Pain Home > Subsys Abuse

Because Subsys (fentanyl sublingual spray) is a type of narcotic, it is possible to become addicted to it. However, addiction is not the same as physical dependence, which is a predictable, physical response to long-term use of narcotics. Addiction includes uncontrollable cravings and abusing a drug. If you believe you are having problems with abusing Subsys, seek medical attention immediately.

An Overview of Abusing Subsys

Subsys® (fentanyl sublingual spray) is a prescription medication used in the management of breakthrough cancer pain. Breakthrough pain is pain that occurs suddenly despite regularly scheduled pain medication treatment. It comes as a liquid that is sprayed under the tongue.
Subsys contains fentanyl, a very strong opioid narcotic. Like all opioids, this medication has a high potential for abuse. Because of its abuse potential, Subsys is considered a Schedule II federally controlled substance. Other Schedule II controlled substances include morphine, oxycodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and methadone. Schedule II substances have the highest potential for abuse of all prescription medications.

Addiction Versus Dependence

Like all narcotics, Subsys can lead to physical dependence. Physical dependence occurs when the body becomes used to a drug, and needs it to function normally. If you suddenly stop taking the medication, it will cause withdrawal symptoms. This is an expected physical response to taking a narcotic for long periods.
In addition, the body may become tolerant to the effects of a narcotic medication. When tolerance develops, higher doses are needed to produce the same effects. The body can become tolerant to certain side effects of opioid pain medications, or to the pain-relieving effects of the medication. Tolerance is the reason people who have been taking narcotics for a long period of time may be able to take doses that would cause an overdose in people who do not regularly take the medication.
It is important to keep in mind that physical dependence and tolerance are not necessarily the same as addiction and abuse. Addiction is a serious and complex disease associated with drug abuse, craving, and uncontrolled drug use.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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