What Color Is Fentanyl?

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What Color Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid typically produced in a lab as a white powder, but it can also be found in other forms and colors. It’s important to note that fentanyl’s color is not necessarily an indicator of its purity or potency. The drug is up to 100 times more potent than morphine, and using any method of ingestion is extremely dangerous and can lead to overdose and death. In addition, regular consumption contributes to ongoing physical and emotional dependence, which encourages further use due to cravings and withdrawal effects that manifest when attempting to quit or cut back.

If you suspect you have a fentanyl use disorder, you are urged to contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive treatment plans. At Guardian Recovery, we offer evidence-based services, such as medical detoxinpatient programs, medication-assisted treatment, and much more.

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Can You Visually Identify Fentanyl Just by Color?

No, it is not possible to identify fentanyl by color alone. As noted, on the black market, it’s usually found in powder form, but for both legitimate and illicit use, it can also be administered as a patch, lozenge, or liquid. The powder form’s appearance can vary due to processing conditions and is combined with other substances.

Different Colors & Forms of Fentanyl

Fentanyl powder is typically white but can also be off-white, yellow, or brown. In addition, it can appear in many different colors when combined with other substances. The powder can be consumed as is by smoking, snorting, or diluting for injection.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), fentanyl pharmaceutical products are available in the following forms: (1)

  • Oral transmucosal lozenges/lollipops (Actiq®).
  • Nasal sprays (Lazanda®).
  • Transdermal patches (Duragesic®).
  • Effervescent buccal tablets (Fentora®).
  • Sublingual tablets (Abstral®).
  • Sublingual sprays (Subsys®).
  • Injectable formulations.

Common Non-Powder Forms of Fentanyl Include:

Fentanyl Pills

Fentanyl pills are usually small, round tablets that come in a variety of colors, including blue, green, and white. They are sometimes imprinted with logos, designs, or markings. It is important to note that fentanyl pills can be disguised as other medications, such as prescription painkillers, benzodiazepines, or stimulants, so it is difficult to know what they might look like. In addition, counterfeit pills containing fentanyl are becoming increasingly common, which may look different from legitimate pills or even each other.

Liquid Fentanyl

Liquid fentanyl is designed to be administered by injection or infusion and is intended for use by medical providers in a controlled clinical setting, such as a hospital or clinic, and not for individuals at home. It is a clear, colorless, odorless liquid typically packaged in small vials. On the street, liquid fentanyl can be found as a product of drug diversion, or powder fentanyl can be made injectable by dissolving it in a liquid solution.

Transdermal Patch

transdermal fentanyl patch is a method of administration designed to deliver the drug through the skin and into the bloodstream. (2) This method can provide long-lasting pain relief for individuals who suffer from chronic pain, such as cancer patients, or to treat pain that other analgesics struggle to control. A fentanyl patch is typically a thin, square or rectangle patch, usually white or clear, with adhesive on one side. The patch is non-invasive and releases a consistent, measured dose of fentanyl over 72 hours.

Lozenge

A fentanyl lozenge generally resembles a cough drop, hard candy, or lollipop. They are often small, round, and fruit-flavored. When placed in the mouth, they gradually dissolve and deliver fentanyl into the bloodstream through the oral mucosal tissue. Like a patch, lozenges are non-invasive. They work best for treating instances of breakthrough pain when other pain-relievers cannot.

Nasal Spray

Fentanyl nasal spray is a fast-acting form of fentanyl delivered directly into the nose and absorbed into the bloodstream through the nasal mucosa. Like patches and lozenges, a nasal spray is a prescription-only medication used to manage breakthrough pain in those with previously unmanaged chronic pain.

Tablets

Illicit fentanyl can also be made into imitation prescription pills that look like legitimate pain medication. They can be ingested orally and are often falsely marketed and sold as oxycodone, hydrocodone, or benzodiazepines.

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Adulterants Can Alter Fentanyl’s Appearance

Although fentanyl is usually white, its color can change depending on the presence of other chemicals and substances. Manufacturers often add adulterants both during and after the manufacturing process to adjust their potency or effects or bulk up the product. Likewise, because fentanyl manufacturing is illegal and unregulated, conditions may be unsanitary, and the drug can become contaminated with any number of potentially toxic chemicals.

All additives can potentially alter fentanyl’s appearance. However, it is essential to note that fentanyl is not as often purchased and consumed directly as other drugs. More often, fentanyl is found as an adulterant itself, added to drugs like cocaine and heroin to increase potency.

Common Fentanyl Adulterants Include:

  • Bulking Agents — Producers often mix or “cut” pure fentanyl powder with other similar-looking powdery substances to increase volume and boost profits. These are usually benign, but not always. Bulking agents added to fentanyl include sugar (mannitol), starch, salt, baking soda, talc, chalk, acetaminophen, and laundry detergent.
  • Caffeine — One of the most common additives producers and dealers cut into fentanyl is caffeine powder. (3) Caffeine is a cheap and widely available stimulant added to fentanyl to counteract its strong sedative effects without negating its euphoric effects. Moreover, caffeine may make the drug’s effects onset quicker.
  • Methamphetamine — Some producers or dealers cut meth into their fentanyl. The purpose is similar to that of adding caffeine. Meth is said to enhance the desirable effects of fentanyl while minimizing the undesirable ones.
  • Benzodiazepines — These are sometimes added to amplify or alter the drug’s effects. Because these drugs are also depressants, they dramatically increase the risk of overdose.

Contaminants — The unsanitary conditions and lack of oversight during production sometimes allow the fentanyl to become tainted by caustic or toxic chemicals. These may include heavy metals like lead, mercury, or arsenic.

Multi-Color or Rainbow Fentanyl

In late 2022, the DEA sent out a press release warning of an influx of multi-colored fentanyl. This “rainbow fentanyl” has been found in several forms, including powder, pills, and blocks resembling sidewalk chalk. According to a DEA representative, “Rainbow fentanyl—fentanyl pills and powder that come in a variety of bright colors, shapes and sizes—is a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults.” (4)

The Dangers of Determining Fentanyl Presence Visually

It is virtually impossible to identify fentanyl visually. Moreover, attempting to identify fentanyl is extremely dangerous. Because fentanyl is up to 100 times stronger than morphine, even minuscule amounts can cause an overdose. (5) Rainbow fentanyl, as mentioned above, poses a very high risk of accidental overdose because it can be mistaken for other recreationally misused drugs.

Any drugs which may contain fentanyl should be handled with extreme caution. Testing for the presence of fentanyl can be difficult because it may be mixed with various other substances. Likewise, fentanyl test strips (FTS) are not always accurate, and availability is limited. (6) If you suspect a pill or substance is laced with fentanyl, notify the authorities so it can be disposed of properly.

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Contact Us to Overcome Fentanyl Addiction

If you’re worried about the risks of fentanyl exposure or are struggling with drug addiction, Guardian Recovery can help. Reach out today to speak to an experienced Treatment Advisor to learn more about our full continuum of care, step-down degrees of intensity, and various therapies and supportive services throughout all levels of care. Contact us for a free, no-obligation assessment and health insurance benefits check and we will help get you started on your journey to wellness and sobriety.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

(1)https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Fentanyl-2020_0.pdf (2)https://www.fda.gov/drugs/postmarket-drug-safety-information-patients-and-providers/fentanyl-transdermal-system-marketed-duragesic-information (3)https://drugchecking.cdpe.org/report/january-1-14-2022/ (4)https://www.dea.gov/press-releases/2022/08/30/dea-warns-brightly-colored-fentanyl-used-target-young-americans (5)https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/fentanyl (6)https://www.cdc.gov/stopoverdose/fentanyl/fentanyl-test-strips.html

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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