How to talk to your kids about fentanyl

You can't see, smell, or taste fentanyl, so how can you protect your kids from it? Talk to them.

What To Cover

Ask your kids what they've heard about fentanyl.

If they mention specific information, is it accurate? Check the facts.

Explain that knowing about fentanyl helps people stay safe.

Let your kids know that because fentanyl is so dangerous, the safest thing they can do is not use drugs. Even if your kids aren't likely to use drugs, they could use this information to help a friend.

Cover the basics.

Fentanyl is very common — and deadly. It's used to make fake prescription pills that look like Adderall, OxyContin, Percocet, Xanax, and other drugs, but are much more dangerous. 

Powdered drugs are also often laced with fentanyl. Fentanyl is usually hidden in other drugs, so people may not know they’re taking it. This raises their risk of an overdose.

Warn them about fake prescription pills.

Urge your kids to only take pills that have been prescribed to them. Prescription pills bought online are often fakes made with fentanyl. Even a pill from a friend may not be safe.

Share the signs of an overdose.

The most common signs that someone is overdosing are:

  • Tiny pupils

  • Limp body

  • Unable to talk

  • Pale, gray, or bluish skin, lips, or nails

  • Cold or clammy skin

  • Breathing is very slow or has stopped

  • Extremely sleepy or passing out

  • Snoring, choking, or gurgling sounds

Explain what to do if they witness an overdose.

If someone shows signs of an overdose, it’s important to take action right away.

  • Call 911, and tell them someone is unresponsive.

  • If you have an opioid overdose reversal medication like naloxone, use it.

  • Try to keep the person awake and breathing.

  • If the person isn’t breathing, do rescue breathing or CPR if you know it.

  • Lay the person on their side to prevent choking.

  • Stay with them. When paramedics arrive, tell them what you know.

Help your child find an opioid overdose reversal medication and learn how to use it, so they can carry it with them. If your state has a 911 Good Samaritan law, talk about how the law protects people who help out in a crisis.

Helpful Tips
  • Instead of waiting for the "right" moment, bring up the topic of fentanyl anytime.
  • Talking to your kids about fentanyl helps keep them safe. It doesn’t make them more likely to try drugs.
  • Be open, honest, and empathetic. Tell your kids what you found surprising or scary about fentanyl.
  • Keep the conversation going. Instead of trying to say everything at once, have multiple short talks.
  • Check in with your child about their mental health on a regular basis. Encourage them to let you know if they are struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, or pain, so you can help.

Is Your Child Using Drugs?

If you know or think that your child is taking drugs, talk to them about harm reduction strategies like opioid overdose reversal medications and fentanyl test strips.

For guidance on how to help your child, talk to a pediatrician or mental health professional. Use these resources to find mental health and drug treatment support.


It’s up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. 2 mg of fentanyl is considered a lethal dose. That's about the size of a few grains of sand.

Illegal fentanyl is made by people who aren’t scientists or chemists, and there is no quality control. The amount of fentanyl in an illegal drug or counterfeit prescription pill is inconsistent and may be fatal.

No. This is a myth. You can't overdose by touching fentanyl or being near it. If you're with someone who overdoses, you’re not in danger. Give them an opioid overdose reversal medication like naloxone if you have it, and call 911 right away.

Fentanyl binds to opioid receptors in the brain that control pain and emotions. (Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse) When someone takes too much fentanyl, their breathing gets very slow or stops, before they even realize what's happening. (Source: The Harvard Gazette) This is what makes it deadly.

People take drugs for all sorts of reasons. Kids may hear that a prescription pill could help them focus or relax and want to try it, even if they don't normally use drugs. If they buy the pill online, it’s likely a fake made with fentanyl. People who buy these pills often take fentanyl without realizing it.

Fentanyl is cheap to manufacture and its strong potency means it can be transported in smaller quantities more easily than other drugs. Fentanyl has partially replaced other opioids, specifically heroin, for trafficking into the United States. Locally, fentanyl may be sold to people who are seeking opioids, but it may also be combined into other drugs to stretch or strengthen the supply. Fentanyl contaminations of other drugs may be intentional or unintentional, depending on availability and dealer. This makes every dose a gamble.