Precautions and Warnings With Fentanyl Patch

Specific Fentanyl Patch Precautions and Warnings

Some warnings and precautions to be aware of prior to using this skin patch include the following:
  • This medication is intended for transdermal use only, which means it should only be applied to the skin. Do not take it by mouth, chew it, swallow it, or use it in any other way than prescribed. Also, do not use patches that are cut, damaged, or otherwise altered.
  • A fentanyl patch should only be used in people who are already accustomed to taking opioid medications. This medication could cause serious side effects, and even death, in people who are not accustomed to opioids.
  • Heat may cause too much of the medication to be released from the patch, increasing the risk of an overdose. Therefore, you should avoid anything that could heat the skin, including heating pads, electric blankets, hot tubs, saunas, tanning beds, hot baths, and sunbathing. Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you develop a fever or if your body temperature increases from physical exercise.
  • Fentanyl patches may cause serious problems, including death, if used in children and people for whom the medication was not prescribed. Be sure to store and dispose of this medication properly (see Fentanyl Patch Disposal for more information). If someone you know is accidentally exposed to a fentanyl patch, seek immediate medical attention.
  • Fentanyl is a narcotic medication with a significant potential for abuse (see Duragesic Abuse). Do not use the patches more frequently or at a higher dose than prescribed. If you feel you may be developing a problem with fentanyl patch abuse, please seek help from a healthcare provider.
  • Fentanyl patches can cause potentially life-threatening slow and irregular breathing (known medically as respiratory depression), especially in the first three days of treatment and with dose increases. Certain people have an increased risk for respiratory depression, including:
    • Older adults
    • People who already have breathing difficulties
    • People who are not tolerant to opioids
    • People who are taking certain other medications.
  • This medication can cause problems in people with head injuries or high intracranial pressure. It should only be used with extreme caution in such circumstances.
  • Fentanyl patches can cause a slow heart rate (bradycardia) and should be used with caution in people who already have a slow heart rate.
  • Do not drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how the fentanyl patch affects you. This medication can make you drowsy. Also, your reflexes and reaction times may be significantly affected, even if you feel fine.
  • This medication should be used with caution in people with liver disease, kidney disease, gallbladder problems, or pancreatic disease. Check with your healthcare provider before using the drug if you have any of these conditions.
  • Like other narcotics, fentanyl patches can cause physical dependence, which could lead to withdrawal symptoms if the medication is stopped abruptly. Therefore, do not suddenly stop using these patches. If you no longer need this medication, ask your healthcare provider how to slowly reduce the amount you use, to minimize your chance of having withdrawal symptoms (see Duragesic Withdrawal for more information).
  • The fentanyl patch comes with a medication guide that describes the correct way to use it. Make sure to read this guide each time you get your prescription filled.
  • Do not drink alcohol while using this medication. Consuming alcohol with a fentanyl patch could increase your risk for serious side effects, including extreme drowsiness, confusion, memory loss, or difficulty breathing.
  • All narcotic pain medications can cause constipation. If this becomes a problem, ask your healthcare provider about laxatives and stool softener medications that can help prevent or treat constipation.
  • Fentanyl passes through breast milk. Therefore, if you are breastfeeding or plan to start, discuss this with your healthcare provider prior to using fentanyl patches (see Duragesic and Breastfeeding).
  • The fentanyl patch is considered a pregnancy Category C medication. This means that it may not be safe for use during pregnancy, although the full risks are currently unknown (see Duragesic and Pregnancy).
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