Fentanyl Patch



Fentanyl Patch is an opioid used as a pain medication and together with other medications for anesthesia. Fentanyl Patch is also made illegally and used as a recreational drug, often mixed with heroin or cocaine.



Description of Fentanyl Patch

Fentanyl Patch is an opioid used as a pain medication and together with other medications for anesthesia. Fentanyl Patch is also made illegally and used as a recreational drug, often mixed with heroin or cocaine. It has a rapid onset and effects generally last less than one to two hours. Powerful opioid fentanyl patch poses serious risk of fatal overdose.

Fentanyl Patch is prescribed in the event of chronic, severe pain as a result of cancer, nerve damage, back injury, major trauma and surgery 1 In Australia, fentanyl patch is a schedule 8 drug.2 It is about 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine.

Fentanyl patch is part of a group of drugs known as opioids. Opioids interact with opioid receptors in the brain and elicit a range of responses within the body; from feelings of pain relief, to relaxation, pleasure and contentment.

What it looks like
Fentanyl patch is available in many forms. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is used for managing acute or chronic pain. Illicit fentanyl patch can be manufactured for use in the illegal drug market.

Medicinal use of Fentanyl Patch
Medicinal fentanyl patch comes in a number of different forms and strengths including:

Transdermal patches (Durogesic and generic versions)
Lozenges/lollipops (Actiq)
Intravenous injection (Sublimaze)

Illicit use of Fentanyl Patch
Some people use fentanyl illegally by extracting the fentanyl from the patch and injecting it. This is very risky as it is extremely hard to judge a dose size.

Fentanyl patch can be ‘diverted’. Diversion occurs when medication that is prescribed by a medical professional, is not used appropriately, or is given or sold to a third party.

Prescribed fentanyl patch can be “diverted” when:

Individuals obtain medication inappropriately through their profession (e.g. healthcare professionals) individuals use their own prescribed medication recreationally for a non-medically intended purpose individuals use medication prescribed to another person. Fentanyl patch is sometimes mixed with other drugs to increase potency. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl patch can be:

-a stand alone product
-a low cost additive to increase the potency of other illicit drugs such as heroin
-sold as counterfeit medicines (such as oxycodone)

Effects of fentanyl patch
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.

Fentanyl Patch affects everyone differently, based on:

Size, weight and health
Whether the person is used to taking it
Whether other drugs are taken around the same time
The amount taken
The strength of the drug (varies between patches)
You may experience:

Relief from pain
Nausea, vomiting
Constipation and/or diarrohea
Reduced appetite
Wind, indigestion, cramps
Drowsiness, confusion
Weakness or fatigue
Incoherent or slurred speech
Impaired balance
Slow pulse and lowered blood pressure
Rash (inflammation, itch, swelling at patch site)

Overdose of Fentanyl Patch
If the dose of fentanyl patch is too high, you might overdose. If you have any of these symptoms, call an ambulance straight away.

Chest pain
Slowed breathing
Bluish lips and complexion
Passing out
Naloxone (also known as Narcan®) reverses the effects of opiates (including fentanyl patch), in the case of an overdose. Naloxone can be injected intravenously (into a vein) or intramuscularly (into a muscle) by medical professionals, such as paramedics. Fentanyl patch can also be administered by family and friends of people who use opiates. Speak with your chemist or pharmacist for more information.

Naloxone information video

If injecting drugs there is an increased risk of:

vein damage.
If sharing needles there is an increased risk of:

hepatitis B.
hepatitis C.
Long term effects
Regular use of fentanyl may cause:

Mood instability
Reduced libido
Menstrual problems
Respiratory impairment 3
Using fentanyl patch with other drugs
The effects of taking fentanyl patch with other drugs – including over-the-counter or prescribed medications – can be unpredictable and dangerous and could cause:

Fentanyl + alcohol: adds to adverse effects and may increase the risk of respiratory depression.
Fentanyl + MAOI anti-depressants: may result in severe unpredictable reactions.
Fentanyl + benzodiazepines: may add to the sedative effects and diminished breathing.1
Giving up fentanyl patch after using it for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it. Withdrawal symptoms usually start within 12 hours after the last dose and can last for about a week – days 1 to 3 will be the worst. The symptoms of Fentanyl Patch can include:

Goose flesh/bumps
Bouts of chills alternating with bouts of flushing and excessive sweating
Loss of appetite
Yawning and sneezing
Watery eyes and runny nose
Vomiting and nausea
Increased heart rate and blood pressure
Pains in the bones and muscle
General weakness

Addiction of fentanyl  happens when a person has an overwhelming preoccupation with obtaining more medication – when there’s no medical need. This almost always has a negative overall effect on the person’s life, including employment, relationships and behavior.

According to the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, a simple way to describe addiction “is the presence of the 4 Cs:

Loss of control of amount or frequency of use
Compulsion to use
Use despite consequences.”
It’s very uncommon for people to develop addiction when they use opioids in palliative care as prescribed by their health care provider to manage symptoms.

Using fentanyl patches
Fentanyl patch is commonly used within a patch that is placed on the skin; this is called a transdermal patch. Fentanyl patches should ONLY be used to treat long-term stable pain that is well managed with current medications.

Fentanyl patches should be used with people who have previously taken consistent doses of opioids for at least 7 days.
Fentanyl patches should not be used for someone who is opioid-naïve or has intermittent or acute pain.
When a fentanyl patch is first used, your health care team will instruct you on:

When to start the fentanyl 
What other pain medications to stop.
Which short-acting pain medication to continue using “as needed” to manage breakthrough pain.
Transdermal fentanyl patches can cause serious injury.

Safe storage and handling of fentanyl patch is essential.
It’s important to take the medication as directed.

While wearing or replacing a fentanyl

Follow directions

  • Use the patches exactly as directed to prevent serious side effects.
  • Don’t use more patches than prescribed.
  • Use intact patches – never cut the patches or use damaged patches (this could result in an overdose).

Handle medication safely

  • If you’re a caregiver and applying or removing a patch, wear gloves.

Choose an appropriate site

  • Apply patches only on skin without cuts or sores.
  • Avoid broken skin.
  • Don’t shave the area before applying the patch.

To change patches 

  • Take off the old patch before applying a new patch.
  • Place the new patch on a different area of the skin so the same place isn’t used twice in a row.
  • If you’re using more than one patch, change them all at the same time.
  • Document where you’ve placed each patch and the strength of each patch.

Don’t expose the patch to excessive heat

  • While wearing a fentanyl , don’t expose the site to heat sources such as a heating pad, electric blanket, sauna, hot tub or heated waterbed.
  • Also, avoid excessive sun exposure or strenuous exercise.
  • The body may absorb too much medicine with excessive heat.
  • Avoid overheating and watch for signs of opioid toxicity.

Monitor the patch site

  • Monitor the site regularly to make sure the patch is intact and hasn’t been accidentally removed.
  • If the patch starts to peel off the skin, place tape around the edges to keep it in place.
  • Patches shouldn’t be applied to the waistline, or tight clothing worn over the patch, as this may cause them to be removed.
  • If a rash or skin irritation develops at the site, contact your health care team.

Address any signs of an opioid overdose

  • Signs of an opioid overdose include:
    • Trouble breathing, shallow or very slow breathing.
    • Extreme sleepiness.
    • Inability to think, talk, or walk normally.
    • Feeling faint, dizzy or confused.
  • Depending on the severity of symptoms, access emergency health services or contact your local health care team.

Store and dispose of patches safely

  • Pain patches should not be placed in the garbage!
  • There’s still medication left in used patches so it’s very important to store and dispose of them safely.
  • Used and unused pain patches may cause harm or death to adults, children and pets if they’re misused or used by accident.


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