Fentanyl is a Schedule II synthetic opioid originally developed to serve as both an analgesic (painkiller) and an anesthetic; however, its strong opioid properties have made it an attractive drug of abuse in the United States. Fentanyl, in its licit form, is diverted from the market on a small scale for personal use or sale. Illicitly manufactured and trafficked fentanyl is responsible for the current domestic crisis. Fentanyl, fentanyl-related compounds, and the precursor chemicals needed to produce these substances originate in China and transit Mexico or Canada enroute to U.S. markets. It is believed that illicit fentanyl manufacturing is occurring in Mexico. Moreover, small-scale production facilities have been discovered in the United States and Canada.
The Special Testing and Research Laboratory’s Emerging Trends Program compiled the data for this report through a query of archived seizure and analysis information from drug evidence analyzed by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s laboratory system. This data is representative of drug evidence seized and analyzed in the date ranges annotated. This is not a comprehensive list of all new psychoactive substances and is not representative of all evidence analyzed by DEA. This data is a quarterly snapshot of the new psychoactive substance market in the United States.
InterAgency Board Recommendations on Personal Protective Equipment and Decontamination Products for Fentanyl Exposure
Increased illicit use of opioids, including synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and its analogue carfentanil, is a source of increased risk to responders. Most routine encounters between patients or detainees and EMS or law enforcement do not present a significant threat of toxic exposure. While there are anecdotal reports of public safety personnel being exposed to opioids during operations, they are largely unconfirmed. To proactively address the potential risks, this document establishes guidance for personal protective equipment selection and use, decontamination, detection, and medical countermeasures for first responders who may be exposed to opioids in the course of their occupational activities. Throughout the remainder of this document, the term synthetic opioids will be used to include fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, morphine analogues, the U-series opioids, and others.
Contrary to recent news reporting, there are no fentanyl analogues resistant to Naloxone. News reports indicated a “new” fentanyl analogue, acrylfentanyl, was “extremely powerful” and implied it resisted Naloxone’s effects. However, acrylfentanyl binds to the same receptors within the human body as fentanyl, meaning correctly administered Naloxone is effective against it.
The analysis of drug-related overdose death data plays a pivotal role in law enforcement’s efforts to identify and combat drug suppliers, and ultimately drug abuse and related overdoses. At the most basic level, the drugs that contribute to death are an indicator of drug availability in the user market. Analysis of this data also highlights geographic patterns of abuse and identifies at-risk populations, and when coupled with drug treatment statistics, law enforcement drug seizure data, and public health indicators, allows for multi-disciplinary data-driven decisions regarding resource placement and strategic initiatives.