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Fentanyl doesn’t smell like anything
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Fentanyl doesn’t smell like anything

  • PublishedJune 4, 2024


Fentanyl in any form is odorless. That makes it more difficult to detect and more dangerous, experts tell VERIFY.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and up to 100 times stronger than morphine, is a “major contributor” to overdoses in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

On May 21, the Bellevue, Washington, Police Department said on X that officers were responding to a hazmat call at a local building because of a “report of a strong odor of fentanyl.” 

That claim led some commenters to ask what fentanyl smells like, while others said fentanyl doesn’t have a smell at all. 

THE QUESTION

Does fentanyl have an odor?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, fentanyl doesn’t have an odor, regardless of what form it’s in. Any odors come from other substances mixed with the drug, experts told VERIFY. 

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WHAT WE FOUND

Fentanyl is available or distributed in several different forms and experts agree that it is odorless and tasteless in any form.

The CDC says illegally made fentanyl (IMF) is available on the drug market in various formulations, including liquid and powder, and can be easily mixed with or laced into other substances. 

Scott H. Silverman, founder of Confidential Recovery and the Veterans Navigation Center, said no matter what form fentanyl is in, it’s scentless.

“If you open a drug up, the fentanyl does not have an evident smell to reveal itself,” Silverman said. “Nowadays, fentanyl is being laced in everything from marijuana to meth, crack and even vaping pipes. It’s a huge concern feeding into the fentanyl crisis.”

Silverman said if fentanyl seems to have an odor and it’s been mixed with another substance, it’s the other substance that smells. So, for example, if marijuana is laced with fentanyl, the distinct skunky or musky smell of marijuana is detectable, but not the fentanyl. 

Health officials in King County, Washington and Maricopa County, Arizona have issued warnings that because fentanyl is tasteless and odorless, it can be much more dangerous.

The Ohio Department of Health also says the lack of smell or taste increases the risk for overdose due to the potency of fentanyl.

“Fentanyl being odorless makes it more difficult to detect and more dangerous as someone can take it and not be aware until it’s too late,” Caitlin Garcia, program director at California’s Renaissance Recovery, told VERIFY.

“This is one of the reasons fentanyl has driven up the opioid overdose rate in the U.S., many people accidentally take the drug when it is combined with another drug they intended to take,” Garcia said. “Illicit drug manufacturers do this to increase addictiveness and maximize profits but many users end up dying due to the extreme potency of fentanyl.”

The CDC says “it is nearly impossible to tell if drugs have been mixed with fentanyl unless you test your drugs with fentanyl test strips.” Test strips to detect fentanyl are inexpensive and typically give results within 5 minutes, the CDC says.

This story is also available in Spanish / Lee este artículo también en español: No, no puedes oler el fentanilo

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