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Fentanyl patches are an opioid (narcotic analgesic) pain medication prescribed for relieving severe and chronic pain conditions. The World Health Organization lists it as an “essential”, needed in any health system.
Providing the same effects as other opioids, fentanyl relieves severe pain by acting as an opioid receptor agonist while rapidly penetrating the central nervous system.
Transdermal fentanyl patches are applied only to the skin and requires changing every 72 hours. Fentanyl patches are typically placed on the forearm or back.
Fentanyl is over 70 times stronger than morphine, fentanyl patches may cause a wide range of side effects, including:
- Numbness/tingling in the feet and hands
- Indigestion/abdominal pain/nausea
- Itching/skin redness and swelling under and around fentanyl patch
More serious side effects may occur if fentanyl patches are not used as prescribed. Changing patches too frequently or eating patches can induce difficulty breathing, slowed breathing, low blood pressure, confusion, delirium and addiction.
- Because fentanyl is a powerful opioid, the risk of addiction is extremely high.
People using transdermal, fentanyl patches should never abruptly stop applying patches. To avoid suffering withdrawal symptoms, fentanyl patch patients should have their physicians reduce the dosing of patches gradually.
Never apply a transdermal fentanyl patch to the skin if it is torn, cut or damaged in any way. Corrupted fentanyl patches may release all fentanyl contained in the patch, increasing the risk of overdose and death.
Fentanyl Patches should be placed on the skin immediately after opening the package and removing the patch. Apply pressure on the patch for about half a minute, especially around the edge of the fentanyl patch.
Recommended fentanyl patch dosage is between 25 mcg and 100 mcg applied every three days. One hundred microgram fentanyl patches are considered equivalent to about 350 milligrams of oral morphine.
Do not expose patches to heating pads, heat lamps, electric blankets or hot tubs. Excess heat could cause a fentanyl patch to release a surplus of medication resulting in overdose. In addition, engaging in rigorous physical activity while wearing a fentanyl patch may cause the patch to release too much fentanyl due to increased body heat.
Dispose of fentanyl patches by folding them as much as possible, placing them in Ziploc baggies and discarding them where children or pets cannot access them. Used fentanyl patches contain enough fentanyl to seriously harm children and animals.
People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), severe asthma, chronic kidney/liver disease or previous history of opioid abuse should avoid using fentanyl patches. Physicians prescribing fentanyl patches will also want to know what kind of prescription and non-prescription of medications or herbal supplements patients are taking to prevent potentially dangerous interactions.
In addition to flu-like symptoms, anxiety and cravings for fentanyl, addicts will also experience profuse sweating, muscle/joint pain, weakness, insomnia, vomiting, rapid heartbeat and rapid breathing. Treatment for a fentanyl addiction is the same as treatment for an opioid addiction–medically supervised detoxification, administration of supportive care and long-term counseling.