Fentanyls Continue to Replace Heroin in the Drug Arena: The Cases of Ocfentanil and Carfentanil

Forensic Toxicol. 2018;36(1):12-32. doi: 10.1007/s11419-017-0379-4. Epub 2017 Aug 18.


Purpose: Ocfentanil and carfentanil are two potent synthetic opioids that are analogues of fentanyl and are actively involved in the recent fentanyl crisis. The aim of this review is to provide all the available information on these two fentanyl analogues.

Methods: All reviewed information was gathered through a detailed search of PubMed and the World Wide Web using relevant keywords.

Results: Like most of the members of the family of fentanyls, they are either sold as heroin to unsuspecting users or used extensively to lace heroin street samples. Despite the fact that ocfentanil was studied clinically in the early 1990s, it did not manage to find its place in clinical practice. On the other hand, carfentanil is mainly used today as an anesthetic agent in large animals. Ocfentanil and carfentanil are used and abused extensively, mainly in Europe and in the United States. As a result, they are the cause of some verified intoxication cases and deaths worldwide. This review provides information concerning chemistry, synthesis, prevalence, pharmacology, and toxicology, as well as the current legal status of these two fentanyl analogues. Analytical methods developed for the determination of ocfentanil and carfentanil in biological specimens and seized materials, as well as related intoxication and lethal cases are also presented.

Conclusions: Ocfentanil and carfentanil are undeniably very dangerous opioid drugs and a very serious matter of concern for public safety. The authorities should take the appropriate actions to avoid the expansion of this threat by taking proper and prompt measures.

Keywords: Carfentanil; Gray deaths; Legal status; Ocfentanil; Synthetic opioids; Toxicology.

Publication types

  • Review