What’s the Deal with Fentanyl?
Fentanyl, and its major byproduct norfentanyl, were recently added to the drug testing panel for Service members.
Wait, back up – what is fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a lab-made pain relief drug prescribed by health care providers for severe pain like cancer or when other prescription opioids aren’t strong enough. Norfentanyl is what’s left over after the body breaks down fentanyl. Even if you have been prescribed fentanyl for something else, it should never be used for short-term pain. Fentanyl is about 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. It comes in many forms such as a nasal spray, skin patch or sometimes as a ‘lollipop’ or tablet that dissolves like a cough drop. Also note, fentanyl is often given during sedation for some dental appointments like tooth extractions and same-day procedures.
Sounds intense – what else should I know?
Fentanyl is sometimes found in illegal drugs, although the person buying the drugs may not know. Cocaine or counterfeit pills that mimic drugs like oxycodone are often mixed with fentanyl. This can be fatal.
Side effects of using prescribed fentanyl
If you are prescribed fentanyl, it’s important to be aware of possible side effects:
- Feeling sleepy or drowsy
- Stomach pain
- Weight loss
- Changes in vision
- Unusual dreams
- Difficulty sleeping
- Uncontrollable shaking
There are also more serious side effects like nausea, seizures or changes in heartbeat. Before you start taking fentanyl, ask your provider when you should make an appointment if you experience side effects and when to seek emergency care in an ER. Also ask your provider about restrictions such as driving or using machinery.
Risks of using fentanyl
As with other prescription opioids, anyone who takes fentanyl is at increased risk of dependence. For this reason, it is important to know the potential risks of taking prescription fentanyl. Keep this in mind:
- Fentanyl can cause you to pop positive. Be aware fentanyl is often given as part of the drugs used during dental procedures. It’s important to ask your dentist what they are giving you.
- Follow your health care provider’s orders on how to safely use fentanyl. Fentanyl is prescribed in a specific way to avoid serious medical complications, overdose or death. Be sure to follow the directions and dosage amount provided by your health care provider.
- Read the directions. Even if you have used fentanyl before, the directions differ depending on the form of the drug.
- Talk to your health care provider before mixing fentanyl with other substances. Mixing alcohol or other prescription drugs with fentanyl can be fatal.
Follow your health care provider’s orders on how to safely use fentanyl. Fentanyl is prescribed in a specific way to avoid serious medical complications, overdose or death. Be sure to follow the directions and dosage amount and ask your health care provider questions at any point during the process. It is always better to be safe than sorry.