National Fentanyl Awareness Day 2024

By Ashley Barnes, M.S.

National Fentanyl Awareness Day 2024

May 7, 2024 is the third annual National Fentanyl Awareness Day. This day unites parents, teachers,  individuals, community groups, corporations, influencers, and government entities to help put an end to this national public health crisis. People, notably young people, are taking illicitly manufactured fentanyl without even being aware and dying at frightening rates as a result.

“Last year, over 70,000 Americans fatally overdosed on illegally made fentanyl. Fentanyl is now found in fake pills and many street drugs, but users are often unaware that their drugs contain the potent opioid. This is an urgent public health crisis that puts all of us, and our loved ones, at risk. We all must play a role in preventing further tragedies” (National Fentanyl Awareness Day, 2024)

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a Schedule II narcotic under the United States Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (United States Drug Enforcement Administration, 2024).

Illicit fentanyl, primarily manufactured in foreign clandestine labs and smuggled into the United States through Mexico, is being distributed across the country and sold on the illegal drug market.  Fentanyl is being mixed in with other illicit drugs to increase the potency of the drug, sold as powders and nasal sprays, and increasingly pressed into pills made to look like legitimate prescription opioids.  Because there is no official oversight or quality control, these counterfeit pills often contain lethal doses of fentanyl, with none of the promised drug” (United States Drug Enforcement Administration, 2024).

Fentanyl is cheap and extremely addictive. Many drugs such as MDMA, cocaine, xanax, and percocet are laced with fentanyl to increase profits.

Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid. It is up to fifty times stronger than heroin and one hundred times stronger than morphine. Even a few grains of sand worth of fentanyl can be deadly for someone to consume. Its synthetic nature means that it is not plant-based, but manufactured in a lab. It is an opioid, which means that it is a pain reliever similar to morphine, heroin, and oxycodone. While medical grade fentanyl is prescribed by a doctor and can be safely administered, illegally made fentanyl is not safe. 

The following are the main differences between medical grade and illegally manufactured fentanyl:

Medical Grade Fentanyl

  • Made in a sterile factory – regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • Carefully administered and monitored by Medical Doctors (MD). 
  • Precise and consistent dose.
  • Legitimate medical uses.
  • Death is uncommon when prescribed by a doctor.

Illegally Manufactured Fentanyl

  • Made in unsanitary conditions – not regulated and doesn’t undergo quality control.
  • Hidden in the drug supply.
  • Dose is random and variable.
  • Increases drug dealer profits.
  • Involved in the majority of drug deaths in the United States in recent years.

How to Help

According to the National Fentanyl Awareness Day Website, the following are ways that you can help to put an end to this national public health crisis:

  • Educate yourself and start conversations:
    • If you are a parent or caregiver, start an open conversation with your family about fentanyl to understand their awareness of the issue.
    • Don’t stigmatize drug use, but instead emphasize the high risks of illicitly manufactured fentanyl and how to protect individuals and the community.
    • If you are an educator, initiate a dialogue in the classroom. Beaverton, Oregon’s school district has developed free lesson plans for middle school and high school students available for use here.
  • Learn how to respond:
    • Learn the signs of overdose: unresponsiveness, irregular breathing, loss of consciousness, and inability to speak.
    • Call for help: If you witness someone experiencing the symptoms of an overdose/poisoning, call 911 and request emergency medical services. All 50 states and D.C. have enacted Good Samaritan laws, which typically provide immunity to those who call emergency services when experiencing or witnessing an overdose.
    • Carry Naloxone (a.k.a. Narcan) is a life-saving opioid reversal medication, commonly comes in the form of a nasal spray. Some states and cities are making it more accessible by providing it for free.
    • Test the product: Some cities and states are making fentanyl test strips available. Caution: There is no such thing as a pill that has been tested for fentanyl, since the test strips require that you fully dissolve each and every entire pill in water. Test strips also do not test for every fentanyl analog.

Seek Support

If you’re reading this, you might be concerned about a loved one struggling with addiction and may be worried that they would be exposed to illicit fentanyl. 

We have several knowledgeable and compassionate physicians affiliated with the Mental Health Center who are experts in treating addiction and substance use disorders. We care about our patients and support many who are healing from substance use challenges. 

Please contact our office at (310) 601-9999 or visit our Mental Health Center website to schedule an appointment today!




National Fentanyl Awareness Day. (2024). National Fentanyl Awareness Day: May 7th. 

United States Drug Enforcement Administration (2024). Facts about fentanyl.