Acetylfentanyl (acetyl fentanyl) is an opioidanalgesic drug that is an analog of fentanyl. Acetylfentanyl is 40 times more potent than heroin, 80 times more potent than morphine, and 15 times less potent than fentanyl. It has never been licensed for medical use and has only been sold illegally as a designer drug. Acetylfentanyl was discovered at the same time as fentanyl itself and had rarely been encountered on the illicit market in the late 1980s, but was never commonly used. However in 2013, Canadian police discovered a group distributing over 3 kilograms and 12,400 pills of desmethyl fentanyl equal to 117,400 doses. As a μ-opioid receptor agonist, acetylfentanyl may serve as a direct substitute for heroin or other μ-opioid receptor agonist substances in opioid dependent individuals. Side effects include itching, nausea, and respiratory depression, which can be potentially life-threatening.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health alert to report that between March 2013 and May 2013, 14 overdose deaths related to injected acetylfentanyl had occurred among intravenous drug users (ages between 19 and 57 years) in Rhode Island. After confirming five overdoses in one county, including a fatality, Pennsylvania asked coroners and medical examiners across the state to screen for acetylfentanyl. This request led to 50 confirmed fatalities and five non-fatal overdoses statewide in 2013. Another 5 deaths were reported in Jefferson Parish, New Orleans.
It is considered to be a Schedule I drug. Terry Davis a DEA spokesperson recently stated the drug is illegal. Davis elaborated by saying "Because of these overdose deaths and the fact that people use it for human consumption, we recognize that it's dangerous and a problem for the general public. We will still target individuals or organizations that try to distribute this particular drug.".
The United States Department of Justice states that acetylfentanyl is a DEA Schedule I controlled substance. This being supported by the charges against individuals for distribution of acetylfentanyl and possession with the intent to distribute acetylfentanyl. The individual was sentenced to 3 years in prison by a federal court. Another individual from Providence, Rhode Island was sentence to 6 months of house arrest after having sold Acetylfentanyl to an undercover agent twice.