Hype or Horror?

Is Fentanyl really a thousand times stronger than heroin, or is it all Boulder hype? ” Devil’s lettuce” and other less colorful references kept cannabis scary and illegal for many decades, and it turned out to be mostly nonsense. What about Fentanyl? What about naloxone, Narcan, available over-the-counter? The answer is “yes” and “no.” Let me explain.

**Answer Key**: If administered quickly enough, naloxone can often reverse an overdose. The “official numbers” on how much stronger fentanyl is than heroin can be misleading. It appears to be 10 to 50 times more lethal than heroin. The even greater risk of death is the measuring of a dose. This measuring of the incredibly tiny amounts of Fentanyl are being done by a low level dealer in a street organic chemistry lab at best. Any errors in measuring the FAR more potent Fentanyl increases the lethality, death risk by a tremendous amount. It is, in fact, a very high-risk drug. Nerve gas might be more dangerous. Sources like WHO, DEA, CDC, and NIDA provide some numbers. I am NOT an MD. No medical advice is offered in this blog.

Fentanyl indeed poses life-threatening dangers far beyond those of other street drugs.

Fentanyl is actually TEN to FIFTY times more lethal by weight than heroin, based on government-sourced numbers. IF it is weighed precisely enough

For reference, a typical non-lethal dose of fentanyl used in clinical settings for anesthesia or pain management is very small—just a few micrograms, administered under strict medical supervision. The exact dosage would depend on various factors including the patient’s body weight, tolerance to opioids, and the specific medical condition being treated. One gram contains 10,000 to 20,000 medical doses.

This tiny dosing requirement highlights why fentanyl is so dangerous outside of the medical setting. Even a slight miscalculation or variation in the amount can lead to a fatal overdose.

A lethal dose of heroin for an average adult might be around 30 milligrams or more, but for fentanyl, a lethal dose can be as little as 2 milligrams, depending on individual tolerance and other factors. Here’s what the “official” numbers mean: When comparing fentanyl with pure heroin, fentanyl is 10 to 50 times more lethal by weight. So, for a generally fatal dose of heroin, that would equate to 50 fatal doses of fentanyl. Of course, there are so many factors at play that this number can vary greatly. ONLY IF IT IS DOSED CORRECTLY! Street chemistry just increases the lethality risk dramatically.

On the street today, I would assume that whatever someone thinks they are buying, there is a growing risk that in fact the unknown white powder is actually fentanyl. It appears that 1/50th the amount of weight would be needed for smuggling doses of Fentanyl compared with doses of heroin. That’s one tractor trailer of Fentanyl instead of fifty tractor trailers of heroin.

It is also the people around the opioid user who also need immediate access to naloxone, Narcan. The opioid user might be non-responsive. The biggest single limitation for naloxone’s efficacy is how quickly it is administered. I am still not a Doctor, no medical advice intended, see your doctor and stay safe.

Lenny Lensworth Frieling

Shared Knowledge is Power!


  • Senior Counsel Emeritus to the Boulder Law firm Dolan + Zimmerman LLP : (720)-610-0951
  • Former Judge
  • Photographer of the Year, AboutBoulder 2023
  • First Chair and Originator of the Colorado Bar Association’s Cannabis Law Committee, a National first.
  • Previous Chair, Boulder Criminal Defense Bar (8 years)
  • Twice chair Executive Counsel, Colorado Bar Association Criminal Law Section
  • NORML Distinguished Counsel Circle
  • Life Member, NORML Legal Committee
  • Life Member, Colorado Criminal Defense Bar
  • Board Member Emeritus, Colorado NORML
  • Chair, Colorado NORML, 7 years including during the successful effort to legalize recreational pot in Colorado
  • Media work, including episodes of Fox’s Power of Attorney, well in excess of many hundreds media interviews, appearances, articles, and podcasts, including co-hosting Time For Hemp for two years.
  • Board member, Author, and Editor for Criminal Law Articles for the Colorado Lawyer, primary publication of the Colorado Bar Assoc. 7 Years, in addition to having 2 Colorado Lawyer cover photos, and numerous articles for the Colorado Lawyer monthly publication.
  • LEAP Speaker, multi-published author, University lectures Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, Denver University Law School, Univ. of New Mexico, Las Vegas NM, and many other schools at all levels.
  • http://www.Lfrieling.com