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What Does Carfentanil Look Like? How to Spot It

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Nov 24, 2023 • 4 cited sources

There isn’t much data or research on the forms carfentanil tends to take. However, it has been reported to be found in several forms, including powder, pills, patches and sprays.[1] 

In any form, carfentanil should be viewed as very dangerous, and its use should be wholly avoided. This drug isn’t like other opioids. While other opioids also shouldn’t be misused, carfentanil is extremely potent.[1] Even a small amount can easily cause a life-threatening overdose in humans.[2]

What Does Carfentanil Look Like?

There isn’t a significant amount of information about the forms carfentanil usually takes when sold on the black market. It can look very similar to other less potent drugs, such as cocaine or heroin.[3] 

With this understood, carfentanil and other fentanyl analogs could potentially be found in the following forms:[1]


Most often, carfentanil is found as a white powder.[3] This powder should not be handled (especially snorted) or otherwise used for any purpose beyond being turned into a tranquilizer for large animals by a professional. 

Carfentanil can be lethal even at tiny doses and powder is very easy to mishandle.[1] If someone thinks carfentanil powder is cocaine and snorts it, overdose is very likely.


As is true of almost any powdered substance, carfentanil can be pressed into pills. Were a single pill made primarily of the drug, it would likely be a very dangerous dose for a human to take. 

While using carfentanil should always be avoided, this also means pills containing the drug on the black market likely only contain a small amount of the substance if made by someone knowledgeable. In some cases, carfentanil may be laced into other drugs, such as versions of OxyContin or Percocet that are sold on the street.[4] 

Blotter Paper

Blotter paper is an absorbent type of paper sometimes used to deliver drugs. This paper can be soaked in a liquid form of the drug. Once prepared, it is then put into a person’s mouth to take the drug. It should be noted that blotter paper has several uses unrelated to drug use, such as for protecting handwriting, art or stamps. 


Some forms of carfentanil can be absorbed through the skin, meaning the drug can be turned into patches that a person can apply somewhere innocuous to take continual doses of the opioid. While still very unsafe due to the drug’s potency, if a person is overdosing on the opioid, the patch can be removed to potentially reduce how much of the drug they absorb versus how much they initially intended to take.


Reportedly, carfentanil is sometimes used to make drug sprays. There isn’t much information available on this form of the drug. However, many drugs are relatively easy to aerosolize, which can be done to make them easier to quickly inhale. 

As is true of all forms of carfentanil, these sprays should not be considered safe to use even very sparingly.[1]

Can Carfentanil Be Mixed With Other Drugs?

Carfentanil is so potent that it often isn’t intentionally taken on its own. Instead, it is mixed with other drugs in an effort to increase their potency. 

A person using opioids may not be aware that the drugs they’re using have trace amounts of carfentanil in them. This can significantly increase a person’s risk of an overdose, which can be fatal.

There isn’t an easy way to tell if drugs contain carfentanil. Since carfentanil generally comes in the form of a fairly nondescript white powder, it can easily be mixed with other substances. 

It also takes only a very small amount of carfentanil to affect the strength of what one is taking. Carfentanil is literally 10,000 times more potent than morphine.[1]

The Dangers of Carfentanil

Carfentanil carries many of the risks typically associated with other opioids. Opioids have a significant risk of misuse and dependence. Repeated misuse of opioids can lead to opioid use disorder (OUD), which can then cause a spiral of other negative consequences to physical and mental health. 

Carfentanil is so potent that an ongoing addiction to the drug is unlikely since overdose is likely to occur with use. Instead, a person will usually be addicted to opioids in general and use carfentanil as part of that ongoing misuse.

Carfentanil is fairly unique in how dangerous it is as an opioid. There are other powerful synthetic opioids like fentanyl that are more common. Fentanyl use results in many deaths each year. However, carfentanil is extremely potent. 

Exactly how much carfentanil tends to be a lethal dose isn’t well-researched. This is arguably because it’s not very relevant. It is already known due to its potency that a very small amount of the drug could be fatal to humans. For context, 2 mg of fentanyl can already be lethal and carfentanil is about 100 times more potent than fentanyl.[1]

Getting Carfentanil Addiction Treatment

Regular misuse of opioids is highly destructive to every aspect of life. Even using small amounts of carfentanil can easily be lethal, and regularly misusing less potent opioids also carries a risk of a fatal overdose. 

Even if you don’t overdose on opioids, misusing them can lead to physical dependence and OUD. As you continue to misuse opioids, the risk of developing serious physical and mental health problems only increases.

If you struggle with opioid misuse and want to stop, help is available. At Bicycle Health, we can provide effective diagnosis and treatment of OUD through our Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) telehealth services. With this unique combination of therapy and medication, your drug cravings can be suppressed, and you can build the skills needed to resist opioid misuse even when you encounter triggers to use. 

MAT with Suboxone can put you back in control of your life. While the path to recovery isn’t necessarily easy, it’s worth it. And we’ll be here to guide you through it.

Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD

Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More

  1. Carfentanil: A dangerous new factor in the U.S. opioid crisis. Drug Enforcement Administration. Accessed November 2, 2023.
  2. Jalal H, Burke DS. Carfentanil and the rise and fall of overdose deaths in the United States. Addiction. Published September 25, 2020. Accessed November 2, 2023. 
  3. Five quick facts: carfentanil. Drug Enforcement Administration. Accessed November 2, 2023. 
  4. Fentanyl facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published September 20, 2021. Accessed November 2, 2023.

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