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Fentanyl as a Chemical Weapon

By John P. Caves, Jr.

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Fentanyl is a major topic in the news these days because of its significant contribution to the ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States. It clearly is a major counternarcotic challenge. But there also has been some reporting, including about congressional interest, as to whether fentanyl additionally should be considered a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) and whether U.S. Government chemical defense efforts should place greater emphasis on it. This paper provides some perspective on fentanyl as a chemical weapon.

Fentanyl and its analogues are synthetic opioids or narcotics. It was originally synthesized in 1959 by Paul Janssen in Belgium. It was found to have significant utility as an analgesic and as an anesthetic and was approved for medical use in the United States in 1968.2 Fentanyl has become a mainstay of pain management for cancer victims, wounded soldiers, and others in acute pain. READ MORE>>>