Darvocet is the brand name of a combination of the synthetic opioid propoxyphene and acetaminophen, an over-the-counter medication used to treat fever and mild pain. Similar in strength to opioids like methadone, Darvocet used to be prescribed to treat mild-to-moderate pain, as well as in medication-assisted opioid addiction treatment to wean people off stronger opioids like heroin.
However, in 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned Darvocet and removed it from the market because its numerous health risks outweighed its limited medical benefits.
In fact, within just six years of its initial approval as a prescription painkiller, doctors were petitioning to have Darvocet banned on the grounds that it caused frequent and often fatal heart problems in users on top of just being a largely ineffective pain reliever.
Despite having been banned for close to 10 years, Darvocet is still available for illicit purchase, usually online and sometimes for as much as $20 a pill.
Darvocet may be among the weaker opioids, but it still carries a high risk of abuse and addiction and can lead to serious, fatal health problems, as well as overdose, acetaminophen poisoning, organ failure, and more.
People may not realize that the body naturally produces its own opioids, which are neurotransmitters used to regulate and minimize feelings of pain and stress by slowing down activity in the central nervous system to help keep pain-based nerve signals from reaching the brain.
Even with the inclusion of acetaminophen, Darvocet works the same way as basically all other opioids, mimicking natural opioids so that it can bind with what’s known as opioid receptors. Darvocet activates these receptors, which causes them to produce opioids. It does this over and over until the brain and nervous system are flooded with an excess of opioids, creating stronger blocks against pain signals around the spinal cord and brainstem for greater relief as well as feelings of sedation.
However, Darvocet is a fairly weak opioid and a very limited pain reliever, so these effects are not nearly as intense as Vicodin, a much more potent combination of opioid and acetaminophen.
Because of this, most people do not abuse Darvocet for its pain-relief qualities but instead to experience the high caused by the spike in dopamine that Darvocet also provides. Dopamine is another neurotransmitter that is located in what’s known as the “pleasure center” of the brain and causes intense feelings of euphoria when released in excess, which is what Darvocet and other opioids do.
Recognizing the signs and behaviors associated with substance abuse and the early stages of addiction can be more difficult than people might think. What in hindsight may seem like a clear and obvious pattern of abuse can go unnoticed in the moment, as these signs do not typically come all at once but as isolated instances of abnormal behavior.
That being said, there are some fairly noticeable side effects common to regular, long-term Darvocet abuse, in part due to the sometimes extreme physical effects from an excess of acetaminophen, including jaundice.
The side effects of long-term Darvocet abuse include:
The turning point between substance abuse and addiction comes when the person abusing Darvocet can no longer control how often and how much they use, escalating to compulsive, obsessive Darvocet abuse.
There are many behaviors consistent with a substance use disorder that will accompany this loss of control as obtaining and using Darvocet becomes the top priority in someone’s life and the driving force behind their decisions and action. These signs of Darvocet addiction include:
If you have seen these signs in the behavior of a family member or friend or are experiencing them yourself, do not wait until it’s too late, it is critical that you seek help at a professional addiction treatment center as soon as you can.
Darvocet addiction treatment should begin with medical detox, a process that removes any trace of the drug from someone’s system to achieve sobriety and treat acute intoxication. This is generally always necessary with opioids but is especially so with Darvocet, due to the extreme nature of its toxicity and the danger of liver failure.
While the symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal tend to be comparatively milder than other substances, such as benzodiazepines, Darvocet detox should never be attempted alone or without the supervision of an experienced medical detox team.
Darvocet use must be slowly tapered down, as stopping it all at once can trigger painful and unpleasant symptoms. A medical detox professional can use medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help safely stop using Darvocet as well as ease withdrawal symptoms.
Once someone is finished with detox and the potential danger posed by any withdrawal symptoms has passed, the next stage of Darvocet addiction treatment is beginning either an inpatient or outpatient addiction recovery treatment program.
Detox is only the first step in a successful recovery. It gets someone sober, but it does not do anything to keep them that way. If someone with a Darvocet addiction wants to avoid relapse and manage their addictive behaviors effectively, then they will need to understand the issues behind their addiction and properly address them.
In an addiction recovery treatment program, clients gain the tools and skills to help them accomplish these goals through a variety of different therapies and treatment modalities, usually in the form of a customized treatment plan that they will work with their therapist to create. Some common elements of a treatment plan include:
The fact that Darvocet was banned by the FDA because of the medication’s many serious and potentially life-threatening side effects caused just by taking it as prescribed should be more than enough proof of just how dangerous Darvocet is.
Darvocet use can lead to lethal heart problems like arrhythmia, seizures, pulmonary toxicity, and an increase in feelings of depression or suicidal thoughts and behavior. Someone using or abusing Darvocet is also likely to experience significant liver and kidney damage due to the acetaminophen, the toxicity of which can cause total liver failure in large enough doses taken often enough.It is possible to overdose on Darvocet, either on its own or in conjunction with other depressants like alcohol or benzos, which many people will do to strengthen Darvocet’s sedative effects. The signs of a Darvocet overdose include:
If someone is exhibiting the symptoms of a Darvocet overdose, it is vital that they receive emergency medical attention as soon as possible to avoid a fatal overdose. Time is especially of the essence in the case of Darvocet, as someone who has overdosed on Darvocet may have less than an hour to be resuscitated before dying.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with Darvocet addiction, quitting can sometimes feel impossible, but at Ocean Breeze Recovery, we can help you make taking back your life from addiction into a reality.
We offer the full continuum of care, providing a seamless transition from detox to ongoing treatment and beyond, using time-tested, evidence-based treatments and adaptive addiction recovery plans. Call 844-554-9279 any time, day or night, to speak with one of our specialists, who can help answer any questions you may have and provide a free and confidential consultation to find the treatment program the best fits your needs or the needs of your loved one. You can also contact us online for more information.
Anderson, L. (2017, December 13). Darvocet: Uses, Dosage, Side Effects & Warnings. Retrieved from https://www.drugs.com/darvocet.html
Gandey, A. (2011, February 2). Physicians Say Good Riddance to 'Worst Drug in History'. Retrieved from https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/736718?src=mp&spon=25
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2009, September). Darvocet Medication Guide. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/UCM187067.pdf
ABC News, Inc. (2010, November 19) Manufacturer Pulls Darvon, Darvocet; FDA Wants Generic Makers to Do the Same. Allen, J. ABC News Medical Unit from https://abcnews.go.com/Health/PainArthritis/painkillers-darvon-darvocet-coming-off-us-market/story?id=12194165
WebMD. (2010, November 10) Controversial Painkiller Sunk by Dangerous Heart Side Effects. DeNoon, J. from https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/news/20101119/darvon-darvocet-banned#1