December 11, 2017
I’m a great painkiller, but I can also kill you.
What molecule am I?

Fentanyl is a potent, and now notorious, opioid painkiller. As much as 100 times more potent than morphine, it acts quickly, but it remains in the body for only a short time, which is why it is usually administered in a patch.

Fentanyl is an agonist of μ-opioid receptors, which control pain but also can cause euphoria and lead to addiction. It is the most widely used synthetic opioid and is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines.

In 1959, Belgian physician Paul Janssen and co-workers at his pharmaceutical company, Janssen Pharmaceutica, synthesized fentanyl as one in a series of opioid painkillers. In the 1990s, the company introduced the fentanyl patch.

Fentanyl is a key player in the current opioid abuse epidemic in the United States. It is so potent that people who deal with overdose victims and drug dealers must wear personal protective equipment to avoid exposure to the drug. To assist these responders, manufacturers of analytical equipment have developed detection devices that rapidly detect fentanyl and other narcotics without opening containers of the drugs

Fentanyl fast facts

CAS Reg. No. 437-38-7
Molar mass 336.47 g/mol 
Formula C22H28N2O
Appearance White crystals or powder 
Melting point 87.5 ºC
Water solubility 200 mg/L
Chemical Abstract Service - a division of ACS

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