Fentanyl Lethal Dosage | How Much Fentanyl Can Kill You?

Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS

on December 11, 2022
Fikret Terzic

Written by: Fikret Terzic MD, MS

With a lethal dose the same size as a few grains of sand, fentanyl is a deadly synthetic opioid produced both as a prescription painkiller and a dangerous street drug. In Ohio, illicit fentanyl is often laced into heroin or counterfeit pills sold on the back market, contributing to untimely overdose deaths.

Although fentanyl is an invaluable tool for healthcare providers, it has grown to become a common illegal drug that fuels the deadly opioid crisis in Ohio.

With only 2-3 mgs of the drug capable of causing a fentanyl overdose, the increasing number of drug overdose deaths in Ohio are spurred by fentanyl. In 2020, fentanyl was involved in over 4,000 overdose deaths in Ohio, which accounted for 81% of all fatal overdoses.

Lethal Dosage Of Fentanyl

The lethal dosage for fentanyl is around 2-3 mg, the approximate size of 5-10 grains of salt. However, this figure can vary significantly from person to person due to physical size, metabolism, and drug tolerance.

Tolerance occurs when someone regularly uses opioid drugs, giving the body time to adjust to the drug and allowing them to take larger doses with less effect.

In addition, the lethality of opioid drugs is greatest when they are taken through methods with a very fast onset of effect, especially intravenous injection.

Pharmaceutical Fentanyl Vs. Illicit Fentanyl

In medical settings, fentanyl is used as an anesthetic and treatment for chronic pain, severe pain, and breakthrough pain.

It is produced in various forms including:

  • intravenous solutions
  • nasal sprays or inhalers
  • transdermal patches
  • sublingual forms
  • lozenges/lollipops

Authentic prescription medications are made and dosed with precision to ensure that no accidental overdose effects occur. However, these prescription medications should only ever be used as prescribed, and then only under the supervision of a qualified medical professional.

Illicit fentanyl is cheap, highly addictive, and lethal. And in its various forms it poses an ever-increasing challenge for law enforcement officers and public health experts.

Forms Of Illicit Fentanyl

Because the drug is so strong in such small amounts and doesn’t require a natural starting material like opium to produce, it can be made cheaply and smuggled over national borders in smaller quantities than heroin.

This has led to drug dealers lacing their heroin supplies with fentanyl or doing away with heroin altogether and selling diluted fentanyl in its place. 

And other illicit drugs, from methamphetamine to MDMA, may also contain at least a small amount of fentanyl to increase the felt effects of the new drug cocktail.

Counterfeit Prescription Drugs

Additionally, counterfeit prescription drugs like OxyContin/oxycodone and Xanax/alprazolam are often produced and sold over with no idea that the medication contains fentanyl. Or, that the fentanyl dosage inside these fake meds may be significantly higher or lower than intended.

Identifying Illicit Fentanyl

Fentanyl is an odorless white powder that can be dissolved into liquids and mixed or pressed into any number of other substances.

The only reliable way to detect fentanyl is using harm reduction test strips or laboratory testing.

Fentanyl Overdose

As a hyper-potent synthetic opioid, only a very small amount of fentanyl is required to trigger serious or potentially fatal opioid overdose symptoms.

These signs and symptoms can include:

  • low blood pressure
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • extreme sedation
  • nausea and vomiting
  • limpness
  • reduced pupil size
  • cold and clammy skin
  • blue lips and fingernails
  • slowed or stopped breathing
  • decreased heart rate
  • severe drowsiness or loss of consciousness
  • coma

Responding To Fentanyl Overdose

If you suspect a drug overdose has occurred, you must act quickly to help the victim.

Immediately call 911 and administer the opioid antidote naloxone, also sold under the brand name Narcan, if you can.

Until first responders arrive, stay with the victim, place them on their side in the rescue position, and provide first aid as necessary. This includes CPR and the use of an AED if the victim’s breathing stops and if you are able to do so.

Once medical help arrives the victim will likely be treated with additional doses of naloxone as well as other forms of supportive care, potentially including life-support and resuscitation.

Opioid Addiction Treatment

The best way to avoid overdose deaths due to fentanyl is to treat the substance use disorder driving a person to take illicit street drugs.

At Ohio Recovery Center, we offer leading addiction recovery services including medical detoxification, inpatient care, and medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder.

To learn more about our residential treatment options, please contact us today.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — Fentanyl Facts https://www.cdc.gov/stopoverdose/fentanyl/index.html
  2. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) — Drug Fact Sheet: Fentanyl https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Fentanyl-2020_0.pdf
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Fentanyl DrugFacts https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/fentanyl
  4. Ohio Department of Health — Ohio Unintentional Drug Overdose Deaths https://odh.ohio.gov/wps/wcm/connect/gov/a4b09bb6-c49a-4daf-b9d9-435f7441961d/OHIOMO%7E2.PDF?MOD=AJPERES&CONVERT_TO=url&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE.Z18_K9I401S01H7F40QBNJU3SO1F56-a4b09bb6-c49a-4daf-b9d9-435f7441961d-obFu0R2
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — SAMHSA Opioid Overdose Toolkit https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma18-4742.pdf

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

Prefer Texting?
We've got you covered.

Receive 24/7 text support right away.
There is no obligation and you can opt out at any time.

Sign up for text support

Receive 24/7 text support right away.
There is no obligation and you can opt out at any time.
Let us walk you through the treatment process. We're here to help.
For 24/7 Treatment Help:
100% Free & Confidential. Call (419) 904-4158
(419) 904-4158