Pain Home > Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a type of narcotic found in several prescription pain products. Specifically, the patch is used to treat moderate-to-severe chronic pain, while other products dissolve in the mouth to treat breakthrough pain. Because fentanyl has a high abuse potential, there are special laws controlling its sale and use. Common side effects seen with this drug include constipation, drowsiness, and nausea.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl (Abstral®, Actiq®, Duragesic®, Fentora®, Lazanda®, Onsolis®, Subsys®) is a prescription opioid narcotic medication used to treat pain. It is an active ingredient in many different prescription products.
Fentanyl is available in long-acting and short-acting forms. Long-acting fentanyl comes as a skin patch and is used to treat moderate-to-severe chronic (long-lasting) pain. Short-acting fentanyl products are used for "as-needed" pain relief. These short-acting products include:
  • A sublingual tablet, which is dissolved under the tongue
  • A buccal tablet, which is dissolved between the cheek and gums
  • A small film, which is placed inside the cheek to dissolve
  • A lozenge (sometimes called a "lollipop"), which is placed between the cheek and lower gum and sucked on
  • Sublingual spray, which is sprayed under the tongue
  • Nasal spray, which is sprayed into the nostril. 
In addition, fentanyl is available as an injectable medication, which is used in the hospital as an anesthetic (a medication given to reduce or prevent pain during surgery or other medical procedures).
Fentanyl is a Schedule II controlled substance, which means there are strict laws and regulations controlling its use. Schedule II medications are considered to have the highest abuse potential of all prescription medications.
(Click What Is Fentanyl Used For? for more information on this topic, including possible off-label uses.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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