Fentanyl and Work
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic drug that is like morphine and heroin. However, it is 50 to 100 times more potent. Fentanyl and its analogs are members of the class of drugs known as rapid-acting synthetic opioids used to reduce pain. Fentanyl analogs include acetylfentanyl, butyrfentanyl, carfentanil, alfentanil, sufentanil, and remifentanil. Fentanyl acts quickly to depress central nervous system and breathing function. Exposure to fentanyl may be fatal.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies fentanyl and some of its analogs as schedule II prescription drugs. Schedule II drugs are those with a high potential for abuse.
These drugs, and other fentanyl analogs, are very dangerous when used:
- Without medical supervision.
- Differently than prescribed.
Schedule II drugs are usually for treating patients with severe pain or managing pain after surgery. Clinicians may also use them to treat patients with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to other opioids. However, clinicians should follow the CDC Clinical Practice Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Pain. Using these guidelines can reduce the risks for unsafe use or dependence.
Naloxone is a safe and effective antidote to all opioid-related overdoses, including fentanyl. Multiple doses of naloxone may be needed to treat a fentanyl overdose because of fentanyl’s high potency. In most areas of the country, emergency responders, law enforcement, and anyone with training can give naloxone to someone.
Protecting Workers at Risk
Emergency responders, healthcare workers, and others in hospital and clinic settings are potentially at risk for exposure to fentanyl and its analogs. The guides below are specific to each group. They contain recommended procedures, training, and personal protective equipment for preventing occupational exposure.