Frequently Asked Questions

What you don't know can hurt you. Learn about the potential dangers of fentanyl and overdosing by reading the questions people ask most.

If my doctor prescribes fentanyl is it safe?

  • Yes. As long as you use the medication as prescribed by your health care provider, it is safe. Fentanyl is often prescribed to help with pain (i.e.: from cancer). It is the illegal pill or powder containing fentanyl as an adulterant that may have an unknown amount of fentanyl and may contain other substances.

How can I tell if drugs are laced with fentanyl?

  • There is no reliable or B.C. wide way of knowing if fentanyl is in your drugs. People may be taking illegal fentanyl and putting themselves at risk without knowing it. Even different pills produced illegally in the same batch may contain different concentrations of fentanyl or other chemicals.
  • Fentanyl can be cut into any type of illegal drug, whether it’s an injectable liquid, a pill (e.g., fake “oxy”), or a powder– including heroin, cocaine, or ecstasy.

What are W-18 and carfentanil, how are they different than fentanyl?

  • Fentanyl is one of a range of powerful synthetic opioids that may be adulterated into powders or pills sold in the illegal drug market in B.C. While fentanyl has gotten much of the immediate public attention, other compounds like it - such as carfentanil or W-18 - are also very toxic drugs that may be cut into and sold as heroin, fake “oxy” pills, or cocaine. These fentanyl analogue drugs are equally or more dangerous than fentanyl, and so extreme precautions need to be taken by people who use illegal drugs. People should be aware that drugs they get from anywhere other than a pharmacy or a hospital may not be what the dealer says or believes they are.

Isn’t it just people who use drugs regularly who are affected by the fentanyl crisis?

  • No. Drugs don’t discriminate. Anyone who uses any drug bought from the illegal market, no matter how often is at risk. People who use opioids or other drugs bought from the illegal market occasionally are also at high risk of an overdose.

Can fentanyl lead to addiction?

  • Yes, it can. Like other opioids, if you continue to use fentanyl you may develop a tolerance and find you need more and more to feel the effects. If you develop a tolerance, you may find it difficult to stop taking fentanyl or other opioids. If you are having this kind of problem, contact your health care provider or health authority to find out about available treatments.

If I have naloxone, am I safe from overdose?

  • Not necessarily. Naloxone can help reverse the effects of an opioid overdose by restoring breathing quickly. However, naloxone only last from 30 to 90 minutes and the opioid may last longer than the naloxone. And, keep in mind, like all medications, naloxone may not work every time. In addition, if you have overdosed and are unconscious, you will not be able to administer naloxone to yourself. This is why it is important to have others nearby who can help you.

If I only use drugs occasionally, will I be affected?

  • Possibly. It doesn’t matter how often you use, drugs. There is no way to know if the illegal drug you are using is safe or if it contains a lethal amount of fentanyl. Anyone can overdose, whether it’s your first time or not and whether you know your dealer or not.

Which areas of B.C. are fentanyl-detected overdoses occurring?

  • Fentanyl-detected overdoses are been recorded across B.C. from northern B.C. to southern B.C. and the islands.

Where can I go find treatment and recovery for First Nations?

  • The First Nations Health Authority supports a wellness approach and recognizes the rich and diverse assets within communities and regions and the many promising and successful practices undertaken to date. Learn more about prevention, harm reduction, treatment, recovery and healing.

    In British Columbia there are currently 10 First Nations residential treatment centres.