A death due to self-administered fentanyl

J Anal Toxicol. Nov-Dec 1990;14(6):385-7. doi: 10.1093/jat/14.6.385.


A fatality resulting from the self-administration of fentanyl is described. The decreased was a health care professional with a known history of drug abuse. At the scene, a syringe partly filled with red fluid was found. Pathological findings disclosed pulmonary congestion, hemorrhage, and aspiration of gastric contents and passive congestion in the liver and kidneys. Initial drug screening revealed the presence of fentanyl in the fluid from the syringe and diazepam/oxazepam in the urine. Fentanyl, diazepam, nordiazepam, and oxazepam in the submitted samples were simultaneously quantitated using a gas chromatograph equipped with a nitrogen-phosphorus detector. The fentanyl concentrations (micrograms/L or micrograms/kg) in serum, blood, urine, bile, liver, kidney, brain, lung, and stomach tissue were 17.7, 27.5, 92.7, 58.2, 77.5, 41.5, 30.2, 83.4, and 31.6, respectively. The tissue levels of diazepam and its metabolites were lower than the reported lethal concentrations. The fentanyl concentration in the syringe contents was 2,800 micrograms/L. The toxicological findings and circumstantial evidence of the case indicate that the death resulted primarily from fentanyl overdose.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Diazepam / metabolism
  • Diazepam / pharmacokinetics
  • Diazepam / urine
  • Fentanyl / metabolism
  • Fentanyl / pharmacokinetics
  • Fentanyl / poisoning*
  • Fentanyl / urine
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Gastric Mucosa / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Male
  • Nordazepam / urine
  • Oxazepam / urine
  • Self Administration / psychology
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous


  • Nordazepam
  • Oxazepam
  • Diazepam
  • Fentanyl