strong synthetic opioid that has been used in clinical settings since 1968. It is often used during surgery and for pain management.

Fentanyl is often described as 80-100 times stronger than morphine or about 50 times stronger than heroin.

Fentanyl moving through the street market comes in a powder form and can be injected, smoked, or snorted. It has also been found in other drugs, like heroin, meth, cocaine, and pressed pills.

Fentanyl Myths: Set the Record Straight

Fentanyl and fentanyl analogues (some stronger than fentanyl, some weaker) are not “naloxone resistant.” They are opioids and will respond to naloxone if someone is overdosing.

You cannot overdose simply by touching fentanyl. It must be introduced into the bloodstream or a mucus membrane in order for someone to feel the effects. While there are fentanyl patches that can be placed on the skin for pain management, this is not the formulation that’s cut into other substances.

How to Use Fentanyl Safely

The biggest risk factor is that people are often exposed unintentionally and don’t know to take the proper precautions to use this drug safely.

If you choose to use fentanyl, there are some practices that can help you minimize the risk of an overdose. Here are a few recommendations so you can be in control of your experience.

Take it slow and use less

Try snorting or smoking instead of injecting to reduce risk

Practice extra caution

Carry naloxone

Test your supply

Listen to your body: Hydrate, eat and rest

For more information on how to use Fentanyl safely, check out these Fentanyl Use & Overdose Prevention Tips.

Testing for Fentanyl

Fentanyl test strips can identify the presence of fentanyl in unregulated drugs. They can be used to test injectable drugs, powders, and pills.

Being aware if fentanyl is present allows people to implement appropriate harm reduction strategies to reduce the risk of an overdose.

Learn More About How Fentanyl Test Strips Can Help

Harm Reduction Needs You. Join the Movement.

Become a Harm Reduction Champion

Get involved in your community