Fentanyl, also spelled fentanil, is an opioid which is used as a pain medication and together with other medications for anesthesia. Fentanyl is also made illegally and used as a recreational drug, often mixed with heroin or cocaine.
Medicinal use of Fentanyl
Medicinal fentanyl comes in a number of different forms and strengths including:
- Transdermal patches (Durogesic® and generic versions)
- Lozenges/lollipops (Actiq®)
- Intravenous injection (Sublimaze®)
Some people use fentanil illegally by extracting the fentanil from the patch and injecting it. This is very risky as it is extremely hard to judge a dose size.
Fentanil 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 fentanil can be “diverted” when:
- individuals obtain medication inappropriately through their profession (e.g. healthcare professionals)
- individuals use their own prescribed medication recreationally for a non-medically intended purpose
- individuals use medication prescribed to another person
Fentanyl is sometimes mixed with other drugs to increase potency. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl can be:
- a stand alone product
- a low cost additive to increase the potency of other illicit drugs such as heroin
- sold as counterfeit medicines (such as oxycodone®)
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.
- Chest pain
- Slowed breathing
- Bluish lips and complexion
- Passing out
Using fentanil with other drugs
The effects of taking fentanyl with other drugs – including over-the-counter or prescribed medications – can be unpredictable and dangerous and could cause:
- fentanil + alcohol: adds to adverse effects and may increase the risk of respiratory depression.
- fentanil + MAOI anti-depressants: may result in severe unpredictable reactions.
- fentanil + benzodiazepines: may add to the sedative effects and diminished breathing