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Last updated : December 10, 2018
Fentanyl is part of a group of drugs known as opioids. Opioids interact with opioid receptors in the brain and elicit a range of responses within the body; from feelings of pain relief, to relaxation, pleasure and contentment.
It is prescribed in the event of chronic, severe pain as a result of cancer, nerve damage, back injury, major trauma and surgery 1 In Australia, fentanyl is a schedule 8 drug.2 It is about 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine.3
Fentanyl is available in many forms. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is used for managing acute or chronic pain. Illicit fentanyl can be manufactured for use in the illegal drug market.
Medicinal fentanyl comes in a number of different forms and strengths including:
Some people use fentanyl illegally by extracting the fentanyl from the patch and injecting it. This is very risky as it is extremely hard to judge a dose size.
Fentanyl can be ‘diverted’. Diversion occurs when medication that is prescribed by a medical professional, is not used appropriately, or is given or sold to a third party.
Prescribed fentanyl can be “diverted” when:
Fentanyl is sometimes mixed with other drugs to increase potency. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl can be:
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
Fentanyl affects everyone differently, based on:
You may experience:
If the dose is too high, you might overdose. If you have any of these symptoms, call an ambulance straight away by dialling triple zero (000). Ambulance officers do not have to involve the police.
Naloxone (also known as Narcan®) reverses the effects of opiates (including fentanyl), in the case of an overdose. Naloxone can be injected intravenously (into a vein) or intramuscularly (into a muscle) by medical professionals, such as paramedics. It can also be administered by family and friends of people who use opiates. Speak with your chemist or pharmacist for more information.
If injecting drugs there is an increased risk of:
If sharing needles there is an increased risk of:
Regular use of fentanyl may cause:
The effects of taking fentanyl with other drugs – including over-the-counter or prescribed medications – can be unpredictable and dangerous and could cause:
Giving up fentanyl after using it for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it. Withdrawal symptoms usually start within 12 hours after the last dose and can last for about a week – days 1 to 3 will be the worst. These symptoms can include:
constipation, cramps, diarrhoea, dizziness, euphoria, fatigue, headache, impaired balance, indigestion, low blood pressure, nausea, rash, reduced appetite, relief from pain, skin rashes, slurred speech, treat severe pain, vomiting, weakness, wind.