Fentanyl and National Fentanyl Awareness Day

An authentic lethal dose of fentanyl is displayed on the point of a number 2 pencil for size reference.

What is Fentanyl?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fentanyl is a synthetic opioid “approved for treating severe pain typically advanced cancer pain.” It is also 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. A very small amount can cause death. The drug has found its way into illegal drug markets where its high potency is killing people. It is often mixed with other drugs, which significantly increases the risk of overdose, as users may not know it’s been added or that what they are taking is laced with fentanyl.

  • A lethal dose of fentanyl for an average person is considered to be about 2 milligrams.
  • A lethal dose of cocaine starts at about 1000 milligrams.
  • A grain of rice is approximately 25 milligrams.
  • Anesthesiologists typically administer .05 to .5 milligrams of fentanyl for a surgery depending on the type of surgery.

National Fentanyl Awareness Day

May 7, 2024, marks National Fentanyl Awareness Day aimed at shedding light on the dangers of fentanyl use and providing resources and education to prevent overdose deaths. This observance is crucial as it helps raise awareness about the severity of the fentanyl crisis and promotes safer communities.

The Danger to Teenagers

Teenagers are particularly at risk, often unaware of the real contents of pills bought on the street or shared by peers. These counterfeit pills, frequently made to look like prescription medications such as Adderall, oxycodone and Zanax can contain lethal doses of fentanyl. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports a troubling increase in fentanyl-related overdoses, particularly among young individuals who might not be aware they are consuming this dangerous opioid.

Avoiding Non-Prescribed Pills

Many people share pills, ordering pills on social media or online from a place or person that may seem credible. Sharing a pill with another friend can be deadly.  

One Pill Can Kill image. This is a campaign in partnership with the DEA to spread awareness about deaths related to fentanyl poisoning

Don’t share pills and remember pills obtained outside of a pharmacy or without a doctor’s prescription can be counterfeit, dangerous and deadly. Fentanyl is very strong. Just 2 milligrams, which is about as small as a few grains of salt, can kill. This small amount can be lethal, especially when mixed  into other drugs or sold as fake pills that look like common painkillers or other common prescriptions. One of the most straightforward prevention methods is to avoid using pills that are not prescribed by a healthcare provider. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported “In 2023, DEA seized more than 79.5 million fentanyl-laced fake pills and nearly 12,000 pounds of fentanyl powder. The 2023 seizures are equivalent to more than 376.7 million lethal doses of fentanyl.”


When someone overdoses on opioids, their breathing can slow down or stop, which is dangerous and can lead to death. Naloxone works by quickly binding to opioid receptors in the brain, blocking the effects of opioids and helping the person breathe normally again. This medication comes in a nasal spray called Narcan. Using naloxone as soon as an overdose is suspected can be crucial in saving a life, giving emergency services time to arrive and provide further care. Many states have programs that will provide Narcan for free. In Oklahoma you can learn more and get Narcan for free at  okimready.org.

Contact the NCWR Addiction Recovery Clinic at OSU at 918-561-1890 to schedule an appointment. In case of a medical emergency, please call 911. For immediate and confidential emotional support, please call 988 to reach the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

Additional Information and Resources

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