Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine. As an opioid, fentanyl is used for pain relief, and it is extremely effective at pain relief. It is a far more powerful drug than morphine. The National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control both state that fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is a prescription medication, and it is prescribed in the form of a transdermal patch or lozenges. Fentanyl would be prescribed for patients in extreme pain. Post-surgery pain is a good example. Patients can also build a tolerance to normal opioids, so fentanyl would also be prescribed in those situations.
Being an extremely potent pain reliever makes it a drug that could potentially be greatly misused. The CDC states that most of the overdose and deaths related to fentanyl abuse are derived from illegally produced fentanyl that is sold because it mimics heroin's effects. The physiological and psychological effects of fentanyl are related to each other. Like morphine, heroin, and other opioid drugs, fentanyl works by binding to opioid receptors located in the brain that control pain and emotions. Common effects of the drug include extreme happiness, drowsiness, confusion, constipation, nausea, and possibly breathing issues. The breathing can become so slow that the body develops a condition called hypoxia, where not enough oxygen is reaching the brain. This can lead to coma and death.
Percocet is a brand name prescription drug that combines oxycodone and acetaminophen. It is prescribed as a pain reliever just like fentanyl. The presence of the acetaminophen is the key difference, and it is what gives the drug the appearance of being a "safer" drug. Unfortunately, that is also why Percocet is a widely abused drug. The oxycodone is what makes Percocet similar to fentanyl because oxycodone is an opioid drug; therefore, it affects the brain and body chemistry in very similar ways to fentanyl.
As with any form of prescription opioid, the general public isn't likely to have a problem with these drugs; however, the general public is also aware that these prescription medications can be abused and cause death. I think this is a good thing for the general public because it forces people to consider caution when using them under a doctor's orders.