One way to manage chronic pain is by using a fentanyl patch. Transdermal fentanyl patches gradually release pain-relieving medicine into your system throughout the day or night. Since fentanyl is a powerful opioid medication that carries a risk of addiction, we asked the experts to find out what you should know about fentanyl patches and opioid addiction.
What's a Fentanyl Patch?
“Fentanyl is an opioid pain medicine that is used to treat moderate to severe chronic pain around the clock using many delivery methods, including transdermal via a patch applied to the skin,” David Schwartz, MD and lead physician at Eleanor Health, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
The patch works by releasing a small amount of fentanyl into the skin at a time. A fentanyl patch is only used if oral narcotics have already been used by the patient with no complications, according to Mayo Clinic.
There are a couple of reasons why a fentanyl patch may be preferred over oral medications.
“Fentanyl may be preferred over an orally-administered opioid in the case of poor gastrointestinal tract absorption. It may also be preferred over morphine in patients with kidney impairment due to a lack of active metabolites,” Schwartz explains.
While a patch may seem simple, it is still delivering an opioid into your body. “Fentanyl is a high potency opioid, and regardless of its distribution into the body, it has the same chance of addiction as any other opioid,'' Schwartz says.
Tips to Guard Against an Opioid Addiction
“Close monitoring of pain and short, limited duration of treatment using opioids is best, in conjunction with non-opioid pain medications...for protecting against opioid addiction,” Schwartz says.
Some signs of opioid addiction include:
- Using more of the opioid than the amount prescribed
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms like sweating or aches when you’re not using your opioid medication
- Neglecting social or work responsibilities
An opioid addiction can develop even if you’re using the medication under prescription. University of Michigan Health offers the following tips to help prevent addiction and overdose while using a fentanyl patch:
- Follow the directions on your prescription label and be sure to understand all medication guides.
- Do not use fentanyl in larger amounts or for a longer period of time than prescribed.
- Inform your doctor of any uptick in your urges to use your fentanyl patch.
- Never use a fentanyl patch that has been cut or damaged.
- Keep your fentanyl patches away from your mouth, eyes, nose, and lips.
- Do not stop using your fentanyl patches suddenly, as this may result in uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
- Refrain from sharing your fentanyl patches with anyone else, especially those with a history of substance abuse or addiction.
- Store your patches in a safe location where others cannot access them.
Opioid addiction can lead to health issues like heart problems, insomnia, organ damage, and even suicide. It’s therefore important to use fentanyl patches only as instructed and under careful medical supervision.
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If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.