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Why is Fentanyl Added to Heroin Bags?

Fentanyl is added to heroin bags because it is cheaper than heroin yet more powerful. Dealers will ‘cut’ heroin with fentanyl to make more money while taking more lives due to opioid overdoses.

Heroin is an illicit opioid derived from morphine, which has become a very popular drug for abuse and addiction in this country. Often a person will get addicted to opioids after they have been given a prescription for an illness or injury. Then, when they can no longer get the prescription refilled or when they run out of medication, they will turn to heroin to prevent withdrawal from occurring. Heroin is cheap and relatively easy to obtain.

Background on Fentanyl Abuse

Fentanyl is a highly addictive and powerful prescription opioid responsible for several overdoses in the United States. It is normally used in anesthesia, to treat severe pain after surgery, or for those that have developed a tolerance to other opioids. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. In addition, it is a synthetic opioid, which means it is artificial. Most of the fentanyl in the U.S. comes from China and Mexico.

Reasons for Adding Fentanyl to Heroin Bags

Fentanyl is manufactured rather easily in labs. It is added to heroin bags because it is cheaper than heroin yet more powerful. Drug dealers will ‘cut’ heroin with fentanyl to make more money. Also, it weighs less than heroin, making it much easier to smuggle into the country.

Another reason why fentanyl is added to heroin bags is that it is so potent. Fentanyl is 30 to 50% more potent than heroin. A tiny amount causes extreme euphoria, which keeps users returning for more if they survive. Fentanyl-laced heroin has caused more overdose deaths in the United States than any other drug. And heroin is not the only drug being cut with fentanyl these days. Fentanyl has also shown up in cocaine, Xanax, and other pain medications like oxycodone and Percocet.

The National Institute of Health lists some alarming statistics about fentanyl-related overdose deaths.

National overdose deaths attributed to fentanyl began to rise in 2013 from a stable level of approximately 1600 annually in 2010–2012 to 1905 in 2013 and then by a further 120% to 4200 in 2014. In opioid overdose deaths, heroin replaced oxycodone as the number one cause as of 2012 and fentanyl moved from 9th in 2012 to 5th most common opioid in overdose deaths in 2014. Of the deaths primarily attributed to fentanyl, 64% had two or more concomitant drugs identified: heroin (23%) was the most common with an additional 9% co-attributed to morphine. (NIH)

Anytime an individual gets drugs off the street, they are taking a huge risk with their life. No one knows what is in these substances, and the street-level dealers either don’t know that what they have is cut with fentanyl or don’t care. Most dealers will do anything to make more money. Reports have been out for a few years about heroin and illicit substances being mixed with fentanyl and the number of overdose deaths. Unfortunately, that number continues to rise, increasing for urgency in addressing fentanyl abuse and addiction with comprehensive recovery programs.

Treatment for Heroin and Fentanyl Addiction

If you or someone you love is struggling with a heroin addiction, our addiction specialists can assist you around the clock. Absolute Awakenings follows an evidence-based approach to treating substance abuse disorders. We are committed to providing long-term recovery for those struggling with addiction. Recovery is not a one size fits all approach, so every person that walks through our doors is provided with a unique and individualized experience. Our recovery specialists are waiting to assist you.


  1. Huecker MR, Koutsothanasis GA, Abbasy MSU, Marraffa J. Heroin. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022. Accessed January 15, 2023.
  2. Fentanyl. Accessed January 15, 2023.
  3. Ciccarone D, Ondocsin J, Mars S. Heroin uncertainties: exploring users’ perceptions of fentanyl-adulterated and -substituted ‘heroin.’ Int J Drug Policy. 2017;46:146-155. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2017.06.004

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