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Fentanyl, a major contributor to the current opioid crisis in the United States, is now making UK headlines.

With use of the drug in the UK on the rise, we took a closer look at the highly potent substance posing a growing threat to public health.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid which mimics the body’s natural painkillers, blocking pain messages to the brain.

Reported to be 50 – 100 times more potent than morphine, the drug is used in anesthesia and as a painkiller for post-operatives and the terminally ill.

Increasingly available via the dark web, fentanyl is being mixed with drugs including heroin and cocaine, often with the user being unaware that they are consuming the substance.

The Rise of Fentanyl

Fentanyl is no new comer to the illegal drugs market. In the United States, fentanyl derivatives are a major contributor to the current opioid crisis. Recent statistics reveal that last year more than 40% of the 72,000 drug overdose deaths in the US involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl.1

While Europe is not facing a problem of the same scale, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and recent news reports, fentanyl is a growing concern on this side of the pond also.

In its 2018 Drug Trends and Developments Report2, the EMCDDA reports 38 new opioids having been detected on Europe’s drug market since 2009.  This includes 28 fentanyl derivatives, 10 of which were reported for the first time in 2017.

A recent BBC News story and Office for National Statistics data3 reports a 29% increase in UK deaths from fentanyl in 2017.

For more information on fentanyl and its use across Britain, watch the BBC report ‘Fentanyl: Deadlier than Heroin’.

Testing for Fentanyl

At Lextox we’re constantly developing and implementing methods for the detection of new substances.  Similar to other drugs we test for, we recommend hair testing for the detection of fentanyl for the following reasons:

  • Our hair test is highly specific, so we can differentiate between fentanyl and other synthetic opioids such as tramadol and pethidine.
  • It provides a unique window of detection covering months, rather than days that urine or oral fluid analysis can show. A month by month analysis is useful in profiling a pattern of drug use.
  • Results and Expert Reports can be issued in 4 working days or less of receiving the hair sample.
  • Results are legally defensible and are accepted in every UK family court.

To find out more about testing for fentanyl or to book your sample collection appointment call 029 2048 4141 or email [email protected].



Published 02/10/18 – All information correct at time of publication