Fentanyl Patches

Shlomo Hoffman
Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Jefferey A. Berman MD, DFASAM
Last Updated
December 25, 2022

Part of the complete guide to understanding addiction

Table of Contents
  1. What are fentanyl patches?
  2. What are fentanyl patches used for?
  3. How do fentanyl patches work?
  4. What do fentanyl patches look like?
  5. What are the dosages in fentanyl patches?
  6. What do fentanyl patches cost on the street?
  7. Can I have withdrawal from fentanyl patches?
  8. Is It Possible to Overdose on Fentanyl Patches?

What are fentanyl patches?

Fentanyl is a powerful painkiller used to treat many forms of chronic pain. There are various methods of administering fentanyl, but many doctors will choose to do so through a fentanyl patch.

Learn more about Fentanyl

Through transdermal patches, a patient is able to receive a continuous dosage of fentanyl over a 72-hour period. When depleted, they can switch the old patch for a new one to ensure constant release of medication, and some relief from their chronic pain.

Since chronic pain can last a long time and the Fentanyl patches provide continuous release of the medication, it can make the body more dependent on it. This means that medical professionals will need to monitor the patient and make sure that the dosage is not too high and the patient will not become addicted.

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What are fentanyl patches used for?

Fentanyl patches are meant to work as a delivery system to help the patient receive fentanyl at a controlled rate for about 72 hours. The medical professional can prescribe these to patients who may have chronic pain and a tolerance to other opioids, so they can no longer take these options.

These patches are unique in that they provide a continuous stream of opioid therapy to the user. The patient with chronic pain will be able to enjoy relief all the time, without interruption like through other methods. For those who are addicted to fentanyl, the patch can provide them with the substance to prevent withdrawal symptoms.

A fentanyl patch is given to anyone who needs to use fentanyl for medical needs. Due to the potential for abuse with fentanyl, it is often only given as a prescription. It is common for patients who have cancer and need help with some of the chronic pain that comes from that. Fentanyl is going to work by acting on the opioid receptors of the brain to alter how the brain is going to experience and react to the pain.

The fentanyl patch will make it easier for the patient to receive all the medication that they need, without a break. This can keep the pain away and gives the patient some relief from cancer and other medical conditions.

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How do fentanyl patches work?

This patch will be applied to the skin and allows fentanyl to be administered through that manner. This patch s going to have a reservoir placed between the backing layer and the adhesive layer. The layer that sticks with the skin has a silicone adhesive, though the backing is going to be polyester.

When the patch is placed onto the skin, the fentanyl will permeate through and can slowly release into the bloodstream. This patch needs to be placed onto a fleshy region of the body, such as the upper arm or leg, the flank, back, or the chest. Before placing this on the body, the surface needs to be cleaned with some plan water.

This patch will provide a continuous stream of fentanyl to the user, but it does need to be replaced every 72 hours. The new patch needs to be placed on a different part of the body for the most effectiveness.

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What do fentanyl patches look like?

The fentanyl patch is going to have three layers to it. The first layer is the adhesive under layer that will attach to the skin. This can be made out of silicone in most cases, though there are different options based on whether the patient has any allergies or not.

Then there is an upper layer that is going to be the backing layer. This is often made out of a softer polyester that is not going to catch or stick onto anything. This makes it easier to wear all day long, without the patch catching on clothes or anything else.

Placed in between these two parts is the fentanyl. This has its own layer. When it is placed over the adhesive part, it will be able to permeate into the skin and into the blood stream. Fentanyl is lipid-soluble, so it will easily go through the skin to give the best results.

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What are the dosages in fentanyl patches?

The amount of fentanyl that is found in these patches will depend on what is prescribed to the patient. The patch will often change in sizes based on the dosages as well. For example, a 10 cm2 patch of fentanyl is going to provide the patient with 25 mcg of fentanyl each hour. There are different doses of the fentanyl including 12, 25, 50, 75, or 100 per hour. You can choose to work with your doctor to get the right doses.

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What do fentanyl patches cost on the street?

While many patients may get their first dose of Fentanyl from their doctor to help treat a condition, there are many who will become addicted to the substance and wish to continue using it, even after their prescription is through. It is possible to find the fentanyl transdermal patch on the streets and the cost is fairly affordable compared to other options.

The exact amount that the fentanyl patch will cost depends on the dosage of fentanyl found in the patch. It is estimated that these can cost around $40 on the street and will provide 72 hours of extended-release fentanyl into the bloodstream.

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Can I have withdrawal from fentanyl patches?

It is possible to have withdrawal of the fentanyl patch if used incorrectly. Whether the individual is using the patch based on doctor recommendation or they receive it on the streets, they can go through withdrawal from the patch.

These fentanyl patches are meant for the treatment of chronic pain and it is possible that the patient will use the medication for a prolonged period of time. This can result in the patient becoming dependent on the medication. When fentanyl is discontinued for some reason, the withdrawal symptoms are severe. Sometimes these show up even after the dosage of fentanyl is reduced.

While these symptoms are usually not life-threatening, they symptoms are not pleasant and are enough to cause the patient to relapse. Some of the symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal include:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Agitation
  3. Restlessness
  4. Insomnia
  5. Diarrhea
  6. Vomiting
  7. Muscle and bone pain
  8. Nausea

Since the fentanyl patch has a half-life of 17 hours, the withdrawal period is going to be longer. While other opioids will have a half-life of 4 to 10 days, fentanyl withdrawal can take 10 to 20 days. It is best to work through the withdrawal symptoms with the help of your doctor.

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Is It Possible to Overdose on Fentanyl Patches?

Fentanyl is a powerful substance. It is considered 50 times more potent than heroin, which means that if a patient abuses fentanyl, it is possible to overdose. If the patient does not get adequate care while using the patches or certain medications are combined with the fentanyl patches, an accidental overdose is possible. Learn more with the Avenues Recovery guide to Fentanyl Overdose.

There are several symptoms that a fentanyl overdose including:

  1. Respiratory depression involving shallow or slow breathing.
  2. Issues with constricted pupils.
  3. Loss of consciousness
  4. Clammy skin and a lower body temperature
  5. Loss of muscle tone as the body starts to become limp
  6. Fingertips and lips that turn purple or blue
  7. Low blood pressure.

Patients should only use the fentanyl patch in the way that it is prescribed. Taking more of the patch than necessary, not moving it around, or attempting to get more of the patches when the treatment is done can cause some issues with a fentanyl overdone.

Treatment is available for fentanyl patch addiction, reach out to Avenues Recovery admissions specialists today.

To learn about other ways of taking fentanyl, such as fentanyl lollipops, read our online resources on the topic.

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