What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a powerful opioid, like heroin or morphine, but 50 - 100 times stronger. It is a prescription pain killer used to treat severe pain, especially after surgery.

Some people like the high they get from fentanyl and other opiates. This often leads to addiction and demand for illegal heroin or stolen prescription drugs (OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, etc.). 


Why Should I Be Concerned?

In 2020, there were over 93,000 drug overdose deaths in the US, most of which were from fentanyl or other synthetic opioids. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of injury-related deaths - almost twice as many people die from drug overdoses than are killed in car accidents.

Many drug dealers mix the much cheaper fentanyl into other drugs like heroin, cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy/molly), and methamphetamine to increase their profits. Fentanyl has even been detected in cannabis in some parts of the U.S.

Lots of pills that look real are fake. People thought they were taking ecstasy, but it was cut with fentanyl. This is causing overdose deaths in Santa Clara County. Also, people who thought they were getting heroin or OxyContin overdosed because it contained the much more powerful fentanyl.


Is Fentanyl Addictive?

Fentanyl, like all opiates, is extremely addictive. Even taking prescription fentanyl as instructed by a doctor can quickly lead to dependence and addiction. 


What Can I Do To Reduce The Risk of Overdosing?


Get Naloxone (Narcan)

If you use opiates or know someone who might be using them, you can get the drug naloxone (Narcan). Naloxone stops overdoses and saves lives. 

In accordance with California law, Naloxone is accessible at some local pharmacies without a prescription. Anyone can contact a pharmacy to request it. This allows friends, family, and others in the community to use the auto-injector or nasal spray versions to save someone who is overdosing. Training is available on how to give naloxone, but watching a video online may be enough.


Don’t Use Alone

Most overdose deaths happen when there is no one there to get help. If you are using risky drugs make sure there are other people around. If anything goes wrong, call 911 right away and stay with the person until help arrives. 


Know Your Source

You may not trust your dealer, but you are putting your life in their hands. If you are going to get drugs from someone you should put some effort into reducing the risks.

Do you get drugs from someone you know or a total stranger? Have they been selling drugs for a long time? Do they care about the people they provide drugs to?

Do they have longtime satisfied customers? Do they test or use the drugs they sell?

You may not be able to answer these questions, but having a reliable source is better than getting stuff from strangers you meet online.



Local Resources  

Santa Clara County Opioid Overdose Prevention Project (SCCOOPP) Website: https://bhsd.sccgov.org/information-resources/opioid-overdose-prevention-project

Harm Reduction Program
The County of Santa Clara Harm Reduction Program offers evidence-based interventions to reduce the risk of fatal overdose, including overdose prevention training, distribution of naloxone medication to reverse an overdose, and fentanyl test strips to detect unintentional opioid exposure. The following services and supplies are also provided at Harm Reduction Program locations:

  • Syringe access and disposal
  • Harm reduction information for safer drug use and risk reduction plans
  • Opioid overdose prevention (naloxone and fentanyl test strip kits with training)
  • Alternatives to injecting (education and tools for snorting, smoking and booty bumping)
  • Condoms and Supplies for safer sex took out supplies
  • General hygiene supplies/kits
  • STD, HIV and Hepatitis C testing and linkage to treatment and care

For hours and locations, visit the Harm Reduction Program website: https://publichealth.sccgov.org/services/needle-exchange-program.

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Service
In response to the opioid crisis, the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department is offering Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) to Harm Reduction Program participants. The Bay Area MAT (BAMAT) program will make it easier to obtain Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) treatment, including MAT, behavioral health interventions, linkages and referrals, and other OUD support services. For more information and services contact the BAMAT Navigation staff at 510-473-7504 or 408-963-9452, or visit the Harm Reduction Program website: https://publichealth.sccgov.org/services/needle-exchange-program.

Substance Use Treatment Services (SUTS) Website: 

Substance Use Prevention Services (SUPS) Website:


Where To Get Naloxone (Narcan)

Narcan is available at all SUTS MAT clinics:

Addresses are:

  • Central Valley Clinic - 2425 Enborg Lane, San Jose
  • Alexian Health Clinic - 2101 Alexian Drive, San Jose 
  • South County Clinic - 90 Highland Avenue, San Martin


  • Central Valley Clinic - (408) 885-5400
  • Alexian Health Clinic - (408) 272-6577
  • South County Clinic - (408) 852-2420


Other Helpful Resources

Song For Charliehttps://www.songforcharlie.org/ 

Expect Fentanyl Brochure




Naloxone Training

Watch External Video*
Naloxone Training in English
*By clicking on the “Watch External Video” button, you will leave this website, enter a non-County of Santa Clara website, and be subject to the destination website’s privacy policy.  Please see our Links Policy for more information. 

Entrenamiento de Naloxona

Watch External Video*
Naloxone Training in Spanish
*By clicking on the “Watch External Video” button, you will leave this website, enter a non-County of Santa Clara website, and be subject to the destination website’s privacy policy.  Please see our Links Policy for more information. 

National Institute on Drug Abuse – Dr. Compton Discusses Half of the Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths Involve Fentanyl:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKCfegxvOPg​​​

Song For Charlie is a family-run nonprofit charity dedicated to raising awareness about “fentapills” – fake pills made of fentanyl. https://youtu.be/f8GZ264ND78



Volpe DA, Tobin GAM, Mellon RD, et al. Uniform assessment and ranking of opioid Mu receptor binding constants for selected opioid drugs. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol.2011;59(3):385-390. doi:10.1016/j.yrtph.2010.12.007

Higashikawa Y, Suzuki S. Studies on 1-(2-phenethyl)-4-(N-propionylanilino)piperidine (fentanyl) and its related compounds. VI. Structure-analgesic activity relationship for fentanyl, methyl-substituted fentanyls and other analogues. Forensic Toxicol. 2008;26(1):1-5. doi:10.1007/s11419-007-0039-1

Nelson L, Schwaner R. Transdermal fentanyl: Pharmacology and toxicology. J Med Toxicol.2009;5(4):230-241. doi:10.1007/BF03178274
on. Acetyl fentanyl Fact Sheet. July 2015. 

Fentanyl Drug Facts. Drugabuse.gov. Retrieved July 2020 from:  https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/fentanyl#ref

National Institute on Drug Abuse – Dr. Compton Discusses Half of the Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths Involve Fentanyl. NIDA.NIH.GOV | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)



Prevention & Education

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