When is fentanyl prescribed for treatment?
Fentanyl is an opioid painkiller utilized to treat patients suffering from moderate to severe cancer symptoms and pains. Additionally, it can control breakthrough cancer pains that patients may be dealing with. Breakthrough pain refers to pain that still occurs even though painkillers have been taken.
Breakthrough pain can happen at any time and very suddenly with the pain become severe almost immediately. Some triggers can cause breakthroughs, such as walking, coughing, and changing position; however, it can also be for no reason at all and very unexpected.
Fentanyl is available only when prescribed via a doctor and can come in many forms, including:
- Patches to be placed onto the skin
- Nasal spray
- Lozenges, or tablets that have been designed to dissolve in the mouth
- Injections, however, are only given by a medical professional
Fentanyl patches are applied to an individual’s upper part of the body, such as the chest, back, or arm. The patches will often take a while to reach the correct dose at first, so it is a trial and test situation. You will always be placed on the lowest level of fentanyl, with a medical professional working their way up the dosage until it is perfect for you. More often than not, patients will need to take another form of painkiller to help ease any intermittent pain.
The fentanyl patches allow the drug to be absorbed into the skin slowly over some time. Each patch will last roughly 72 hours, depending on the individual.
To ensure patients receive the right amount of dosage, the medical professional will need to find an area that is:
- Not too hairy, there is an option to cut the hair, but it must not be shaved
- No creams, lotion soap comes into contact with that part of the body
- Not a previous radiotherapy placement
- Not sore or irritated
- It must be the clean and dry majority of the time
- Must not wrinkle when you move
Fentanyl tablets are used for patients who require fast pain relief. These tablets have been designed to dissolve when placed under your tongue or between your cheek and gum. Fentanyl tablets are designed for beginning working within a maximum of 5 minutes and will continue to work at total capacity for 30 minutes. If a patient starts feeling breakthrough pain, additional painkillers would be an option.
Tablets must never be chewed or swallowed; if this action does occur, the medication will not work as efficiently.
Nasal spray is another form that offers fast pain relief for the patient. Often individuals will be given the nasal spray as an option if they are:
- Feeling sick
- Are unable to swallow
- Have a sore mouth
For the nasal spray to reach maximum effectiveness, the patient must blow their nose. Once ready, the patient will need to hold one nostril while spraying the medication up the other nostril. This may feel like a rather odd sensation; breathe slowly, gently, and deeply through your nose and mouth.
Fentanyl lozenges also provide fast pain relief for individuals who can suck on the medication. The medication will begin working at total capacity within 15 minutes; however, any breakthrough pain will need to be controlled with additional painkillers. Once the lozenge is at full effectiveness, it will provide pain relief for 30 minutes before it wears off.
If a patient is given fentanyl lozenge, please never chew, bite, or swallow the lozenge; otherwise, you will not feel the medication’s full effect.
Individuals will only be able to receive prescribed fentanyl via an assessment by a medical professional. Your doctor or specialist nurse will assist in understanding the type and dosage of fentanyl that is best to control and effectively temporarily treat your pains. The assessment results conducted by a medical professional and body characteristics will determine the amount of drug control you will need.
You should only take fentanyl as your doctor or medical professional prescribes it. Fentanyl is a highly addictive substance with severe lifelong health implications if abused. If you are prescribed fentanyl, your doctor will monitor any behavior changes and mental or physical changes.
If you believe that amount of dosage you are being given is no longer effectively treating your pains or that you would like to try an alternative option, please do speak to your medical professional.
Medication, food, and drink with fentanyl
Cancer drugs such as fentanyl can severely interact with other medications and herbal products, so we strongly advise you to always consult your medical professional before self-medicating yourself. This includes:
- Herbal supplements
- Over-the-counter remedies
Additionally, you should not drink or eat grapefruit due to the potential reaction to the medication. This goes for any form of alcohol due to increased drowsiness and possible additional side effects.
Addiction and tolerance
There are many patients, when placed on fentanyl, that become worried that they will become addicted to the medication due to fentanyl being an opioid. When you are being prescribed fentanyl to deal with and control pain, it is doubtful that you will become addicted. The body uses the drug to control your body pain; it does not give you a euphoric high.
Additionally, you will be under constant supervision by a medical professional and assessed regularly. If you follow your doctor’s advice, the likelihood of you becoming addicted is almost non-existent.
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