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Propoxyphene is used to alleviate mild to moderate pain and belongs to the group of narcotic pain relievers. As a narcotic drug, it acts to bind the opiate receptors in the brain, blocking pain signals. This reaction results in a state of euphoric feeling when first taken. For the drug propoxyphene, tolerance can easily develop and this leads the user to take higher dosages of the drug.


The intake of the drug results to a dependence because it is considered as a narcotic drug. Correspondingly, the use of propoxyphene decreased over the recent years. Studies show that the drug proved as more addictive than its counterparts in the market. In 2007, propoxyphene medication prescription reached up to 20 million, according to the Food and Drug Administration.


However, in November of 2010, the FDA requested to have the drug removed from the market because of its addictive properties. FDA’s director for the Office of the New Drugs, Dr. John Jenkins said that the “drug’s effectiveness in reducing pain is no longer enough to outweigh the drug’s serious potential heart risks.”


Users often times pulverized the tablet form to be snorted or dissolve to for intravenous injection. Some market brand names of propoxyphene include Darvon, Darvocet, Darvon-N, and Darvin. Before its removal from the market, Darvocet belongs to the top 25 most-prescribed drugs in the US.

History of Propoxyphene

Eli Lilly and Co., first develop propoxyphene in 1957. Used as a treatment for mild to moderate pain, the FDA approved the drug for the same year. Propoxyphene is an opioid similar to codeine and it mimics 20% of the effect of morphine.


Because of its properties, consumer groups petitioned for its removal for the past 30 years. The Public Citizen first filed for its recall in 1978 because of the overdoses casualties. Their motion got denied and filed another one in 2006, mentioning the cardiac toxicity associated with propoxyphene.



How does propoxyphene get abuse?

Propoxyphene affects the central nervous system and usually binds the opiates receptors. It gives out a feeling of euphoria. This makes the drug more addictive because users seek out this sensation.


Legitimate Prescriptions and Abuse of Propoxyphene

Doctors give out a medical prescription for the pain management of the patient. However, users tend to take more than what was prescribed or fail to stop drug intake. This builds dependence on the drug which will eventually lead to addiction.


Self-Medication of Propoxyphene

Most often people try the medication after hearing news about its properties for pain management. These people may want to try the drug as a diversion from their problems, sometimes associated with mental issues. Similarly, people who already hooked into other drug thinks it would be easier to stop their addiction if they shift to propoxyphene.


Recreational of Propoxyphene

People seek out the high feeling of propoxyphene as they turn to safer alternative than other narcotic drugs like heroin or hydrocodone. Street dealer often times marketed the drug as a ‘safe high’ which is untrue. Propoxyphene is as dangerous as any other narcotic drug and can result in several adverse effects.


Mixing Propoxyphene to other drugs

Propoxyphene creates a chemical reaction that makes another drug more lethal. This generates two more dangerous consequences for the drug.


  1. The combination of propoxyphene can increase the chance of a drug overdose. Even mix with alcohol the drug proved as fatal. According to CDC, 78 deaths are reported every day because of opioid overdose. In 2014, drug overdose caused at least 19,000 fatalities from opioid prescription and drug overdoses. Alarming reports indicating that drug overdoses killed more people that motor vehicle-related injuries.



  1. Mixing the drug can cause a faster dependency and addiction. Using propoxyphene with other drugs and alcohol builds tolerance faster, in this situation, more dosages are needed to attain the same effect. Mixing propoxyphene with alcohol resulted in hundreds of deaths. Within an hour, the respiratory system can shut down completely.  Users frequently use the drug with antidepressant, sedatives, and tranquilizers. As with alcohol cases, these drugs are lethal to the body and can cause respiratory failure. People with suicidal tendencies are at greater risk of using the drug.



Side effects of Propoxyphene

The FDA discontinued the use of Darvocet and Darvon because heart issues linked with propoxyphene. However, the side effects of the drug cause  more than that.


Mild effects of Propoxyphene

When these symptoms arise, it is best to seek medical attention immediately.

  •    skin rash, itching or hives
  •    swelling of the face, lips, or tongue
  •    breathing problems
  •    confusion
  •    feeling faint
  •    seizures
  •    severe stomach pain
  •    unusually fast or slow heartbeat
  •    yellowing of the eyes or skin



Severe Side effect of Propoxyphene

Prolonged propoxyphene consumption can develop a tolerance for the drug.  The body builds up a tolerance even on the therapeutic benefits propoxyphene. When the body fortifies its tolerance high dosages of the drug are needed. This reaction can cause the brain to function slower or stops the production of endorphin. Some of the severe effects of propoxyphene include:

  •    liver disease
  •    stomach pains
  •    nausea
  •    chronic constipation
  •    rupture of the liver

When to seek help

When someone takes a higher dosage of propoxyphene or consumes the drug for no valid reason, it raises a concern. Also, when someone abruptly changes their daily normal life, it means something is wrong.


For users, they tend to neglect all of their life’s duties. They become prisoners of their own drug addiction problems. The physical, mental and psychological health needs of the users must be assessed properly to help and save them.



Treatment for Propoxyphene addiction

The treatment process for propoxyphene is a complex and dangerous road but is doable. Just stopping and quitting the “cold turkey” will not likely work. Medically assisted detox is important for the patient to fully recover. Some of the treatment plans available are:

  •    Counseling
  •    Group meetings
  •    Education
  •    Presenting healthy habits, hobbies, and activities
  •    Diagnosis and therapy of any mental health issues


Inpatient treatment

Inpatient treatment process usually requires the user to stay within the health center. For propoxyphene patients, the inpatient process will provide a more comfortable way to recover from addiction. This program serves as a key factor for the detoxification process. Medical practitioners monitor and assist the patient around the clock.


Outpatient treatment

Users can still go to about their normal daily lives, going to work or school while attending an outpatient treatment center. The therapist may possibly assess the user’s physical and mental health to properly address the source of addiction. Therapy sessions will offer help with the relapses, help the patient cope with stress and deal the problem directly.



The first step for propoxyphene addiction usually involves a detoxification or detox program. Detoxification or detox is a process which the body needs to flush all traces of the drug in its system. For propoxyphene users, quitting propoxyphene may result in withdrawal symptoms. It is not recommended for a user to abruptly stop taking the drug. Some of the withdrawal symptoms include:

  •    Muscle pain
  •    Headaches
  •    Sweating
  •    Severe shaking
  •    Anxiety
  •    Insomnia
  •    Fever (even in low grade)


Aside from the physical withdrawal symptoms, propoxyphene user may undergo a psychological assessment.  Depression and anxiety commonly develop once the user stops taking propoxyphene.


The detox process for propoxyphene addiction varies on the user’s history of the substance abuse.  The detox process can start as early as 6 to 12 hours from the last drug intake. It can last about 3 to 7 days.


Users suffering from withdrawal symptoms may consider going to an inpatient health care facility. It is important to have medical assistance on standby around the clock. Health care facility officials may prescribe medication to ease the discomfort of the withdrawal symptoms.



To fully recover from oxymorphone addiction, it also calls for the need to address the psychological effects of it to the user. In a rehab treatment process, it will help the user to cope up with the relapse and deal with the problem directly.


Can family visit during the treatment?


Rehabilitation centers have different visitation policies. Some will not advise a family member or friend to visit the patient during the first week of treatment. This policy will let the user undergo the whole detoxification process. The user will get to familiarize the treatment facility. However, families can also discuss visitation policies with the therapist or counselor.



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