What is Propoxyphene?
Propoxyphene is a type of medication that falls into the opioid category and is often referred to by its trade name of Darvon. Designed to treat mild levels of pain and also used as a cough suppressant, Darvon is often combined with acetaminophen and used under the name Darvocet or with paracetamol and sold as Capadex, Di-Antalvic, and Lentogesic.
While mildly effective at treating several problems, most notably pain, Propoxyphene was actually pulled from the US market in 2010, and shortly thereafter was removed from European markets as well. This was due to its link to heart rhythm abnormalities that could trigger heart attacks and other similar events. It is still available in some places around the world including South Africa and Australia, and its classification as a narcotic means that it’s potential for abuse does lead it to being abused around the world.
Like most opioid drugs, Propoxyphene carries a significant risk of addiction as well as a chance of health risks. Over a short period of time, dependence can develop and lead to negative impacts in one’s life.
Use of Propoxyphene
Propoxyphene was created to help those who are injured cope with pain, but can also have additional medical benefits. It’s often used to relieve symptoms of restless leg syndrome, and could help with digestive issues as well. However, its primary use for pain relief is the main reason that most may encounter this type of opioid. And as with any other type of opioid, Propoxyphene carries a high risk of dependence due to its ability to be abused.
Propoxyphene is a weaker opioid-like codeine, and while it doesn’t act as strongly as others in the class it still works in the same way – by binding the receptors in the brain and blocking the signal of pain. However, it also imitates the chemicals that trigger feelings of pleasure, euphoria, and reward. As such, the potential for abuse is high despite the fact that Propoxyphene is weaker than other drugs.
When addiction occurs, Propoxyphene begins to be used in different ways from the basic pill form. In particular, it is often cursed into a powder and then smoked or snorted. In more serious addicts, the drug may be mixed with water and injected into the bloodstream. As the addiction grows, the medication required to achieve the ‘high’ increases, and larger and larger doses of Propoxyphene will be needed. Additionally, since it is a milder form of opioid, Propoxyphene is often a ‘gateway’ to more intense, higher-dosage drugs.
Effects of Propoxyphene Abuse
Propoxyphene abuse can lead to negative consequences throughout one’s life. Short-term physical and mental effects can include things like:
- Sore throat and difficulty swallowing
- Reduced alertness
This is in addition to the heart rhythm changes that led to Propoxyphene being pulled from major markets. These changes to the heart rhythm could lead to death, and even mild or moderate use of Propoxyphene could cause these to occur.
Beyond the basic physical side effects of Propoxyphene use, abuse can lead to dependence which can quickly infiltrate a person’s entire life. Failure at school or work, social issues, criminal activity, and more are all potential consequences of Propoxyphene abuse. More serious health issues including liver damage, heart attack, kidney damage, and death could all occur due to the use of Propoxyphene.
Symptoms of Propoxyphene Abuse
Spotting the symptoms of Propoxyphene abuse can be difficult for some. The initial signs are often psychological or physical and are generally only noticeable by the user at first. These include things like:
- Physical agitation
- Odd heart rhythms or rates
- Reduced alertness
- Stomach pain
- Blurry vision
- Mild rashes
However, as the use of Propoxyphene increases, additional signs will appear. These are often behavioral symptoms that are linked to the abuse of most opioids including Propoxyphene and will include things like spending more time trying to obtain or use the drug than anything else in one’s life, missing work or school, reduced motivation levels, depression, irritability, and more.
Testing for Propoxyphene
Since it is an opioid, Propoxyphene will show up on certain drug tests that specifically test for it. Typically you want to order at least a 10panel drug test. However, as it is not chemically related to the opiates that are tested for on opiate and expanded opiates panels. Propoxyphene may not initially be detected on these. National Drug Screening offers the 10 panel urine drug test to included propoxyphene. For hair testing, the 9 panel hair drug test is recommended.
After the final dose of the drug, it can be found in the body for as long as 9 days, where it will be found in urinalysis as drug tests well as in hair follicle testing. Blood tests are less effective at detecting Propoxyphene than these options, and as such aren’t as frequently used. Blood drug testing is invasive and very expensive.
Employers, as well as insurance companies and others, may test for the use and abuse of Propoxyphene as its abuse can directly impact work performance as well as safety – abuse can trigger accidents, theft, and other problems. While not included on the standard 5 panel screenings, adding a panel to detect Propoxyphene is becoming more and more common due to the increasing amount of abuse of all types of opioids including this one.
Warning Signs of Propoxyphene Abuse
The warning signs of Propoxyphene are directly linked to the physical, mental, and emotional side effects that the drugs will have on a user. Those who are close to a user may notice things like slow or slurred speech, confusion, disorientation, and ‘nodding off’. It’s also common to notice enlarged pupils, hyperactivity, and frequent itching.
Additionally, long-term users with addictions may end up acting in ways that take longer to appear but that can be much clearer. These can include things like a loss of interest in hobbies and activities other than using the drug, a distorted perception of reality, major behavioral changes, mood swings, withdrawing from friends and family, and criminal activity.
These signs can occur at work and in one’s general life, and can impact users and their loved ones in significant ways.