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National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day | Fight the Opioid Epidemic

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Oct 2, 2023 • 5 cited sources

National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day was created by families directly impacted by tragedies related to fentanyl use and advocacy groups that serve the community. 

The day serves as a remembrance of those we’ve lost through fentanyl poisoning and overdose while also raising awareness of its risks. It can also serve as a day to connect people living with an active opioid use disorder (OUD) with treatment services or harm reduction awareness organizations that can help to prevent future overdoses. 

How This Day Helps to Raise Awareness of Fentanyl Overdoses

National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day has been an annual day of reflection since its creation on August 21, 2022.[1] 

Organized by concerned members of the community, grassroots organizations, and family members who have personally experienced loss of a loved one due to an accidental overdose death, this day serves to remember those lost as well as offer consolation and comfort to those who have been affected by the deadly opioid epidemic.

As part of an honored tradition, National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day aims to raise awareness of just how dangerous fentanyl can be. Those who acknowledge the day tend to focus on teaching people how to recognize when someone may be overdosing, how they can best provide assistance, how to avoid drugs that contain fentanyl, and where to find support if you or someone you love is struggling with opioid use disorder (OUD).

How Is Fentanyl Different From Other Drugs? 

Fentanyl is an extremely potent pain medicine prescribed in hospitals for the management of extreme pain. However, it is often diverted to the street or synthesized in illicit labs and sold on the black market.[3] 

Even a tiny amount of fentanyl can be deadly when ingested, even if that ingestion is accidental. Many people think that they are buying a prescription painkiller like oxycodone on the street or a bag of heroin and find out too late that the substance is actually fentanyl. Drug dealers sell fentanyl-laced drugs to increase potency and save money.[3]

What Makes Fentanyl So Dangerous?

Fentanyl has become a serious cause for concern in the U.S. In 2021, the rate of overdose deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl was 22 times higher than it was in 2013.[2]

These are some of the primary reasons why fentanyl is so dangerous:[2-4]


Fentanyl is an extremely potent drug. It is estimated to be anywhere from 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. This means that fentanyl is one of the most potent and dangerous drugs sold on the street today.[2]

Dosage Sensitivity

Due to its potency, fentanyl can easily trigger an accidental overdose in those who use the drug, even if they are used to taking opioids like heroin and regularly take high doses of these other opioids. Because fentanyl is so strong, even a slight miscalculation in dosage could prove fatal.[4]

Rapid Onset & Short Duration of Effects

Fentanyl works quickly in the body, which means that people feel its effects quickly but those effects also pass quickly. Unfortunately, when OUD is the driving force behind fentanyl use, people using the drug may take a second dose before the first one is fully metabolized out of the body. They can then inadvertently overdose due to the buildup of the substance in the system. 

Respiratory Depression

Like other opioids, fentanyl can cause respiratory depression. Breathing becomes shallow and slower than usual. 

This effect has been identified as one of the primary factors responsible for opioid-related deaths because it can mean oxygen deprivation to the brain for an extended period of time. Even if death does not occur, brain damage and coma are likely in this scenario.

Illicit Production & Distribution

Fentanyl may have legitimate medical applications, but illicit production and distribution of the drug have become a serious public health threat. Illicitly produced fentanyl and its analogs may be mixed with heroin or counterfeit prescription pills that are sold illegally on the black market. These pills cause accidental overdoses when people purchase and take these substances without awareness that they contain fentanyl.[3]

Difficulty in Reversal

Naloxone (Narcan) is an opioid overdose reversal medication that can save the life of someone who is overdosing. Due to the potency of fentanyl, higher doses of naloxone may be required in order to effectively counteract fentanyl’s effects. In some instances, multiple doses might even be needed. 

For this reason, friends and family members are encouraged to keep multiple doses of the drug on hand. If someone is overdosing, call 911 for help even if you think you can overturn the overdose on your own with naloxone. The doses you have available might not be enough, and further medical care is always needed after naloxone is given.

How to Take Action on National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day

Participating in National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day is about joining hands across the globe to make a difference and tackling the challenges connected with fentanyl misuse. If you would like to take part, you can follow these steps:

Get Informed

Learn about fentanyl, what makes it strong and how it’s linked to the opioid epidemic. Understand the signs of overdose and what you can do to help. 

Reliable resources like health agencies, groups helping people who struggle with OUD and trusted medical websites have good information to get you started.[5] The more you know, the better you can prevent and respond to overdose situations.

Work Together

Team up with community organizations and folks in your community who are trying to stop opioid misuse. Go to local events or workshops where you can learn about the drugs that are problematic in your community and how you can best help to improve the situation.

Spread the Word

Use social media and other avenues to share the truth about the dangers of fentanyl. Use special hashtags for National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day. Post pictures, articles or stories that can help other people better understand the impact of the drug and how they can help address the problem.

Sponsor Your Own Events 

Set up talks or meetings with local corporations, in community events or through outdoor festivals where people can learn about fentanyl. Bring experts, such as doctors or police officers, in to speak about the issue and get people talking about how we can effectively stop overdoses and keep drugs out of the community.

Support Safety 

Advocate to increase access to life-saving medications like naloxone to people who are struggling with OUD. Support easy access to harm reduction measures.

Talk to the Media

Bring National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day and the problem of fentanyl overdose to local newspapers, radio and TV broadcasting outlets in your town. Ask them to share stories of real people affected by fentanyl. If you have your own story, offer to share it with your community to help others who may be struggling. 

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. National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day. Drug Enforcement Administration. Published August 15, 2022. Accessed August 25, 2023.
  2. Fentanyl | Opioids. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published August 8, 2023. Accessed August 25, 2023.
  3. Fentanyl DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published June 1, 2021. Accessed August 25, 2023.
  4. One pill can kill. Drug Enforcement Administration. Accessed August 25, 2023.
  5. Just think twice. Drug Enforcement Administration. Accessed August 25, 2023.

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