Active Ingredients

Painkillers containing fentanyl – effect, application & risks

Pain relievers containing fentanyl

Fentanyl pain relievers are some of the strongest pain relievers available over the counter . The active ingredient is used, among other things, against rheumatism and cancer as well as in surgical procedures. It can be given in various forms. He also came to notoriety in the summer of 2016 when it became known that the musician Prince died of an overdose of this drug.

What are fentanyl pain relievers?

Fentanyl is one of the most effective pain relievers (analgesics). Its effect is considered to be 50 to 100 times stronger than that of morphine . The opioid requires a prescription and is only available with a prescription. In addition, the analgesic falls under the Narcotics Act (BtMG). This means that fentanyl finished medicinal products are only prescribed via a BtM prescription.

Fentanyl was developed in 1959 by Belgian chemist and pharmaceutical entrepreneur Paul Janssen (1926-2003). The pain reliever hit the market in the 1960s. Over time, the molecular structure of the active ingredient has been modified several times, resulting in derivatives that can be better controlled. In the 1990s, for example, a pain patch was available that was also suitable for treating chronic pain .

Later on, fentanyl could also be administered in the form of buccal tablets that are placed on the mucous membrane of the cheek, lollipops, nasal sprays and oral sprays. A disadvantage of the drug, however, is that it has the potential for addiction.

Pharmacological action

Fentanyl belongs to the group of drugs called opioids. These come from the opiates found in the poppy plant. They have the property of inhibiting the perception of pain . Opioids are understood to be chemically synthesized substances that are manufactured in the same way as opiates. They have the same mechanism of action as the opiates. Fentanyl is one of these opioids.

Once ingested into the body, it quickly crosses the blood-brain barrier and binds to the opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord , where it stops pain signals from being passed on. In this way, the brain is no longer able to register the pain. The pain-relieving effect of fentanyl is so strong that even small amounts are sufficient to suppress the pain.

Due to a large number of dosage forms, the drug can enter the body in different ways. An almost immediate effect can be obtained with a fentanyl injection . It can also be absorbed through the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose, which means that the pain-relieving effect begins after just a few minutes. When the patient applies the fentanyl to the skin , it takes a few hours for the effects to start.

Fentanyl is broken down in the liver , where it is metabolized into ineffective metabolites. The opioid leaves the body via the kidneys . After about 7 hours, about 50 percent of the painkiller has been eliminated from the body. When taking prolonged-release tablets, this process takes longer.

Medical Application & Use

Fentanyl is given to treat severe to very intense pain. In most cases, the patient is given a special patch . This releases the drug evenly over a period of several days. This treatment method is primarily used to treat cancer and is suitable for combating chronic pain.

However, the pain plasters are not suitable for acute pain or wound pain after operations. In such cases, injection solutions are administered by syringe. The fentanyl is also used to induce anesthesia , which is combined with a sleeping pill .

Lozenges or nasal sprays are also administered to treat acute pain, since these preparations can also start to take effect more quickly. As a rule, the opioid is only taken for a short time in acute cases. The individual dose is determined by the doctor.

If chronic pain needs to be treated with a fentanyl patch, medical staff will wash the selected area of ​​skin, which should be unbroken and hairless, with water. After drying, the patch is pressed gently for about 30 seconds and remains on the skin for three days until it is replaced with another patch elsewhere. The treated area needs at least a week break before a fentanyl patch can be applied again.

Risks & side effects

There are a number of undesirable side effects associated with taking fentanyl . These include primarily restlessness , drowsiness , headache , dizziness , skin rash , itching , sweating , constipation , nausea , vomiting , changes in mood , dry mouth , a slow heart rate , bladder emptying problems , diarrhea , red skin ,Digestive problems , confusion , anxiety disorders , nervousness , depression and hallucinations .

Trembling , sensitivity disorders , memory problems , low blood pressure , sleep problems , breathing disorders , tachycardia , high blood pressure or speech disorders are also occasionally possible. In addition, there is a risk that the patient will become dependent on fentanyl.

If there is hypersensitivity to fentanyl or dependence on opioid painkillers, the active ingredient must not be administered. The same applies to severe impairment of brain function. A careful assessment of the risk and benefit of fentanyl treatment is required if the patient suffers from cardiac arrhythmia with a slow heartbeat, increased intracranial pressure , impaired consciousness , COPD or other diseases of the lungs and impairment of kidney and liver function .

Under no circumstances should fentanyl be administered during pregnancy . So there is already a risk for the child to become dependent in the womb. This is noticeable through withdrawal symptoms after birth . In addition, the fentanyl can limit the child’s respiratory functions. Because the drug passes into breast milk , it should not be used while breastfeeding . In principle, fentanyl is also suitable for the treatment of children.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.