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Side Effects of Fentanyl

Common side effects of fentanyl include nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. While these reactions generally require little or no treatment, potentially serious problems are possible. If you experience more serious side effects, such as difficulty breathing, severe constipation, or seizures, notify your healthcare provider right away. Other, less common problems can include weight loss, confusion, and diarrhea.

An Introduction to Fentanyl Side Effects

Just like any medicine, fentanyl (Abstral®, Actiq®, Duragesic®, Fentora®, Lazanda®, Onsolis®, Subsys®) can cause side effects. However, not everyone who uses the medication will have problems. In fact, most people tolerate it quite well. If side effects do occur, in most cases, they are minor and either require no treatment or are treated easily by you or your healthcare provider.
(This article covers many, but not all, of the possible side effects with fentanyl. Your healthcare provider can discuss a more complete list with you.)

Common Side Effects of Fentanyl

Fentanyl products have been studied thoroughly in clinical trials. In these studies, the side effects that occurred in people using the drug were carefully recorded. In some of the trials, people were given long-acting opioid medication in addition to fentanyl. Therefore, it is difficult to know which side effects were due to fentanyl and which were due to the other medication. The most commonly reported adverse reactions are those that are expected with any opioid treatment.
In clinical studies, the most common fentanyl side effects included:
  • Nausea -- in up to 29 percent of people
  • Vomiting -- up to 21 percent
  • Dizziness -- up to 19 percent
  • Drowsiness -- up to 17 percent
  • Tiredness (fatigue) -- up to 16 percent
  • Weakness -- up to 13 percent
  • Dehydration -- up to 13 percent
  • Shortness of breath -- up to 12 percent
  • Constipation -- up to 12 percent
  • Swelling of the legs, ankles, or feet (edema) -- up to 12 percent
  • An exaggerated sense of well-being (euphoria) -- up to 10 percent
  • Headaches -- up to 10 percent
Other common reactions, occurring in 1 to 9 percent of people, included:
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Confusion
  • Weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry eyes
  • Cough
  • Insomnia or problems sleeping
  • General pain, including arm, leg, joint, and back pain
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Low or high blood pressure (hypotension or hypertension)
  • Abnormal gait (abnormal manner of walking)
  • Flushing (sudden reddening of the face, neck, or upper chest)
  • Fever
  • Accidental injury
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Sweating
  • Changes in vision
  • A spinning sensation (vertigo)
  • Droopy eyelids
  • Crossed eyes
  • A rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Lethargy
  • Shakiness (tremors)
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Rectal pain
  • Low blood cell counts
  • Yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • Altered sense of taste
  • Falls
  • Infections
  • Increased blood sugar levels.
In addition, some people who are using the fentanyl patches may experience pain or redness at the application site; people using the products that dissolve or are sprayed in the mouth may experience redness, swelling, sores, or inflammation in the mouth. People who use fentanyl sublingual spray may also experience irritation underneath the tongue. Nosebleeds and nasal congestion have been reported with fentanyl nasal spray.
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