Updated on April 23, 2024
5 min read

Propoxyphene Addiction & Treatment

Propoxyphene (dextropropoxyphene) is no longer prescribed, but that doesn't mean it's harmless. This opioid medication was once used for moderate pain relief but was found to have harmful effects on heart health.4

As a Schedule IV substance, propoxyphene has a lower abuse potential, but it can still be addictive.1 If you or a loved one has struggled with propoxyphene, it's important to know that support and resources are available.

Is Propoxyphene Addictive?

Yes, propoxyphene is an opioid painkiller and can be addictive. Prolonged use can lead to psychological and physical dependence.

Like other opioids, propoxyphene masks pain and creates a feeling of euphoria by flooding your brain with dopamine. This pleasurable sensation can lead people to crave it repeatedly⁠—a hallmark of addiction.

Certain pre-existing conditions, like mental health or respiratory disorders, can increase the risk of side effects or addiction when using propoxyphene.

Signs and Symptoms of Propoxyphene Addiction

Propoxyphene addiction can manifest in several ways. Besides the compulsive seeking and taking of the drug, addiction can also involve misuse, such as combining it with alcohol or other substances that affect the central nervous system (CNS).

Other signs of opioid addiction and abuse include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Frequent flu-like symptoms
  • Changes in exercise habits
  • Money problems
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Isolation from family or friends
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased libido
  • Associating with people who encourage addiction

If you notice these signs or changes in your behavior, get medical intervention immediately. Your doctor should be able to help you slowly taper your drug use so you don’t suffer intense withdrawal.

Propoxyphene Withdrawal Symptoms

People addicted to propoxyphene become physically and psychologically dependent on it. They would need to take the drug to feel and function normally.

If they suddenly stop using propoxyphene, they'll experience withdrawal symptoms, including: 

  • Increased pain
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Anxiety or restlessness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Muscle cramps and aches
  • Yawning
  • Watery eyes, runny nose
  • Chills, sweating, or goosebumps
  • Stomach cramps
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Seizures

Talk to your doctor about quitting propoxyphene and don't attempt to quit alone. Withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous and require immediate medical attention. In severe cases, it can lead to overdose, relapse, and even death.


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Propoxyphene Overdose

It's possible to overdose on opioid analgesics like propoxyphene, especially if you misuse them. This includes accidentally taking more than the recommended dosage.

A propoxyphene overdose can cause respiratory depression, making breathing slow and ineffective. This is dangerous because reduced oxygen levels in the brain, blood, and body can lead to inadequate ventilation, impaired organ function, and even death.

Other signs of propoxyphene overdose include:

  • Limp body
  • Purple/blue lips and fingernails
  • Vomiting
  • Pale and clammy skin
  • Inability to wake or speak

If any of these symptoms are observed, call emergency medical services immediately.

Darvocet Overdose

Propoxyphene has a variant that combines it with acetaminophen (Tylenol). This is called Darvocet, and it’s also possible to overdose on it.

Darvocet overdose can result in fatal liver damage. Signs of an acetaminophen overdose include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • General discomfort or unease
  • Increased sweating

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Opioid Addiction Treatment

One way to stop propoxyphene use is to taper off the drug under medical supervision. Healthcare professionals will reduce the dosing slowly over some time to prevent shock to the body’s systems, minimizing withdrawal symptoms.

Your doctor may also provide medications to help the detox. Talking to a healthcare provider gives you more information on treatment programs catering to your needs.

Available treatment options for opioid addiction include:

Strategies to Prevent Substance Abuse

Preventing substance abuse requires a multi-pronged approach with the collaboration of healthcare, education, policy, and community organizations.

Prevention strategies include:

  • Education and support: Spread awareness through public campaigns and school programs. Foster supportive communities with positive activities and encourage open communication within families. 
  • Early treatment and intervention: Ensure access to mental health and addiction treatment, and intervene early to prevent full-blown addiction. 
  • Harm regulation and reduction: Regulate substances, monitor prescriptions, and offer harm reduction strategies like needle exchanges and safe consumption spaces. 
  • Research and monitoring: Continuously research the causes and prevention of substance abuse and monitor trends to inform effective actions.

By addressing the root causes and providing support, we can reduce the prevalence of substance abuse and its harmful effects.

Alternatives to Propoxyphene for Pain Management

If you’re worried about developing an addiction to propoxyphene, consider the following medical and non-medical alternatives.

Medication AlternativesNon-medication Alternatives
AcetaminophenPhysical therapy and exercise
NSAIDs (like ibuprofen)Acupuncture and relaxation techniques
Muscle relaxantsLocalized numbing injections
Topical pain relievers (like capsaicin patches)
Dextromethorphan (high doses)

The best option for you depends on the pain type, individual health, medical history or risk factors, and potential side effects. Consult a healthcare professional for personalized guidance, especially if you’re concerned about addiction potential.

Propoxyphene (dextropropoxyphene) is an opioid pain reliever used to treat mild to moderate pain. However, propoxyphene and propoxyphene-containing products are no longer available in the U.S. due to their effects on heart health.

Although propoxyphene is a Schedule IV controlled substance, it can still cause addiction and dependence. Abusing propoxyphene can lead to dangerous side effects, including cardiac arrest and other heart problems.

If you become dependent on propoxyphene, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it. Talk to your doctor about quitting propoxyphene; they can help you taper off the drug and recommend treatment options that cater to your needs.

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Updated on April 23, 2024
11 sources cited
Updated on April 23, 2024
  1. Drug Scheduling.” United States Drug Enforcement Administration. 
  2. Darvocet-N 50 and Darvocet-N 100 (Propoxyphene napsylate and acetaminophen tablets, USP.)” U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  3. Darvon.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2018.
  4. FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA recommends against the continued use of propoxyphene.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2018.
  5. Opioid Use Disorder” Johns Hopkins Medicine.
  6. Tapering off opioids: When and How.” Mayo Clinic, 2021.
  7. Opioid Use Disorder Treatment.” MedlinePlus, 2023.
  8. Opioid Overdose.” MedlinePlus, 2023.
  9. Effective Treatments for Opioid Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2016.
  10. Prescription Opioids DrugFacts.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2021.
  11. 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health Annual National Report.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2019.

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