Fentanyl patches, used to treat chronic and severe pain, are often mistakenly called morphine patches in the United States. Morphine is the standard by which all other painkillers are judged. And for good reason. As it turns out, morphine was the very first in a long line of pain-relieving medications referred to as opioids and opiates. Its indirect and unrefined use dates back millennia to Eastern civilizations harnessing the medicinal attributes of the opium plant. However, not much was known about opiate addiction.
In the two hundred years since morphine was discovered, it has revolutionized how medical professionals think about and treat pain. Now, countries are faced with an epidemic courtesy of morphine and its many successors, namely prescription opioids, heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil.
Though morphine has been around for centuries, there are newer versions available. One new variant is morphine in patch form, which was made available for Norwegian patients in 2005. Such morphine patches are not yet used in the United States, and it is unclear if they ever will be. Some inaccurately refer to fentanyl patches as morphine patches. This is a common mistake.
Side effects occur with opioid prescriptions of any kind. Because everyone is different, no one’s side effects will be exactly like someone else’s. However, there are some common side effects that people should be aware of.
Common side effects of “morphine patches” (fentanyl patches) include:
- Lethargic behavior or mood
- Redness or itching at the site of patch application
- Nausea or vomiting spells
- Uncontrollable sweating, even in cool environments
- Uncoordinated actions and confusion
- Painful or irregular bowel movements and black stool
Sometimes people experience some of the following side effects, though they are less likely to be experienced in general:
- Migraines and pressure in the brain cavity
- Lack of appetite or inability to keep food down
- Muscle convulsions
- Double vision
- Faint heartbeat
- Labored breathing
- Fully or partially collapsed lungs
- Psychological disorders
Rare side effects can lead to loss of consciousness, or death, if not treated in a timely manner. Additionally, patients and their loved ones must be aware of the potential for overdoses. This danger is especially true when considering that fentanyl patches are often confused for morphine patches.
One of the chief uses for opioid patches is for the treatment of back pain. Transdermal fentanyl patches are highly suitable for the alleviation of this type of pain because they can be applied directly to the point of pain. Some people who use these patches call them “morphine patches” colloquially or mistakenly.
While true morphine patches are not available in the United States, fentanyl patches, which are sometimes referred to as “morphine patches” have dosages measured in mcg/hr or micrograms per hour of bodily absorption. These valuations are exactly 1,000 times smaller than that of a milligram — the traditional measurement of opioids in pill or injectable forms. The available doses of fentanyl patches include: 12 mcg/hr, 25 mcg/hr, 50 mcg/hr, 75 mcg/hr, and 100 mcg/hr.
Along with back pain, transdermal patches are often used to treat chronic pain in the elderly. Physicians see great benefits with patches. They are both noninvasive in nature and allow patients to receive around-the-clock medication without the added burden of a pill schedule.
The side effects of patch use for elderly patients mirror those of all other patients, except there is an additional emphasis on respiratory issues. Older individuals are more susceptible to these conditions.
Patches containing buprenorphine are sometimes used instead of fentanyl for the elderly. This is because buprenorphine appears to have less unfavorable side effects on the elderly.
Patches that are intended to treat pain should only be used by patients with a history of prior opioid use. Those who have not — known as opioid-naïve patients — can be seriously harmed or even killed by using this method of pain relief. A morphine pill regimen might be the better decision, though it’s up to a trained medical professional to make this call.
As the term “transdermal” implies, these opioid patches are placed on the outermost layer of a patient’s skin. The process is a simple one. Each dose can be self-applied directly where it is needed most. However, the opiate medication is still absorbed into the bloodstream and has the same effects, and the same possible side effects, as opiates in the pill form.
Morphine patches are usually a misnomer when talking about medicine within the United States. Patches containing fentanyl are far more prevalent.
Opioid patches are applied to the skin every 72 hours to treat chronic pain. Never break, cut or damage the patches in any way. Impaired patches can cause inconsistent activation. The patches should not be swallowed or applied to the mucous membranes of the body. Once placed firmly onto the skin, the opioid will emit slowly over the course of three days. The cycle continues as necessary until the patient no longer needs treatment.
If you or a loved one are misusing opioid patches, help is available. Call The Recovery Village today to speak to a representative about how individualized treatment plans can work for you. Calls are free and confidential.
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.