Where Does Fentanyl Come From?

So for all the news headlines about it, where does fentanyl come from? Where did fentanyl originate from?

The company Janssen Pharmaceutica first developed it in 1959, and it was primarily used as an anesthetic and pain reliever for medical purposes when it was first introduced.

During the 1960s it started to be used as an intravenous anesthetic, and it was called Sublimaze. It wasn’t until the middle of the 1990s when the fentanyl patch was introduced and could be used in the treatment of chronic pain, such as pain from cancer.

Patch Form:

  • each patch contains between 5mg and 10mg
  • Leave on for 72 hrs / patch
  • Releases 50-125mcg/hr


  • 50 micrograms = 1 ml.
  • 2 ml = 10-20 minutes of analgesia

After the patch, other ways of delivering fentanyl were introduced including the Actiq lollipop and other oral options.

So regarding illicit use, where does fentanyl come from? Most fentanyl in the North America comes from China. China isn’t where fentanyl originated, but because of the lack of regulations in the pharmaceutical industry there, the country is a pretty significant supplier of illegal prescription drugs and chemicals.

When answering where did fentanyl come from and where did fentanyl originate, it’s also relevant to see how it makes it to North America from China. Some comes directly from China, but many other shipments will first go to Mexico and then to the U.S. or Canada. Less commonly, fentanyl may come through Canada before the U.S. China exports many different types of fentanyl products including the raw substance, analogs, and counterfeit prescription drugs like oxycodone that are laced with

There are different ways China exporters have managed to get fentanyl to the west such as mislabeling shipments.

China has been making some strides to prevent fentanyl from coming from their country illegally, and there has also been legislation introduced in the U.S. such as the Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention Act, but fentanyl remains one of the most problematic opioids in the U.S. and Canada.

So to sum up, where does fentanyl come from? In terms of illicit fentanyl, the majority comes from China, often through Mexico, however recently there have been drug manufacturing labs found in Canada and the US.