Darvocet is the brand name of a narcotic pain reliever that is a combination of propoxyphene and acetaminophen. It was withdrawn from the U.S. market in late 2010 and had previously been banned in Europe and the U.K. It may still be available in other parts of the world.
Darvocet is a weaker pain reliever than either morphine or codeine. The propoxyphene component works by blocking pain receptors in the brain. The acetaminophen, which is the generic form of Tylenol, acts as a mild pain reliever and fever reducer and enhances the action of the propoxyphene.
Darvocet was used to treat mild to moderate pain. Because it is a narcotic, it was also sometimes used to treat people who were suffering from opiate dependence. Darvocet could be used as a partial substitute for a stronger drug, thus helping wean the opiate user off the substance of choice.
Acetaminophen is combined with other drugs in many preparations besides Darvocet. Because acetaminophen can build up to toxic levels in the body, care must be taken to eliminate all other sources of it before taking Darvocet. Alcohol should also be avoided while taking Darvocet to avoid a dangerous suppression of breathing.
Darvocet is usually not prescribed for children, and its use by the elderly is generally discouraged if another medication can give the desired effect. The sedation that results from the use of Darvocet has been shown to be associated with a significant increase in falls and hip fractures in elderly patients.
Darvocet was withdrawn from the market because of strong evidence that it caused abnormal heart rhythms even when used at common therapeutic doses. These abnormal rhythms proved fatal often enough that it was not considered wise to continue allowing Darvocet to be prescribed. It is a relatively weak pain killer, and other, safer medications are now used in its place.
Tolerance and Dependence
It is common for users of Darvocet to develop a tolerance for the drug when it is taken over a longer period. This manifests as a need for more of the drug to obtain the same degree of pain relief. When Darvocet is used continuously for several weeks, physical and psychological dependence can occur.
Users of Darvocet who attempt to deal with the development of tolerance by increasing the amount of the drug they take without the advice of their doctors are at risk of suffering an overdose. People who exhibit vomiting, an extreme level of drowsiness, seizures, shallow breathing that causes the lips to turn blue, dark urine, and symptoms of jaundice should seek emergency medical care.
Suddenly stopping the use of Darvocet after dependence has developed causes both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. The person may experience sweating, tremors, and a rapid heartbeat. Muscle pain or rigid muscles are common, as is diarrhea. Symptoms that mimic the flu, like watery eyes and a runny nose, may appear.
Psychological effects include strong cravings, delusions, insomnia, and extreme anxiety. Withdrawal symptoms usually appear within several hours of the last use of Darvocet.