Effects of Propoxyphene Use

Propoxyphene was banned in 2010 due to its serious effects and high risk of heart attacks. Yet, the drug is still abused today.

Propoxyphene Effects Lead to Ban

Although Propoxyphene provides some pain relief, the drug produces a variety of unpleasant side effects as well.

Propoxyphene is an Opioid pain reliever and cough suppressant, that was previously most commonly sold under brand names Darvon® and Darvocet®. The drug was often prescribed as a weaker alternative to Morphine and Codeine; however, the drug was pulled from the market and banned in 2010 due to its high risks of heart attacks. The effects of Propoxyphene trigger abnormal electrical activity in the nervous system. Subsequently, many people taking the drug started experiencing arrhythmias and heart failure, among other serious effects.

A report conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed that Propoxyphene had been associated with more than 2,100 reports of serious medical problems – including suicide, overdose, cardiac arrest, and death – since it had first been launched in 1957. These dangerous side effects ultimately led the FDA to recommend that the drug be removed from the market.

While Propoxyphene is no longer for sale or manufactured within the United States, those addicted to the drug can still find it on the streets and purchase it illegally. Propoxyphene is extremely addictive and sources indicate that there is still a black market for it in which the medication is sold for very high prices due to the limited availability. Users experience a brisk, euphoric “high” immediately after taking the drug that is then followed by 4 to 6 hours of relaxed sedation. Tolerance is developed relatively quickly, and many that abuse Propoxyphene will combine it with other drugs to increase intoxication, which also increases the risk of negative side effects.

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What Are the Effects of Propoxyphene Use?

Although Propoxyphene provides some pain relief, the drug produces a variety of unpleasant side effects as well. The most common of these effects can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Sedation
  • Confusion
  • Sudden changes in mood
  • Skin rash
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Unexplainable extended periods of sleep
  • Euphoria
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry mouth

The FDA banned the drug due to the fact that the safety risks and adverse effects of Propoxyphene outweighed potential benefits. Even when consumed as intended, Propoxyphene can be a dangerous and addictive drug with severe repercussions. In addition to the risk of physical dependence, other serious side effects include:

  • Cardiac arrest
  • Delirium
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Fainting
  • Delusions of grandeur
  • Hallucinations
  • Unusual thoughts or behavior
  • Visual disturbances
  • Convulsions
  • Dysphoria
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • Suicide ideation

One of the most dangerous side effects of the medication is its tendency to augment pre-existing feelings of depression and suicidal ideation. In addition to cardiac and respiratory arrest, suicide completion is one of the most frequently reported post-marketing adverse events of taking the drug. Propoxyphene is a central nervous system depressant and, when combined with other drugs (especially alcohol and other depressants), there is a high likelihood of overdose and consequential respiratory failure, coma, and even death.

Symptoms of a Propoxyphene Overdose

There have been numerous cases of both accidental and intentional overdose with Propoxyphene products either alone or in combination with other substances, particularly sedatives.

There have been numerous cases of both accidental and intentional overdose with Propoxyphene products either alone or in combination with other substances, particularly sedatives. Despite the fact that Propoxyphene is relatively milder compared to most other narcotic painkillers, taking too much of the drug in a short period of time can still have fatal consequences. In fact, fatalities within the first hour of overdosage are not uncommon. Additionally, many of the Propoxyphene-related deaths have occurred in patients that mix the medication with other substances, such as alcohol. Taking two central nervous depressants together slows the nervous system’s ability to maintain basic bodily functions, including breathing and pumping blood throughout the body. This increases the risk of damage to major organs and fatal overdose.

The signs and symptoms of Propoxyphene overdose can vary from one individual to another depending on how much of the medication has been ingested and whether it is taken alongside other drugs.

If any of the following occur, stop taking the drug immediately and call emergency medical services:
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Pinpoint or dilated pupils
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Weak pulse
  • Blue or purple lips
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slow or uneven heart rate
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma
  • Muscle spasms or tremors

It’s important to note that taking Propoxyphene with other narcotic pain medications or any medicines that cause sedation or slowed breathing also increases risk of overdose.

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Long-Term Effects of Propoxyphene Use

There are many adverse effects of long-term Propoxyphene use, which is ultimately the reason behind the FDA’s decision to ban the drug. Heart problems associated with Propoxyphene are typically the most severe and common, however, all of the following health conditions have been documented in users:

  • Chronic constipation
  • Liver failure
  • Slow heart rate
  • Kidney disease
  • Arrhythmia
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Chronic dyspnea
  • Pancreatitis
  • Hypotension
  • Hearing loss
  • Deafness
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Low calcium levels

These serious health consequences are increased with higher doses of Propoxyphene and are more prevalent in elderly patients. Hearing loss is a problem frequently associated with Opioid painkiller abuse, and Propoxyphene-based medications are known to cause this side effect more often than other Opioid medications. Patients with renal insufficiency often experience a reduction in the clearance of Propoxyphene and its cardioactive metabolite through the kidneys. Moreover, this population can be especially susceptible to the pro-arrhythmic effects of the drug. Propoxyphene can also severely decrease respiration and blood pressure in all users, often to the point of danger and sometimes even fatality. All of the serious side effects that Propoxyphene produces can lead to death. As such, physicians advise that anyone still actively taking Propoxyphene or Propoxyphene-based products should stop immediately or seek help to do so.

Finding Treatment for Propoxyphene Addiction

Thinking about recovering from a Propoxyphene addiction can seem daunting, but know it is possible and ultimately the best thing for your health. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to Propoxyphene, contact a dedicated treatment specialist and find out about your potential treatment options. Don’t wait any longer; get started on the right path towards recovery today.

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