How Long Does Fentanyl Stay in Your System?

Powerful Synthetic Opioid Carries Risks If Not Used as Prescribed

Fentanyl lozenges
How Long Does Fentanyl Stay in the Body?. © Getty Images News

Fentanyl is an opioid analgesic. Oral applications are mostly used for adult cancer patients who are already taking another pain medication but have sudden episodes of pain that breakthrough their regular pain treatment. Transdermal patches are used for acute post-surgical pain or round-the-clock pain medication for patients who will need pain relief for a long time and can't be treated with other medication.

Brand names for oral applications of fentanyl include Abstral, Actiq, Fentora, and Onsolis, which are lozenges, films, and tablets. Fentanyl transdermal patches include brand names Duragesic and Ionsys. Fentanyl also has become a drug of abuse.

How Long Fentanyl Is in Your System

Because Fentanyl is usually prescribed to patients already taking other opioid medications, the risk of overdose is greater. It is important to know how long Fentanyl remains in the system to avoid possible accidental overdose.

The patches take several hours to take effect while the oral applications work faster. It takes about 5 days for fentanyl to be completely eliminated from your system with either of these formulations after you stop using it.

It is critical to discuss the use of any other medications, supplements, and alcohol with your doctor if you are taking fentanyl. Many different drugs and substances can lead to dangerous reactions while you still have fentanyl in your system.

You must not drink alcohol or have alcohol of any kind while using fentanyl or you risk a serious reaction that could be fatal.

Risk of Fentanyl Overdose

Fentanyl needs to be carefully controlled as it is extremely powerful. It can have dangerous cross-reactions with many other drugs and alcohol, including serious harm or death.

The following are some of the symptoms of a Fentanyl overdose:

If you experience any of these symptoms, stop using fentanyl and call your healthcare provider immediately or seek emergency medical treatment. An overdose emergency should be treated immediately with naloxone.

Illegal Fentanyl Is Much More Dangerous

Illegal fentanyl, sold on the street as a powder mixed with heroin or sold as heroin, is much more dangerous than fentanyl used as prescribed. Deaths from overdoses from fentanyl have surged in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and it is available by prescription, but evidence indicates that illicitly made fentanyl is more likely a powder mixed with heroin and or sold as heroin," said R. Matthew Gladden. a CDC behavioral scientist.

Street drugs can also contain other ingredients that can cause dangerous interactions. One encounter with illegal fentanyl, even accidentally, can prove to be deadly, officials warn.

How Long Does Fentanyl Stay in Your System

If you have been prescribed fentanyl and have to take a urine drug screen, it is wise to disclose all of your medications to the testing lab so they can interpret the results correctly.

 Fentanyl does not show up as positive on typical urine drug screening panels, but it can be detected by specific tests for the substance.

How long it may be present depends on whether it was absorbed through the skin, absorbed through the mouth, or taken intravenously. It will also vary depending on a person's size, metabolism, hydration and many other factors. It can take four days for fentanyl from lozenges or patches to be eliminated in the urine. ​

Sources:

Approximate Detection Times. Drugs of Abuse: Mayo Medical Laboratories. http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-info/drug-book/viewall.html.

Drugs of Abuse Testing. American Association for Clinical Chemistry Lab Tests Online. https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/drug-abuse/tab/test. Updated May 19, 2016.

Fentanyl. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/opioids/fentanyl.html. 

Fentanyl. NIDA. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/fentanyl.

Toxicology Screen: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. NIH MedlinepPus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003578.htm. Updated 1/26/2015.

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