Drug and Alcohol - Opioid Addiction

Dextropropoxyphene: Everything About This Once-Common Pain Killer

What is Dextropropoxyphene?

Dextropropoxyphene, also known as Darvon, is a discontinued painkiller. Learn why this pain medication was taken off the market in our blog.

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Drug and Alcohol

Opioid Addiction

June 9, 2024

Dextropropoxyphene, once a common component in pain relief medications, presents a complex challenge in the landscape of drug use and abuse. This medication, while effective for managing mild to moderate pain, carries significant risks if misused. It's crucial to understand not only its intended benefits but also the severe consequences that can arise from dependency and abuse.

As you explore the following sections, remember that understanding these risks is the first step toward prevention and recovery. If you find yourself struggling, remember that you're not alone—we're here to help you find hope and healing.

What Is Dextropropoxyphene?

Dextropropoxyphene is a synthetic opioid analgesic, primarily used for the relief of mild to moderate pain. It was often prescribed either alone or in combination with another pain reliever, such as acetaminophen. Although effective in managing pain, dextropropoxyphene's potential for addiction and serious side effects led to its withdrawal from the market in many countries.

The drug works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, altering the perception of and response to pain, but it also suppresses breathing and can be dangerous in high doses or when combined with other depressants. Its history of abuse underscores the need for careful management and awareness of safer pain treatment alternatives.

What Is Darvon?

Darvon is a brand name for the prescription painkiller dextropropoxyphene, which was first introduced in the United States in 1957. It is an opioid analgesic, meaning it acts on the central nervous system to relieve pain.

CTA background

We’re Here to Help You Find Your Way

Would you like more information about Dextropropoxyphene? Reach out today.

History and Use of Darvon

Propoxyphene was originally developed by Eli Lilly and Company as an alternative to codeine for the treatment of mild to moderate pain. It was initially marketed as a safer and less addictive alternative to other opioids, but it soon became clear that Darvon had its own potential for abuse and addiction.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, concerns began to arise about the safety of propoxyphene, particularly in combination with other drugs. In 1978, the FDA required new warnings on Darvon labels about its potential for overdose and serious cardiac side effects.

Despite these concerns, Darvon continued to be prescribed widely until it was finally pulled from the market in 2010 due to its fatal overdose risk and lack of effectiveness as a painkiller compared to other medications.

Effects of Dextropropoxyphene

Darvon works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, blocking the transmission of pain signals. It also increases levels of dopamine in the brain, producing feelings of pleasure and euphoria.

However, due to its short duration of action and low potency compared with other opioids, Darvon is not as effective at relieving pain. This can lead to individuals taking higher doses or combining it with other drugs, increasing the risk of overdose and serious side effects.

CTA background

We’re Here to Help You Find Your Way

Do you have more questions about Dextropropoxyphene? Reach out.

Why Was Darvon Taken Off the Market?

In 2010, the FDA finally requested that the manufacturers of Darvon and other propoxyphene-containing products remove them from the market due to safety concerns. This decision was based on a number of factors:

  • Increased risk of overdose: Studies had shown that even at recommended doses, propoxyphene could cause fatal cardiac arrhythmias.

  • Lack of effectiveness: Darvon was found to be no more effective than a placebo in relieving pain, leading many experts to question its widespread use.

  • High potential for abuse and addiction: Darvon has a high potential for abuse and dependence, especially when combined with other drugs such as alcohol or benzodiazepines.

Is It Still Possible to Find Darvon?

No, Darvon is no longer available on the market. In 2010, the manufacturers of propoxyphene voluntarily removed it from the market at the request of the FDA. This decision was based on its potential for overdose and serious cardiac side effects.

While Darvon may still be found in some medicine cabinets or obtained illegally, it is important to note that it is no longer a safe or recommended medication for pain relief. Alternative, safer options are now available and should be used instead.

Also, purchasing counterfeit pills online or on the street is incredibly dangerous. Many counterfeit pills contain other, potentially lethal drugs like fentanyl.

CTA background

We’re Here to Help You Find Your Way

Do you need advice about Dextropropoxyphene? Reach out today.

Uses of Dextropropoxyphene

Dextropropoxyphene, a medication you might come across under names like Darvon, is primarily used to manage mild to moderate pain. Let's break down its main uses:

Pain Relief

If you're dealing with pain from an injury or surgery, dextropropoxyphene can help ease your discomfort. It acts in your brain to change how your body feels and responds to pain.

Component in Combination Therapies

Often, you'll find it combined with other medications, such as acetaminophen or aspirin, to enhance pain relief. This combo can be particularly effective for conditions that cause continuous pain.

Cough Suppressant

It’s less common, but dextropropoxyphene can be used to suppress coughs. It acts on certain parts of the brain to reduce the cough reflex, helping you manage coughs from conditions like the flu or common cold.

It's essential to handle dextropropoxyphene with care due to its potential for dependency and other significant health risks. Make sure to adhere strictly to your healthcare provider's guidelines when using this medication.

Dextropropoxyphene Side Effects

Dextropropoxyphene, a medication used for pain relief, may entail a spectrum of side effects, ranging from mild discomfort to serious health concerns, so it is important to warrant careful consideration and monitoring during its usage. Here's a rundown of the side effects:

Nausea and Vomiting

You might experience discomfort in your stomach, leading to nausea or even vomiting. It’s one of the more common reactions your body might have to Dextropropoxyphene.

Dizziness and Sedation

Feeling dizzy or unusually sleepy are also typical side effects. If you're taking this medication, be cautious about engaging in activities that require your full alertness, like driving.


This medication can slow down your bowel movements, leading to constipation. Staying hydrated and maintaining a fiber-rich diet can help manage this issue.

Mood Changes

You may notice mood swings or a general change in how you feel emotionally. This can range from feelings of euphoria to depression.

Respiratory Depression

In more serious cases, Dextropropoxyphene can lead to slowed breathing. If you experience difficulty breathing, it’s crucial to seek medical help immediately.

While not everyone experiences side effects, if you notice any unusual symptoms while taking Dextropropoxyphene, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider.

CTA background

We’re Here to Help You Find Your Way

Would you like more information about Dextropropoxyphene? Reach out today.

Symptoms of Dextropropoxyphene Overdose

Recognizing the symptoms of Dextropropoxyphene Overdose early is crucial for your safety. Here's what you might experience if you've taken too much:

  • Drowsiness: You might feel unusually sleepy or struggle to wake up fully.

  • Confusion: It could be hard for you to think clearly or concentrate.

  • Respiratory depression: Your breathing may slow down significantly, which is particularly dangerous.

  • Skin changes: You might notice your skin becoming cold and clammy to the touch.

  • Weak pulse: Your heartbeat could feel weaker than normal.

  • Nausea and vomiting: Feeling sick to your stomach is common and you might throw up.

  • Constricted pupils: Your pupils may become unusually small.

  • Seizures: In severe cases, you could have seizures.

If you believe that you or someone you know may have overdosed on Dextropropoxyphene, it is crucial to get medical attention without delay. Prompt action is essential for a better recovery.

Dextropropoxyphene Drug Interactions

When you're taking dextropropoxyphene, it's crucial to be aware of potential drug interactions that can affect how your medications work or increase side effects. Here's a brief look at key interactions:

Central Nervous System Depressants

If you're using other medications that slow your brain's activities, such as benzodiazepines or alcohol, combining them with dextropropoxyphene can enhance sedative effects, which might impair your ability to perform tasks that require alertness.


Certain antidepressants, particularly MAO inhibitors, can interact with dextropropoxyphene, leading to severe side effects like respiratory depression or serotonin syndrome, a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.


If you're on warfarin, a blood thinner, dextropropoxyphene might increase its effects, raising the risk of bleeding. Your doctor may need to monitor your blood more closely.


Drugs used to manage seizures can alter the level of dextropropoxyphene in your system, potentially decreasing its effectiveness or increasing toxicity.

St. John's Wort

This herbal supplement can reduce the effectiveness of dextropropoxyphene, which could lead to insufficient pain control.

Always consult your healthcare provider before starting or stopping any medication while on dextropropoxyphene. They can guide you on how to safely manage these interactions.

Dextropropoxyphene Abuse Treatment & Recovery

Dextropropoxyphene, a painkiller once prescribed for mild pain, has been associated with potential abuse and health risks when used for the wrong reasons or not taken as prescribed. If you're considering treatment for dextropropoxyphene abuse, here’s what you should know:

Recognizing the Problem

It’s important to first acknowledge the issue. You might notice increased tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, or a preoccupation with obtaining the medication.

Seeking Help

Start by talking to a healthcare professional. They can guide you through the detox process and recommend treatment options tailored to your needs.


Detox is the initial step where your body clears itself of dextropropoxyphene. It’s safest under medical supervision, as withdrawal can be challenging.

Treatment Options

Depending on your situation, treatment might include inpatient or outpatient programs. Therapy, both individual and group, can help address the root causes of your addiction.

Support Systems

Engaging with support groups like Narcotics Anonymous can offer you emotional support and practical advice from others who have faced similar challenges.

Long-Term Recovery

Recovery is a long-term commitment. Staying connected with your support network and continuing therapy can help maintain your sobriety.

Recovery from dextropropoxyphene abuse is a journey, and it’s okay to ask for help along the way.

Dextropropoxyphene Is Addictive. We’ll Help

In your journey toward wellness, it's crucial to prioritize your health and safety. Understanding Dextropropoxyphene, its uses, side effects, and interactions empowers you to make informed decisions about your well-being. Remember, your health matters above all else.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with Dextropropoxyphene abuse or overdose, know that you're not alone you can definitely reach out to The Edge Treatment Center for support and guidance on your path to recovery. You deserve compassion, understanding, and the opportunity to live a fulfilling, healthy life and they are here for that. Take the first step toward healing today.

CTA background

We’re Here to Help You Find Your Way

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, there is hope. Our team can guide you on your journey to recovery. Call us today.


Frequently Asked Questions