The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a safety announcement in 2010 that urged doctors and other medical professionals to stop prescribing a drug called propoxyphene, which is an active ingredient in the prescription drug Darvocet.
Products containing the drug are no longer marketed because its risks outweigh its weak pain-relieving capabilities. Risks include dangerous overdose addiction potential, dangerous overdose, and cardiotoxicity.
Darvocet is an opioid medication that was once used to treat mild-to-moderate pain symptoms similarly to codeine. Darvocet is a brand name for a drug called dextropropoxyphene, which was included in medications that treat mild pain, restless leg syndrome, and even opioid withdrawal.
Darvocet is an opioid receptor agonist, which means it binds to opioid receptors throughout the body and activates them. Opioid receptors are designed to bind with endorphins, which is your body’s own opioid that’s used to regulate the pain response. Prescription opioid agonists are typically more powerful and useful in treating pain that your body has trouble regulating.
The drug can also cause euphoria, sedation, and relaxation in people that take it. Side effects include constipation, drowsiness, sore throat, impaired alertness, nausea, confusion, overdose, and cardiotoxicity.
As with other prescription opioids, Darvocet may be abused recreationally to achieve a euphoric high. When Darvocet is abused, it may lead to chemical dependency, addiction, and withdrawal symptoms that lead to a substance use disorder.
Like other opioids, Darvocet can lead to symptoms of withdrawal that are similar to the flu. In some cases, people report opioid withdrawal that’s more like the worst case of the flu they’ve experienced. In addition to these uncomfortable symptoms, withdrawal can come with powerful opioid cravings that can make it difficult to resist relapse.
Withdrawal can represent a barrier to sobriety that’s difficult to overcome without help. Even though Darvocet withdrawal might not be life-threatening, it may make escaping opioid addiction difficult. Withdrawal symptoms may include:
The stages of Darvocet withdrawal that you experience will depend on your history with the drug. If you were taking a high dose before quitting, you might experience symptoms more quickly. You may also see symptoms sooner if you’ve been taking the drug for a long time. The size of your last dose may also determine how soon you experience symptoms. Though your experience may vary, it’s likely to resemble the following timeline:
Dextropropoxyphene itself has a half-life between six and 12 hours, but it breaks down into nordextropropoxyphene, another psychoactive chemical that has a much longer half-life of up to 36 hours. For that reason, it may take up to two days for you to feel your first withdrawal symptoms, but it may happen in as little as 24 hours. Early symptoms may include anxiety, irritability, and sleep problems.
You will likely experience peak symptoms within five days after your last dose. At this point, your symptoms will be at their most intense, and you might experience things like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and other flu-symptoms.
After your symptoms peak, they will start to go away, starting with the most intense physical symptoms first. Most of your acute withdrawal symptoms may be gone between a week and 10 days. Psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression might last longer than the acute withdrawal period. Cravings will also continue intermittently.
To avoid relapse, you may need to address persistent symptoms in treatment. Cravings and psychological symptoms may cause powerful compulsions to use Darvocet unless you have a relapse prevention plan. Some symptoms will improve over the coming months; others may continue indefinitely.
Darvocet withdrawal isn’t known to cause deadly symptoms as central nervous system depressant withdrawal can. However, opioid withdrawal can be extremely unpleasant, causing uncomfortable flu-like symptoms and powerful drug cravings. In extreme cases, opioids can lead to dehydration, which can be dangerous, especially in circumstances where you don’t have free access to water. However, going through medical detox on your own is more likely to lead to another consequence: relapse.
Opioid withdrawal is notoriously difficult to get through without using the drug again. Medical detox is a high-level of care that involves 24-hour access to medically managed services. It’s used to treat people that are likely to go through severe withdrawal symptoms and people with other medical conditions or complications.
Once you complete detox, or if you don’t need detox, you may go through other levels of care in the addiction treatment continuum. When you enter addiction treatment, you’ll go through a medical and clinical assessment process that’s designed to help determine your needs. A recovery plan will be personalized to your physical, psychological, and social needs, and it will be continually reassessed throughout your recovery program.
If you have high-level medical or psychological needs, you may go through an inpatient or residential treatment program with 24-hour medical monitoring or clinical care. Once you are able to live at home without a significant threat of relapse or other complications, you may go through an intensive outpatient or outpatient treatment program to continue your recovery.
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If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder related to Darvocet or another opioid, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. All opioids may be dangerous when they’re abused because of their potential for deadly overdose. However, Darvocet is particularly dangerous because of the way it can damage the heart.
Opioid addiction is notoriously challenging to get over on your own. The best way to fight it is in an addiction treatment program at an accredited facility. Treatment is designed to help people reach sobriety and to maintain it for long-term freedom from addiction. To take your first steps toward lasting recovery, learn more about Darvocet addiction and how it can be treated today.
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Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. (n.d.). FDA recommends against the continued use of propoxyphene. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-drug-safety-communication-fda-recommends-against-continued-use-propoxyphene
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). 8: Medical detoxification. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, June). Prescription Opioids. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-opioids