Fentanyl is the more potent, lethal cousin of heroin, and because it offers a higher high for a cheaper price, fentanyl is quickly becoming a big problem across the United States. Fentanyl is a synthetic painkiller up to fifty times more powerful than heroin and up to 100 time more potent than morphine.  A tiny bit can be fatal, but because it looks so much like heroin, it is often laced into heroin or even sold by itself without the user’s knowledge. Cartels have developed a way of making fentanyl more cheaply and easily than heroin, and are manufacturing it at a record pace. Now, it appears to be causing even more deaths than heroin.

Still, many state crime laboratories and coroner’s offices do not track fentanyl-related deaths. Special toxicology testing is necessary to detect fentanyl, but most state crime labs haven’t run those tests in the past. But now officials are taking notice, and police have begun to find more and more fentanyl in drug seizures. In fact, the total number of  fentanyl drug seizures jumped from 618 in 2012 to 4,585 in 2014.

Fentanyl is fast acting, working so quickly that there is typically no time to administer naloxone, a drug used to reverse the effects of an overdose. With heroin, there is a chance of recovery after a relapse. But with fentanyl, it’s only a few seconds before an addict can be dead.