Fentanyl patches (Durogesic) for chronic pain

Updated: September 1, 2023

fentanyl patch side effects

What are fentanyl patches?

Fentanyl patches are a type of opioid drug. They are used to treat moderate to severe pain.

Fentanyl patches are transdermal, which means they are placed on the skin. The patch releases the drug into the body over a period of time.

The patches come in different doses. The dose depends on the severity of the pain.

Fentanyl patches can cause side effects. The most common side effects are drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting.

If you experience these side effects, you should talk to your doctor. They may be able to lower your dose or change the patch.

In rare cases, fentanyl patches can cause an overdose. Symptoms of an overdose include slow breathing, confusion, and loss of consciousness.

If you think you are having an overdose, call 911 right away.

How do fentanyl patches work?

Fentanyl patches are a type of opioid medicine. They are used to treat moderate to severe pain. The medicine is released from the patch into your skin and then enters your bloodstream.

Fentanyl patches are usually applied to the skin every 3 days. You will need to wear the patch for 72 hours before changing it. It is important to change the patch at the same time each day to maintain a steady level of medicine in your body.

Do not cut the patch. Doing so could result in too much medicine being released at once, which could be dangerous.

Do not drink alcohol while you are using fentanyl patches. Drinking alcohol while using this medicine can increase your risk of overdose and death.

You should not stop using fentanyl patches suddenly. Doing so can cause withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, sweating, and shaking.

If you are pregnant, do not use fentanyl patches. This medicine can cause birth defects or death in unborn babies.

If you are breastfeeding, do not use fentanyl patches. This medicine can pass into breast milk and cause serious side effects in nursing babies.

Call your doctor if you have any of these side effects:

• trouble breathing

• fast heartbeat

• feeling light-headed

• fainting

• swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat

• hives

• itching

• rash

• severe dizziness

• nausea

• vomiting

If you experience any of these serious side effects, stop using fentanyl patches and call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.

Using fentanyl patches may increase your risk of developing a tolerance or dependence on opioids. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about this.

This is not a complete list of side effects. Call your doctor if you experience any other side effects.

What are the side effects of fentanyl patches?

When fentanyl patches are first applied, people may find that their skin is itchy, red, or swollen where the patch was placed. After a few days, these side effects should go away. If they don’t, or if the patch is causing pain, people should contact their health care provider.

Other possible side effects of fentanyl patches include:





Increased sweating


Stomach pain


If people experience any of these side effects, they should contact their health care provider. In some cases, the provider may recommend a different pain medication.

People who use fentanyl patches should not drink alcohol or use other medicines that make them sleepy. Doing so can increase the risk of serious side effects.

People with certain health conditions should talk to their health care provider before using fentanyl patches. These conditions include:


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)


Heart disease

Kidney disease

Liver disease

People who have ever had an addiction to drugs or alcohol should also talk to their provider before using fentanyl patches.

Fentanyl patches are not recommended for children. This is because children’s skin is more likely to absorb the medicine from the patch. If a child accidentally comes in contact with a fentanyl patch, they should immediately wash the area with soap and water. If a child swallows a fentanyl patch, people should call Poison Control (1-800-222-1222) right away.

Fentanyl patches should be stored at room temperature, away from heat and moisture. People should keep fentanyl patches out of reach of children and pets.

If a person accidentally applies a patch to their skin, they should remove it right away and apply a new one to a different area. If a patch falls off and can’t be reapplied, people should throw it away in a place where children or pets can’t find it.

People who have questions about fentanyl patches can talk to their health care provider or pharmacist.

How can I avoid side effects from fentanyl patches?

If you are using fentanyl patches, it is important to be aware of the potential side effects and how to avoid them. Here is some information to help you safely use fentanyl patches and avoid side effects:

Start by reading the patient information guide that comes with your fentanyl patches. This guide will provide important information on how to use the patches safely and effectively.

Be sure to report any side effects that you experience to your healthcare team. This will help them determine if the patches are right for you and if any changes need to be made to your treatment plan.

If you have a history of cancer, it is important to let your healthcare team know before starting fentanyl patches. This is because cancer can affect how the body metabolizes fentanyl, which may increase the risk of side effects.

Be sure to follow all instructions for using fentanyl patches. This includes keeping the patches clean and dry, avoiding hot showers or baths, and changing the patch every 72 hours.

If you are having problems with the patch, do not skip a dose or stop taking the medication. This could cause withdrawal symptoms or make your pain worse. Instead, talk to your healthcare team about how to safely adjust your dose.

If you have any questions about fentanyl patches or how to avoid side effects, be sure to ask your healthcare team. They can provide you with the information and resources you need to safely and effectively manage your pain.