What Does Fentanyl Taste Like?

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Fentanyl is a tasteless, odorless synthetic opioid 50 times more potent than heroin. It may be mixed with other substances in illicit forms, affecting its taste and appearance. It cannot be stressed enough that fentanyl should not be tasted, touched, or consumed in any way except under medical supervision or with a legitimate prescription. Fentanyl can be lethal in tiny amounts and is responsible for tens of thousands of overdose deaths yearly. (1)

Fentanyl use comes with a wide variety of risks, including severe short- and long-term health complications, dependence, addiction, overdose, coma, and death. Misusing fentanyl independently or being exposed to it via contamination in other illicit drugs is a strong indicator of a substance use disorder that requires prompt, comprehensive treatment to prevent adverse and life-threatening outcomes.

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Does Fentanyl or Fentanyl Citrate Have a Taste?

Both fentanyl and fentanyl citrate are tasteless and odorless and differ in composition, potency, and administration. (2) Fentanyl is the pure form of the opioid and is typically used in medical settings as a patch, lozenge, or injection. It’s used to treat severe pain, particularly in cases where other pain medications are ineffective.

Fentanyl citrate, on the other hand, is a formulation of fentanyl where it is combined with citric acid to form a salt, which makes the drug more soluble in water and easier to administer intravenously. (3) It’s typically used in clinical settings to treat acute pain, particularly during surgery or other medical procedures. Fentanyl citrate is delivered via injection or intravenous infusion under the supervision of healthcare professionals. Some people report experiencing a slightly bitter or chemical taste when receiving fentanyl citrate using this method.

Can Fentanyl Be Identified by Taste or Smell?

Fentanyl cannot be identified by taste or smell alone. However, illicit forms of fentanyl sold on the black market may be combined with other substances that alter its taste and appearance. As a result, illegal fentanyl products may have a different flavor or smell than pure fentanyl.

Fentanyl’s Presence Can Be Concealed When Mixed With Other Drugs

Fentanyl can be hidden when combined with other substances. Using a practice known as cutting or lacing, illicit drug manufacturers and dealers sometimes combine fentanyl with other substances, such as heroin, cocaine, or counterfeit capsules. (4) This is done to increase the potency and profitability of the product while deceiving the user. When fentanyl is mixed with other substances, it is virtually impossible to detect without a specialized test.

Dangers of Ingesting Fentanyl Include:

  • Overdose—Due to fentanyl’s extreme potency, overdoses are common among those who either knowingly or unknowingly ingest it. Opioids like fentanyl are classified as central nervous system (CNS) depressants, meaning they slow down activity in the brain and body. When too much fentanyl is present in the CNS, certain vital functions, such as breathing, are slowed to dangerous levels. An opioid overdose is a life-threatening emergency that can lead to brain damage, coma, and death. If you suspect you or someone you know is overdosing on fentanyl or other opioids, call 911 immediately.
  • Dependence and Addiction—As with all opioids, fentanyl misuse can rapidly lead to physical and psychological dependence and addiction. However, due to its high potency, it may pose an even greater potential for addiction than prescription painkillers or even heroin.
  • Other Health Risks—Besides respiratory depression and overdose, fentanyl use can cause many other adverse health effects, such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, confusion, and seizures.

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Difficulty Identifying Fentanyl Makes It Dangerous

Fentanyl is commonly found illicitly as a white powder nearly identical in appearance to other drugs, such as heroin and cocaine. Therefore, it is impossible to identify it visually when combined with similarly-looking substances. Fentanyl’s potency and difficult identifiability can make it more challenging to treat a person having an overdose. When this occurs, prompt medical intervention is needed, and first responders must know what drug(s) they’re dealing with to administer treatment accordingly.

Symptoms of a Fentanyl Overdose Include:

  • Slowed, shallow, or stopped breathing.
  • Blue or gray lips and fingernails.
  • Pinpoint pupils.
  • Cold, clammy skin.
  • Limpness.
  • Unconsciousness/unresponsiveness.
  • Seizures.
  • Chest pain or tightness.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Confusion and disorientation.
  • Inability to wake or remain awake.
  • Slowed heart rate.

Difficulty Recognizing Fentanyl Makes It Attractive to Drug Producers and Dealers

There are several reasons illicit drug producers and dealers find the use of fentanyl attractive. It’s inexpensive, potent, and nearly impossible to detect when cut into other substances. As a result, it is commonly used as an adulterant in heroin, cocaine, and counterfeit capsules, to increase their potency and profitability. (5)

In addition, fentanyl’s covert properties make it more difficult for law enforcement agencies to detect and prevent its distribution. It can be smuggled into the country through various means, including the dark web, mail, and cross-border smuggling, making it a significant challenge for even drug enforcement officials to identify.

Testing for Fentanyl Presence

Fentanyl test strips are a type of drug testing tool that can detect fentanyl in drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. The test strips allow users to mix a small amount of a given substance with a testing solution, which is then applied to the strip. The test strip will indicate the presence of fentanyl by changing color, indicating a positive result.

These strips are becoming increasingly popular as a harm reduction tool because they can help users identify the presence of fentanyl in a drug before using it. Unfortunately, they are still illegal in many states where they are classified as drug paraphernalia.

Fentanyl test strips are not a perfect solution, as they can sometimes produce false negatives and positives. (6) However, they are generally considered valuable tools for harm reduction. They can help individuals who use drugs to make informed decisions about their drug use and reduce the risk of a fatal overdose. It is important to note that fentanyl test strips should not be used as a substitute for seeking professional addiction treatment.

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Misusing fentanyl and other illicit drugs has a wide range of dangerous and harmful effects on individuals, their families, and society. They include severe health problems, addiction, psychiatric disorders, legal troubles, financial issues, and family conflict.

If you’re motivated to overcome addiction and begin a new life in recovery, contact our dedicated team at Guardian Recovery to learn more about our integrated treatment programs, personalized care plans, and evidence-based methodologies, such as behavioral therapyfamily therapylife skills training, medication-assisted treatment, and more. You can speak with an experienced Treatment advisor and receive a free, no-obligation assessment and health insurance benefits check.

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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://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates (2)https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/fentanyl (3)https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/fentanyl-citrate (4)https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2021-12/DEA-OPCK_FactSheet_December%202021.pdf (5)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7119254/ (6) https://harmreductionjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12954-021-00478-4

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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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