• Mayo Clinic Minute: Benefits, dangers of fentanyl

Fentanyl is an opiate pain medication, that generally is used to treat severe pain, especially for cancer patients. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, and illegal use of the drug is on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionDr. Michael Hooten, a pain management specialist at Mayo Clinic, talks with reporter Vivien Williams about the benefits and dangers of fentanyl.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: This broadcast-quality video pkg (1:01) is in the downloads. Read the script.

Fentanyl is a powerful painkiller. “It is many, many times more potent than morphine, oxycodone, Oxycontin, Vicadin, Dilaudid, hydromorphone, all these types of drugs,” says Dr. Hooten.

Dr. Hooten says fentanyl is used in operating rooms and to control pain after surgery. It also alleviates pain for advanced cancer patients. “The use of fentanyl for chronic pain, I think, is avoided by many thoughtful practitioners for a number of reasons. No. 1, it’s high potency.”

No. 2, fentanyl, which is delivered via IV, a patch or in a lozenge, can be dangerous if used inappropriately. “The reason for that is the sedative effects.”

If you take too much, combine it with certain other medications, or drink alcohol,“It clearly can compromise respiratory function, and that is really the start of the accidental overdose cascade.”

Related articles