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3-methylfentanyl is an extremely powerful pain killing drug from the same class of drugs as heroin and morphine. It is an analogue of the opioid analgesic fentanyl.

It is one of the most potent drugs in existence and is between 400 – 6000 times more potent than morphine.

It is important not to confuse potency with the so called “high” produced. It is not 400 times more pleasurable to opiate addicts. In fact it is considered to produce an inferior high to drugs like morphine or heroin. The high potency simply means that it takes 400 times less drug to kill.

The wide range of potency is particularly concerning. The drug exists as two enantiomers. These are two non super-imposable mirror images of one another. You can think of it like your left and right hand. One of the versions, say the left hand, is 400 times more potent than morphine. The right handed version is 6000 times more potent than morphine! The drug is usually made as a mixture of both of these to produce potency in the middle of this range.

3-Methylfentanyl is in fact 15 times more potent than Fentanyl itself, which is considered to be one of the most powerful and potent drugs used in medicine.

The drug had a peak in popularity around 1984 and 1985. Its extreme potency and the simplicity of its synthesis made it an attractive proposition for clandestine chemists and black market dealers trying to maximise their profits. One gram of 3-Methylfentanyl could produce many thousands of doses, once it had been properly diluted and then divided for sale.

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In the early 2000s Estonia in Eastern Europe had a particularly large 3-Methylfentanyl problem. At the peak of the crisis over 200 addicts were dying each year, and there were thought to be over 10, 000 people addicted. Part of the problem was the cheap price at 10E per dose, and the lack of alternative opiates.

User reports generally describe the drug as producing a physical and mental euphoria typical of drugs from this class.

The side effects are also typical and include itching, nausea and constipation.

3-Methylfentanyl can easily produce serious respiratory depression. This is the primary cause of most deaths in overdose. Heavy suppressed breathing results in a lack of oxygen to the brain and other key organs.  Another common cause of death is by inhalation of vomit and blockage of the airways after an overdose.

Needless to say, the drug is highly addictive. Users are reported to develop a rapid tolerance and the dose needed to produce the desired effect increases steeply. With such a potent chemical that comes with high risk of overdose this can easily lead to an error in dosage.

Withdrawal from the drug after continual use is typically difficult. Symptoms of withdrawal can last for days and include acute muscle pain and cramps, profuse sweating, aches and pains, fever, headache, insomnia, nausea and vomiting, rapid heart rate, anxiety, depression and fatigue.

This is not a chemical to be taken lightly. In fact it is even speculated that 3-Methylfentanyl has been used as a chemical weapon in the past, and as an agent that killed many in the Russian theatre hostage crisis of 2002.