Fentanyl Analogues and Other Highly-Potent Synthetic Opioids: Emerging Trends

Monday, Apr 22, 2024 1 pm to 2 pm


Training Sessions


Novel opioid chemicals have been detected by forensic drug seizures in the drug supply. Astoundingly, some of these chemicals are estimated to be one thousand times more potent than morphine. This devastating potency, combined with less global access to heroin and the dirt-cheap pricing of these chemicals, has led to a shift in the drug supply. This changed supply is impacting how and when people with substance use disorders present for treatment, what kind of treatment they desire, if and what kind of medication they can tolerate, and how rescuers can reverse overdoses from the much more potent substances. The presentation will outline these changes and the need to quickly pivot our approaches to first contact, rescue, medication, and treatment.


  • Be aware that there are several classes of novel highly-potent synthetic opioids in the current drug supply.
  • Recognize that opioids can adulterate purported non-opioid substances and that non-opioid substances can adulterate alleged opioids and be aware of the implications of this.
  • Describe some easily accessible and legal methods of reducing drug consumption harms.
  • Be aware that overdoses involving these novel chemicals may require multiple administrations of opioid reversal agents (naloxone / nalmefene) to be successful.
  • Be aware that there are significantly more challenges with starting medications for opioid use disorder for a client exposed to these highly-potent synthetic opioids, as far as timing of start and different starting doses than prescribers have been familiar with in the past.
This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $300,000 with 100% funded by HRSA/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA/HHS, or the U.S. Government.



The University of Pittsburgh designates this live activity for a maximum of 1.0 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.


A maximum of 1.0 nursing contact hours will be awarded. Participants will be able to claim credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the program.


As a Jointly Accredited Organization, University of Pittsburgh is approved to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Organizations, not individual courses, are approved under this program. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. University of Pittsburgh maintains responsibility for this course. Social workers completing this course receive 1.0 continuing education credits.

Psychologist (APA)

Continuing Education (CE) credits for psychologists are provided through the co-sponsorship of the American Psychological Association (APA) Office of Continuing Education in Psychology (CEP). The APA CEP Office maintains responsibility for the content of the programs.

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