Duragesic, a brand name derivative of fentanyl, delivers powerful pain-relieving effects through its transdermal patch design. Rather than ingesting it orally in tablet or film form, Duragesic is a patch that’s applied to the skin surface.
As a fentanyl derivative, Duragesic belongs to the Schedule II class of controlled substances, which carries an incredibly high risk for abuse and addiction. As a transdermal treatment, this drug also carries certain dangers that oral forms of fentanyl don’t.
Duragesic abuse practices can spiral out of control just like any other form of opiate abuse and even branch out into other forms of drug abuse. Once loss of control over drug use enters the picture, a growing need for some form of addiction treatment becomes plainly apparent.
Fentanyl, Duragesic’s main ingredient, exists as one of the most powerful prescription opiates on the market. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, in 2013, an estimated 6.75 million prescriptions for fentanyl were distributed in the United States alone.
Duragesic’s patch design is just one brand of fentanyl, with different brands reflecting the range of designs or packaging for fentanyl-based products, some of which include:
- Fentora – effervescent buccal tablets that dissolve on the tongue and cheeks
- Actiq – a “lollipop-type” design
- Sublimaze – a solution used for injection purposes
According to the Food & Drug Administration, Duragesic transdermal patches are used to manage chronic pain symptoms for people who require round-the-clock pain management. For example, cancer-related pain symptoms may reach a point where ongoing treatment is needed to provide adequate pain relief.
Taking Duragesic along with other types of opiate drugs is common as Duragesic works to treat “breakthrough” pain symptoms that other opiate-based drugs can’t contain. In effect, Duragesic produces long-acting effects on a continuous basis.
How Does Duragesic Work?
Once applied to the skin, the fentanyl contained inside a Duragesic patch gradually passes into the skin and is absorbed by the body. From there, the drug enters the bloodstream and binds to opioid receptor sites throughout the brain and central nervous system.
These interactions trigger the release of the body’s own pain-relieving neurotransmitters chemicals, such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. Large amounts of these chemicals work to slow neural impulses and block pain symptoms from reaching the brain’s sensory centers.
According to Mayo Clinic, it can take as long as 24 hours before Duragesic’s effects start to work.
Duragesic Side Effects
Duragesic’s ability to alter essential neurotransmitter chemical processes can impair normal bodily functions in different ways depending on how a person responds to the drug. Dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine help regulate a good majority of the body’s major systems, including:
- Respiratory functions
- Cardiovascular functions
- Digestive processes
- Body temperature regulation
In effect, Duragesic side effects can develop within any one or more of the above systems. Side effects to watch out for include:
- Abdominal pain
With fentanyl being one of the most powerful opiates in existence, it carries a high risk for overdose regardless of what form it comes in. Duragesic transdermal patches are no different.
Once Duragesic’s fentanyl ingredient makes its way into the bloodstream, its effects are no different than in tablet or capsule form. Duragesic effects interfere with brain functioning in much the same way it slows neural impulses and ultimately impair the brain’s ability to regulate breathing processes.
With too large a dose, this drug can essentially shutdown the body’s respiratory system at which point a person can no longer breathe on his or her own. The risk of respiratory depression runs especially high when first starting out on this drug.
The Duragesic patch contains high concentrations of fentanyl. For this reason, product packaging has specific instructions on how to handle and dispose of patches.
Accidental exposure to Duragesic patches can very well result in fatal overdose for both children and adults. Someone who has little to no tolerance for opiates can easily experience an overdose episode in response to fentanyl’s effects.
Whether using Duragesic as prescribed or overusing it, the potential for physical dependence runs high. Physical dependence develops as the brain loses the ability to regulate the body’s functions in the absence of the drug’s effects.
With ongoing Duragesic use, brain chemical imbalances take shape and inevitably impair its ability to maintain normal body functioning. These imbalances only grow worse with continued use of the drug.
Signs of physical dependence show up as withdrawal effects, some of which include:
- Problems sleeping
- Achy bones and muscles
Loss of Control
Duragesic’s effects take a toll on the neurotransmitter-producing cells it targets. As these cells must work harder than usual in the presence of Duragesic, they gradually grow weak from overuse.
As cells weaken, it takes larger doses of Duragesic to produce the desired pain-relieving effects. Subsequently, a person must increase his or her dosage amount or dosage frequency in order to experience relief.
In effect, the brain’s tolerance for Duragesic has increased and will continue to increase for as long as a person keeps taking the drug. Before long, users lose the ability to control their usage amounts.
Addiction develops in much the same way as physical dependence only it affects the mind in terms of how a person thinks and feels, according to the Journal of Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety. With frequent Duragesic use, the areas of the brain that regulate thinking and motivation come to rely on the drug’s effects to cope with daily life.
Once addiction takes hold, drug-using behaviors start to take on top priority in a person’s life at the expense of work, family and even self-care.
Duragesic Addiction Treatment
Considering how potent this drug can be, it doesn’t take very long at all before there’s a very real need for Duragesic addiction treatment once drug abuse practices develop. Addiction treatment entails helping a person stop drug use while providing him or her with the types of coping skills needed to maintain ongoing abstinence.