Fentanyl can be prescribed in the form of a skin patch to treat severe pain. These patches release a small amount of the pain-relieving drug continuously into your bloodstream, and are typically prescribed for patients who need round-the-clock treatment for chronic and severe pain. Learn more about fentanyl patches and the precautions you need to take while using one.
What is a Fentanyl Patch?
Since fentanyl is such a strong painkiller, it is only prescribed by doctors to treat severe, chronic pain or in cases where weaker pain medications have stopped being effective, according to the National Health Service.
“One form of prescription fentanyl is a transdermal patch that is placed onto the skin to allow for the continual release of the medication over an extended period of time,” Aaron Sternlicht, LMHC, CASAC, a therapist and co-founder of Family Addiction Specialist in New York, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
“Fentanyl patches come in different dosages and need to be reapplied in varying frequencies depending on the individual, usually on an average of a 72-hour basis,” Sternlicht adds.
Since fentanyl is an opioid, it produces euphoric effects similar to heroin or morphine and is highly addictive. Fentanyl is also up to 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
For this reason, fentanyl patches may lead to addiction—especially if used for a long time, states the US National Library of Medicine. That is why it is important that you discuss your treatment goals and the duration of treatment with your doctor.
Fentanyl Patch Safety Tips
Not only can fentanyl patches become addictive, but accidental exposure can lead to poisoning or overdose in children. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has advised patients and caregivers to take utmost care while using, storing, and disposing of fentanyl patches.
Even a used patch has enough fentanyl in it to cause illness, overdose, or death in children, adults, and pets. Therefore, it is very important to follow the instructions and dispose of the patch safely. “To safely dispose of the patch, fold the sticky sides together and carefully flush the patch down the toilet,” Monty Ghosh, MD and Addiction Specialist at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
“Always follow the recommendations of your prescribing doctor and the directions on the prescription label,” Sternlicht says. “Do not apply more than one patch at a time unless instructed to do so by a doctor, and do not reapply them more frequently than prescribed or keep them on for longer than prescribed.”
“When storing your patch, be sure to store them in a safe space in a locked box to prevent it being accessed by children, and pets,” Ghosh says.
If you have been prescribed a fentanyl patch, the FDA advises that you consider covering the patch with a transparent adhesive film so that it does not fall off your body. During the day, you should also frequently check to ensure that the patch is securely in place.
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