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Fentanyl (also known as fentanil, brand names Actiq, Sublimaz among others) is a narcotic (opioid) pain medication. It’s nearly 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Street names for the drug include Apache, China girl, China white, dance fever, friend, goodfella, jackpot, murder 8, TNT, as well as Tango and Cash.

It is used to treat "breakthrough" cancer pain that is not controlled by other medicines. It should not be used for treating pain that is not cancer-related, such as general headaches or back pain. And it especially should not be used recreationally.

Fentanyl is one of the most dangerously dispensed medications, even when prescribed properly,” says Pharmacist Lynn Hostetler, owner of Lynn’s Pharmacy in Brazil. In fact, there’s a small margin of error between a dose that is helpful and a dose that is fatal, he says.

Smoking makes it even that much more dangerous.

Fentanyl Safety Tips

If you are taking this drug, you should keep it in a secure area to ensure that no one else has access to it.

Fentanyl pain patches may still have some medication in them, even after use. As such they should not be put into the trash. In fact, it is one of very few drugs that should be flushed down the toilet, recommends the FDA.

Use Fentanyl exactly as prescribed by your doctor. This is very important so that you do not get too much of the drug.

This drug can interact with many other drugs. Make sure that your doctor is aware of all the medicines you are taking.

Recalls, Overdoses and Legal Action

Over the years, Fentanyl manufacturers have voluntarily recalled several lots of their patches. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has also issued public health advisories regarding fentanyl patch dangers.

Over the last few years, numerous fatal fentanyl overdoses have been directly linked to the drug. While the drug contained in these patches was safe, a malfunction of the patch caused an excessive amount of medication to leak and become absorbed by patients, resulting in life-threatening side effects and even death.

Deaths Tied to Fentanyl

In 2009, Jay Bennett, former Wilco guitarist, died in his sleep of an overdose of the drug via Duragesic time-release patches, which he was prescribed.

In 2010, Slipknot’s bassist Paul Gray died after accidentally overdosing on a mixture of fentanyl and morphine, after struggling with substance abuse problems for many years.

Illicit versions of fentanyl were tied to more than 1,000 deaths in the U.S. between 2005 and 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Please take the time to also read our article titled, “Fentanyl/Duragesic Patch Claims: A History of Death and a Dangerous Drug.”

About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm (VA and NC offices) edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach InjuryBoard, Norfolk InjuryBoard, and Northeast North Carolina InjuryBoard as a pro bono service to consumers.

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