Updated on January 28, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Actiq is a branded product containing fentanyl, one of the strongest opioids available. Due to its potency, a patient must be over 16 and use it only for breakthrough cancer pain. Doctors only prescribe it to patients meeting these criteria who already take opioid medication and have built up a tolerance to it. When someone misuses or abuses Actiq or another form of fentanyl, the consequences are dire.
A dose of Actiq consists of a fentanyl-infused flavored lozenge attached to a stick. In layman’s terms, you can call it a medicated lollipop. As a matter of fact, Actiq is sometimes called a fentanyl lollipop or Actiq lollipop.
While this delivery method can make medicating more pleasant for patients, it also makes it more susceptible to misuse by young children. Be sure to store, use and dispose of it with care, just like any other strong medication.
Since fentanyl is between 50 and 100 times stronger than morphine, it can cause a wide range of side effects. Minor adverse effects include:
You should get medical help if you experience:
Because of its strength, it can be easy for someone to overdose on Actiq if they misuse it. That’s why doctors only prescribe it to patients who already have a high tolerance for opioids.
Actiq’s high concentration and short duration of effects make it one of the most dangerous opioids out there. The user experiences fast and strong relief or euphoria, but then it goes away as quickly as it came. Patients should wait at least four hours between doses, but addicts often use it in shorter intervals.
Dosages of Actiq are often effective as prescribed in the beginning, but over time, the patient will need more of the medicine to feel the effects. Instead of consulting a doctor, patients might take higher or more frequent doses. Using too much Actiq can result in stronger side effects and overdose.
Fentanyl-based drugs like Actiq have become one of the most talked-about drugs in the opioid epidemic due to the singer Prince’s fentanyl overdose in 2016. However, it has impacted Americans for years before. In 2011, more than 20,000 people went to the ER for fentanyl abuse symptoms. In addition, law enforcement found 3300 samples of illegal fentanyl in 2014 alone.
Patients begin using Actiq when they’ve built up a large tolerance to opioids. But, what if they didn’t build that tolerance in the first place? Cannabis medicine can replace part or all of an opioid regimen for pain. When it works effectively enough on its own to relieve cancer pain, a patient might not need to take any opioids at all. If the patient already takes opioids, they can take medical marijuana to get the same pain relief with a lower opioid dosage.
Driven by the recent increase in fentanyl overdose in the United States, Dr. Phillippe Lucas made the argument for cannabis as a substitute for opioids in the 2017 issue of the Harm Reduction Journal. He urged governments and health providers to consider the substitution effect as a solution to the opioid crisis. Research on the substitution effect shows we can use medical cannabis to:
Unlike opioids such as Actiq, marijuana can’t cause a lethal overdose. Plus, it not only has effective painkilling properties, but it can also reduce patients’ dependency on drugs like fentanyl.
If you’re struggling with an Actiq addiction, visit a cannabis-friendly doctor near you to learn more about how medical marijuana treatment could be the solution.
Check out our resources on specific opiates and medical marijuana: