Fentanyl Patch

How Does It Work?

This skin patch contains fentanyl, a very strong opioid narcotic medication. Fentanyl patches continuously release fentanyl in the same amount over a three-day period.
Fentanyl binds to a specific type of opioid receptor, called the opioid mu-receptor. Opioid mu-receptors are located throughout the body. While the main fentanyl effects occur in the central nervous system, fentanyl can produce effects anywhere opioid mu-receptors are found.
Some of these effects, such as pain relief, are desirable. Other effects are undesirable and cause the side effects associated with fentanyl patch use. Effects of fentanyl may include but are not limited to:
  • Pain relief
  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in mood, including feelings of unease (dysphoria) or unusually pleasant feelings (euphoria)
  • Cough suppression
  • Slowed or shallow breathing
  • Slowing of the digestive tract
  • Physical dependence.

When and How to Use This Medication

Some general considerations to keep in mind when using fentanyl patches include the following:
  • This medication comes as a skin patch. Each patch is worn continuously for three days (72 hours). After three days, a new patch is applied to a different skin site.
  • A fentanyl patch should be applied immediately after removing the patch from its sealed package. Press the patch firmly in place with the palm of the hand for 30 seconds. Make sure all of the edges adhere to the skin.
  • Apply the patch to any intact, non-irritated flat skin surface, such as the upper arm, chest, back, or side. Hair at the skin site should be clipped, not shaved. The skin site may be cleansed beforehand with clear water. Allow the skin to completely dry before applying the patch.
  • Do not use soaps, lotions, oils, or creams before applying a fentanyl patch.
  • The patch should be placed on the upper back in small children or those with cognition problems. This helps reduce the chance that the patch will be removed and swallowed.
  • Do not cut fentanyl patches, or use cut or damaged patches. Doing so may cause too much of the medication to be released from the patch, potentially leading to an overdose.
  • You should avoid anything that heats the skin while using this medication, such as tanning beds, heating pads, electric blankets, hot tubs, saunas, hot baths, or sunbathing. Increases in body temperature can cause too much of the medication to be released into the body, potentially leading to an overdose.
  • Do not cover fentanyl patches with bandages or tape. If the patch will not stick, you may use first-aid tape around the patch edges only, or use a special clear adhesive dressing. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you have problems with the patch not sticking.
  • If your patch falls off before three days or 72 hours, dispose of it in a proper manner, and apply a new patch to a different skin site. Do not try to reapply the old patch.
  • This medication is a controlled substance because it can be abused. Proper storage and disposal are important to prevent theft. Keep unused patches in a safe place. Dispose of used patches by folding the sticky sides of the patch together and flushing them down the toilet. Do not throw patches away in the trashcan (see Fentanyl Patch Disposal).
  • For the medication to work properly, it must be used as prescribed. Do not increase your dose or suddenly stop using this medication without your healthcare provider's approval.
What Your Pharmacist Wishes You Knew About Chronic Pain Medications

Fentanyl Patch Drug Information

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