There are many different ways fentanyl can be administered. This is one of the most potent opioids available, often estimated to be tens or even hundreds of times stronger than morphine, and it’s a Schedule II drug that requires a prescription.

Despite the fact that this incredibly powerful opioid is intended for the treatment of chronic pain from conditions like cancer, it’s become one of the most commonly abused opioids in America, leading to numerous overdoses and deaths.

What Is a Fentanyl Patch?

Fentanyl can be administered in several different forms, including as a tablet that dissolves in the oral cavity, as a lollipop, a lozenge and intravenously. It can also be given as something called a transdermal patch.

The transdermal patch is for severe pain in people who are already receiving around-the-clock opioid pain treatment and have breakthrough pain. As with other opioids, the fentanyl patch alters the way the brain feels and responds to pain.

The transdermal patch goes directly on the skin and it contains a gel-like substance that’s medicated. It’s applied once every 72 hours and the fentanyl builds up in the skin before it’s released. The objective of the fentanyl patch is to release the drug slowly into the body, and the patches can be left on the skin for up to three days before they need to be changed out.

The most widely known brand name of fentanyl patches is called Duragesic.

Due to the rise in the use and abuse of fentanyl, there are a lot of questions people have about fentanyl patch abuse including “Are fentanyl patches addictive?” and “Are fentanyl patches dangerous?” Below covers some of these topics.

Fentanyl Patch Abuse

Sometimes there’s the misconception among people that fentanyl patch abuse isn’t possible because of the controlled way the drug is released into the system when they’re used. That’s not true and fentanyl patch abuse is just as possible as with any other administration of fentanyl.

There are many different ways fentanyl patch abuse is possible.

One possibility of fentanyl patch abuse happens when someone changes the patch more often than what’s prescribed or wears multiple patches at the same time. Fentanyl patches are specifically designed to release medicine into the system of the person in a controlled way over a period of around three days. If someone wears multiple patches, more of the drug is being absorbed into their bloodstream than normally would be with one patch, and they may feel a euphoric high.

This example shows one-way fentanyl patches are dangerous because it can take longer for the effects of the drug to wear off, leading to a higher likelihood of adverse side effects.

Another way fentanyl patch abuse is possible and fentanyl patches are dangerous is when someone removes the gel from the patch and injects it. The person may take the gel, heat it or mix it with water and then use a needle to inject it into their vein. Fentanyl is extremely potent and injecting the gel can lead to an overdose.

Fentanyl patch abuse can also occur when someone chews the patches and then the drug is absorbed by the mucous membranes, or when they smoke the gel that’s inside, or when they steep the fentanyl patches in hot water and drink the liquid as if it’s tea.

All of these types of fentanyl patch abuse are extremely dangerous.

Are Fentanyl Patches Addictive?

As fentanyl abuse has been on the rise, the use of the transdermal fentanyl patch has become more popular as a prescription option. This is particularly because oral administrations of the drug leave people prone to abuse, but these patches are also addictive themselves. Yes, fentanyl patches work slowly, but the person using the patches still experiences the effects of opioids. Regardless of how someone misuses the patch, fentanyl’s addiction potential remains the same.

Are Fentanyl Patches Dangerous?

So, to answer the question “Are fentanyl patches dangerous?” the answer is yes, because of how addictive fentanyl is. If someone uses the fentanyl patch exactly how they’re prescribed, they’re not as dangerous, but there are still risks.

If fentanyl patch abuse occurs, continued use of the patches is incredibly dangerous and can result in respiratory depression and trouble breathing, extreme drowsiness, memory and cognition problems, dizziness, confusion and even coma. Fentanyl, since it is so powerful, can lead to a rapid overdose.

Fentanyl patches can also be dangerous to the people around you. For example, if children even touch the gel on a patch accidentally, it could be harmful or even deadly. This fact is why it’s important for people who use fentanyl patches to be careful themselves, but also make sure the patches are properly stored.

While there are benefits to these transdermal patches, fentanyl patch abuse is a very real possibility, and fentanyl patches are also addictive and potentially dangerous.

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Editor – Camille Renzoni
Cami Renzoni is a creative writer and editor for The Recovery Village. As an advocate for behavioral health, Cami is certified in mental health first aid and encourages people who face substance use disorders to ask for the help they deserve. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.