Deadly new designer drug hits the streets

white powder

Consumption of a new, highly potent designer drug called acetyl fentanyl, a close equivalent to the prescription pain killer fentanyl, has been identified as a street drug and is causing deadly consequences in several states.

While prescription-based fentanyl is an opioid used to manage chronic pain, acetyl fentanyl is an illegal variant of fentanyl and is not a prescription drug. Acetyl fentanyl, a white powdery substance, is often sold as heroin. However, animal studies have shown that acetyl fentanyl can be as much as five times more potent than heroin.

In May 2013, state officials in Rhode Island recognized that the number of drug overdose deaths had increased, and asked CDC epidemiologists to help determine the reason for the increase. Upon investigation, CDC and Rhode Island officials identified acetyl fentanyl as the cause of the rise in overdose deaths. Since the investigation, more overdose deaths in Rhode Island have been linked to this powerful street drug.

A report on the specifics and results of the Rhode Island investigation are available at

This relatively recent outbreak of drug overdose deaths is just one of many examples of the significant risk of using street drugs, particularly those that contain any form of opium or an opium-like substance. These powerful drugs can cause breathing to slow down or stop, resulting in death. If you suspect or witness an overdose, call 911 and seek medical attention immediately. To find the closest substance treatment center, go to icon or call 1-800-662-4357.

Page last reviewed: July 11, 2014