It’s rare for a psychoactive drug to offer benefits without a significant risk of some adverse effects. It’s difficult to balance brain chemistry, and each new pharmaceutical is carefully studied before it is marketed to humans. In some cases, the balance between potentially harmful and undesirable effects and positive medicinal uses is blurred, creating a controversial drug. Darvocet is one such drug that was determined to be too dangerous for medicinal use, partially because of its abuse and addiction liability.
Though Darvocet was used as a prescription pain reliever in the late 20th century, it was determined to be too dangerous for its benefits to be worth the risk. After a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee met to vote against the drug’s continued marketing in 2009, it was officially discouraged in the U.S. a year later. It is still listed as a Schedule II drug by the federal government, which means it can be abused, but it has accepted medical uses.
Though Darvocet has been replaced by other alternatives when it comes to legal pharmaceutical products, it’s still sold and used on the black market. As an opioid, it adds to the long list of drugs that continue to threaten the country, worsening our current addiction epidemic. Darvocet has a high addiction risk, but it’s also expensive to buy on the street, with a price tag as high as $20 a pill. When people become addicted to an expensive opioid such as Darvocet, they may turn to cheaper alternatives such as heroin or even fentanyl, an incredibly potent synthetic opioid.
Darvocet addiction is difficult to overcome, especially if you are going through it on your own. Plus, the drug might have more dangerous effects than other opioids, even though its effects are weaker.
Learn more about Darvocet addiction, its signs and symptoms, and how it can be treated here.
Darvocet is the brand name for dextropropoxyphene, a synthetic opioid that has pain-relieving properties. It combines two chemical substances: propoxyphene, an opioid, and acetaminophen, the analgesic used in over-the-counter drugs. Before it was discredited by the FDA in 2010, it was used to treat mild pain, restless leg syndrome, and even opioid withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, it’s used to treat digestive issues. Like codeine, it’s a weaker opioid with less potent analgesic effects. However, people who use it recreationally can become physically dependent on the drug, leading to addiction.
The controversy Darvocet presented didn’t start in the years leading up to its 2010 banning. Doctors began petitioning for it to be removed as early as 1978, just six years after it was first approved in the U.S. This was partly because of its low efficacy and its high risk of addiction. However, it was shown to cause heart complications and cardiotoxicity. Other approved opioids have very low toxicity by comparison, though they are deadly during an overdose.
Darvocet is sold on the black market under street names like pinks, footballs, 65’s, and Ns. Since the drug is so weak compared to other prescription and illicit opioids, recreational users may take high doses to achieve a high, which increases the risk of cardiotoxicity. Using illegally obtained opioids can be incredibly dangerous because they could be mixed with other substances like fentanyl, which can cause an overdose. Even illegally sold drugs in pill form can be pressed with powerful opioids with the user knowing the difference.
If you have used Darvocet and are worried that you might be developing a substance use disorder, there are some signs and symptoms you should consider. Substance use disorders typically develop after a period of drug abuse, especially when the drug is difficult to obtain legally. Abuse can be characterized by long-term use, heavy doses, or use with the intent to get high. Several signs and symptoms that someone might be abusing Darvocet include:
Tolerance is often the first sign that you are developing a problem with a psychoactive substance like Darvocet. As you use the drug, you may start to notice that it’s less effective than it used to be. You may feel the need to use higher or more frequent doses to achieve the same effects. This is your body getting used to the drug and attempting to maintain balanced brain chemistry. It may produce its own natural chemicals to counteract Darvocet.
Dependence often follows tolerance as you continue to use the drug regularly, and it also comes with some telltale signs. If you feel compelled to use the drug to maintain normalcy, not just for recreation, you may be experiencing a growing dependence. You will also start to feel symptoms of withdrawal like irritability, anxiety, and flu-like symptoms when you skip a dose or stop using.
Finally, addiction develops when your drug use gets out of control. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), addiction is defined as compulsive drug use despite serious consequences, like job loss, relationship issues, or health problems.
Darvocet addiction can have long-lasting consequences since addiction is a chronic disease. However, it is treatable through evidence-based therapies and professional therapies. Addiction treatment often starts with medical detox.
While opioids don’t always require professional detoxification services, Darvocet can cause heart complications that might require medical attention. Medical detox can also help with co-occurring medical issues that are related or unrelated to addiction. After medical detox, clinicians will help place you in the next step in treatment that is ideal for your specific needs.
If you have continuing medical or psychological conditions or complications that require 24-hour monitoring, you may be placed in inpatient services. If your condition is stable, but you need extra support, a residential program might be right for you. If you can handle more independence, then intensive outpatient and outpatient programs might be your next step.
Regardless of the level of care after detox, you will participate in personalized therapy that is designed to get to help you get to the root of your addiction, address any related issues, and help prevent relapse. Behavioral therapies are among the most common forms of therapy in addiction treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you learn coping mechanisms to help deal with problems in positive ways without using.
Darvocet as an opioid is relatively mild. Taking FDA-approved doses has a very low chance of causing an overdose. However, abuse can lead to addiction, dependence, and overdose. Overdose is even more likely if the drug is mixed with alcohol, other opioids, or other central nervous system depressants. According to the FDA, abusing Darvocet can lead to death within an hour.
Darvocet has been linked to depression and thoughts of suicide, especially in people who were prone to depression. If you’ve been taking Darvocet and you’ve thought about suicide, speak to a professional as soon as possible.
However, it’s cardiotoxicity is what made it dangerous enough for the FDA to recommend that it be discontinued. Even at FDA-approved doses, it can cause arrhythmias and heart attacks.
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In the time between bans in the U.S. and U.K., more than 1,000 people died as a result of taking Darvocet.