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Potential fentanyl profitability compared to heroin in the U.S. as of 2017

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used particularly in the treatment of pain in cancer patients. It is most commonly administered using a patch directly applied to the skin. It is believed to be 100 times more potent than morphine. It is often sold as a heroin-like substance to recreational opioid users. As of 2017, the price of 1 kg of pure fentanyl for a drug trafficking organization (DTO) was about 4,150 U.S. dollars. Comparatively, heroin sold to DTOs for about 6,000 U.S. dollars. The revenue generated from 1 kg of fentanyl by a DTO is estimated to equal about 1.6 million U.S. dollars.

The U.S. opioid epidemic

The U.S. is currently experiencing an opioid use epidemic like it has never seen before. The United States is responsible for the greatest share of fentanyl consumption globally. The total number of heroin users in the U.S. has increased over the last several years. Opioids are obtained through both illegal and legal methods in the United States as drugs like hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine are commonly distributed by doctors.

Fighting the epidemic

A recent survey among law enforcement personnel found that a large percentage of those working in the Mid-Atlantic, New England and New York/New Jersey area said that heroin was highly available in their regions. However, despite law enforcement’s awareness of the opioid epidemic there are still several barriers that prevent successful reductions in opioid use. A recent survey found that a majority of adults believed that the overprescribing of opioids and lack of access to treatment are significant barriers in the fight against the opioid epidemic.

Potential fentanyl profitability compared to heroin in the U.S. as of 2017

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Release date

October 2017


United States

Survey time period

as of 2017

Supplementary notes

* Average for heroin (range is 5,000 to 7000 USD, when purchased from Colombia). Average for fentanyl (range is 3,300 to 5,000 USD when purchased from China).
** Average for fentanyl (range is 16 to 24 kg).
*** Average for fentanyl (range is 1.28 to 1.92 million USD).
DTO = Drug trafficking organization

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Statistics on "Opioid use in the U.S."

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