DDPHE Issues Guidance Regarding Fentanyl in Denver: Be Cautious

Published on March 10, 2022

Drugs bought from sources other than pharmacies have great variability in contents and strength

The Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE) is encouraging residents to take precautions regarding substance use as fatal overdoses are increasing in Denver, especially those linked to fentanyl. From 2020 to 2021, provisional data indicates that fatal overdoses in Denver have increased 22% (from 370 to 450). During this same time, fentanyl-involved deaths have increased 40% (from 159 to 222). 2021 provisional data indicates fentanyl is present in almost 50% of all accidental drug fatalities in Denver.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times more potent than heroin, and 100 times more potent than morphine. Overdoses caused by fentanyl can happen faster and are harder to stop than those caused by other opioids. The drug can come in many forms, including pills, capsules, rock, and pure powders. In Denver, fentanyl has been found in combination with, or in place of, fake oxycodone tablets, cocaine, and heroin.

DDPHE and several partners have been monitoring the Denver area for the presence of fentanyl with the goal of reducing the risk of overdose death in the community. In November of 2019, DDPHE issued a similar alert when fentanyl was found in Denver disguised as black tar heroin in a brick-like form. A second alert was issued in July of 2020 in relation to an increase in fake oxycodone tablets containing fentanyl.

DDPHE advises anyone who uses substances or knows someone who does, to share this warning and make sure they know that the drug supply is quickly changing. Contents of drugs purchased anywhere except for a pharmacy can vary greatly in terms the strength, drug contents, and fillers. Make sure to have naloxone available even if you do not plan to use an opioid. Some additional ways you can protect yourself are:

  • Carry naloxone (Narcan) and make sure those around you carry naloxone. You can find out where to purchase it at StoptheClockColorado.org.
  • If not purchased directly from a pharmacy, assume any drug, including medications, may be counterfeit and may contain fentanyl; Use fentanyl test strips to check for the presence of fentanyl before using a substance.
  • Check in with your friends and community at large to provide connection and support.
  • Substance use treatment is effective and is available.
  • For more information, check out these resources:


Visit DDPHE’s website for additional information about fentanyl and how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.