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Can You Smoke Fentanyl? | Effects of Smoking & Inhaling

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Oct 15, 2023 • 7 cited sources

Smoking fentanyl is strongly discouraged due to its high potency. Any use of the drug comes with substantial risks, including opioid use disorder, respiratory depression, overdose and death. 

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What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a very strong synthetic opioid that is prescribed for the treatment of intense pain. Because the drug is more powerful than most other opioids, including morphine and heroin, it is usually prescribed for use in a clinical setting rather than for use at home.[1] 

Different Methods of Use

Fentanyl comes in a variety of forms, which means that there are varied methods of use.[1] These forms include patches that allow the drug to be absorbed through the skin, lozenges, injections and lollipops, which are most commonly prescribed to cancer patients. 

The many forms of fentanyl make it easier for patients who are suffering intensely to get the benefit of the drug. If they are unable to tolerate swallowing pills, they still have options, even if they don’t yet require intravenous use. 

Fentanyl Misuse

Many people misuse fentanyl in its various forms. For example, some people crush fentanyl pills and snort them, or they may attempt to smoke it. Because these methods of ingestion are outside the bounds of a medical prescription, they are always misuse. Due to its potency, fentanyl misuse is incredibly risky.

Is It Safe to Smoke Fentanyl?

No, smoking fentanyl is never safe. No doctor recommends this use of the drug, and there is no therapeutic reason for smoking it. 

Smoking fentanyl can be highly dangerous and lead to death. Fentanyl is dangerous enough when it is taken in a controlled and moderated dose. When it is taken in such a way that it is difficult to calculate how much of the substance is even ingested, the risks of overdose, accident and death increase exponentially.[4] 

What Are the Risks of Smoking Fentanyl?

Smoking fentanyl poses numerous risks and comes with the potential for serious side effects. Not only is it hard to manage how much fentanyl is ingested, but smoking the drug also means that the onset of effects is quick and sudden, which can be immediately overwhelming to the user. 

Here are some potential dangers of smoking fentanyl:[1,4]

Respiratory Damage

Regular exposure to smoke and smoke inhalation can damage the tissues in the respiratory system, triggering or causing respiratory issues like asthma, respiratory infections and shortness of breath.[6] It may potentially contribute to the development of more chronic and deadly respiratory issues, such as cancer. 

Respiratory Depression

Fentanyl can depress the respiratory system, slowing or stopping breathing altogether.[2] Smoking any drug, but especially a potent substance like fentanyl, can be particularly hazardous due to the rapid onset of effects. This makes it hard for users to recognize that they are at risk before their central nervous system is overwhelmed. 

Cardiovascular Issues

Fentanyl use can alter both heart rate and blood pressure, which could pose particular danger for individuals with preexisting cardiovascular issues or those who are predisposed to developing a heart condition.


All opioids have the potential to shut down the body and cause an overdose, but fentanyl is extremely potent in very small amounts. Overdose symptoms may include slow or stopped breathing, loss of consciousness, confusion, extreme drowsiness or, in severe cases, even death.

When fentanyl is smoked, you are unable to control how much of the drug hits your bloodstream at once. As a result, the risk of fatal overdose increases considerably.

Can You Overdose When Smoking Fentanyl?

There is always the risk of sudden death when taking fentanyl due to its strength, but this risk is heightened when smoking the drug. 

Even if the overdose is not immediately fatal, it can slow or stop the breathing and lead to brain damage or coma.[4] 

Can You Get Secondhand Effects From Inhaling Fentanyl Smoke?

Yes, inhaling the smoke that occurs when someone else is smoking fentanyl, even if you are not actively smoking fentanyl yourself, can have dangerous effects. Not only do you risk the respiratory problems that come with exposure to secondhand smoke from any substance, but the risk of intoxication or overdose is high as well.[5]

Smoking Fentanyl FAQs

These are some of the most frequently asked questions about smoking or inhaling fentanyl.

What is the riskiest method of using fentanyl?

Injection use is often considered the riskiest method of opioid use, including misuse of fentanyl. However, some consider smoking fentanyl to be just as risky or riskier since it can be more difficult to control dosing. Both smoking and injecting fentanyl can result in fatal overdose easily.

Can smoking fentanyl cause permanent damage?

Yes, smoking fentanyl can result in overdose, which can cause brain damage, coma and death.

How does smoking fentanyl affect the lungs?

Smoking any drug, including fentanyl and other opioids, can harm delicate tissue in the lungs. It can lead to coughing, wheezing, asthma, respiratory infections, pneumonia, bronchitis and other breathing issues. 

When done repeatedly, smoking fentanyl can lead to lung cancer in addition to a variety of other long-term issues, such as organ failure.[6,7]

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. Ramos Matos CF, Bistas KG, Lopez Ojeda W. Fentanyl. StatPearls Publishing. Published May 29, 2023. Accessed August 18, 2023.
  2. Study reveals fentanyl’s effects on the brain. The Harvard Gazette. Published August 31, 2022. Accessed August 18, 2023.
  3. Fentanyl. Healthdirect. Published May 2023. Accessed August 18, 2023.
  4. Dramatic increases in opioid overdose deaths due to fentanyl among young people in Washington State. Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute. Published December 2021. Accessed August 18, 2023.
  5. Gold MS, Melker RJ, Dennis DM, et al. Fentanyl abuse and dependence: Further evidence for second hand exposure hypothesis. Journal of Addictive Diseases. 2006;25(1):15-21. doi:10.1300/J069v25n01_04
  6. Sitas F, Harris-Roxas B, Bradshaw D, Lopez AD. Smoking and epidemics of respiratory infections. Bull World Health Organ. 2021;99(2):164-165. doi:10.2471/BLT.20.273052
  7. Rashidian H, Zendehdel K, Kamangar F, Malekzadeh R, Haghdoost AA. An ecological study of the association between opiate use and incidence of cancers. Addict Health. 2016;8(4):252-260

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