Nucynta is the brand name of the synthetic opioid tapentadol. This is one of the newest opioid pain relievers to have been introduced and is considered to have a weak to moderate action. Many people find it easier to tolerate than older forms of opiate painkillers.
- Nucynta is available in either capsule or tablet form and is taken by mouth
- It comes in a fast-acting form that is used for acute pain and an extended release form, called Nucynta ER, that is for chronic pain
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Like all other opioids, Nucynta has the potential to be abused. Because of this, doctors will usually prescribe non-opioid painkillers first, but if they are not effective, Nucynta is another option. Patients are started with a very low dose which is increased until relief from pain is achieved.
The extended release form of the drug is particularly helpful for treating the pain of neuropathy in diabetics. It is also frequently used for chronic lower back pain. It is important that extended release tablets or capsules are not broken or crushed as this will release the full effect in one dose and may be harmful or fatal.
Nucynta is not used in anyone under the age of 18 years. Elderly patients may have a lower initial tolerance to the drug and thus require a smaller starting dose.
Nucynta is usually tolerated very well, but minor side effects can be expected. The most common are headaches, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, itching, dizziness, and drowsiness.
In some cases, side effects are much more serious. It is possible to have a life-threatening allergic reaction to the drug. It also makes seizures worse in anyone who is already predisposed to them, and these people are not good candidates for the drug. Some people experience very slow breathing when they first begin taking the drug, and in rare cases breathing can stop completely. This is more likely in elderly patients or people who have other serious underlying health problems.
Nucynta should not be used with alcohol, other opioids, or any drug with a sedating effect. It can interact with these substances to produce dangerous outcomes.
Tolerance and Dependence
It is not uncommon for patients who are taking Nucynta over the long term to develop a tolerance for it. In this case, they may need to talk to their doctors about increasing the dose for more effective pain relief.
It is also possible to develop a physical dependence on the drug. Tolerance and dependence can both lead patients to take unwise actions. Some will crush the pills and snort them or dissolve and inject them in an attempt to gain a more potent reaction. Either of these methods can lead to an overdose that is potentially fatal.
Signs of an overdose include a drop in breathing or heart rate, muscle weakness, clammy skin, constricted pupils, and fainting.
Anyone who suddenly stops using Nucynta will experience withdrawal symptoms, especially if they have been using the drug over a longer period of time. These symptoms typically include sweating, nausea, tremors, diarrhea, insomnia, anxiety, and hallucinations.