Propoxyphene In Ohio | Uses, Side Effects, & Risks

Propoxyphene is an opioid painkiller that was taken off the market by the FDA in 2010 due to adverse heart effects. When abused, propoxyphene can lead to serious side effects and increase the risk of heart problems and addiction.

Propoxyphene and propoxyphene acetaminophen (also known as dextropropoxyphene) are opioid analgesics that are used to treat mild to moderate pain. It can be found under the brand names Darvon, Darvon-N, Darvocet, and Darvocet-N.

It was often prescribed because it wasn’t as potent as codeine but did the same job.

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took it off the market in 2010 and banned it because of the high risk of cardiovascular issues. 

Unfortunately, it is still sometimes sold on the streets, and taking it can lead to serious side effects including toxicity, addiction, and heart attack.

Propoxyphene Uses

Propoxyphene (and propoxyphene products) were primarily used as pain relievers for chronic pain management. It was also occasionally used as a cough suppressant.

Like other opioid analgesics, propoxyphene works by binding to opioid receptors in the central nervous system (CNS) and brain, blocking pain signals throughout the body providing pain relief. 

It also increases the amount of dopamine in the brain which leads to the euphoric feeling that can lead to abuse and addiction.

Side Effects Of Propoxyphene

Propoxyphene can lead to a number of side effects ranging from mild to severe. How intense the side effects are depends on whether the drug is taken as directed or abused.

Some of the most common side effects of propoxyphene may include:

  • lightheadedness
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • drowsiness
  • constipation
  • euphoric feelings
  • dry mouth
  • stomach cramps

It can also lead to serious side effects that may include:

  • shallow breathing
  • slow heartbeat
  • lightheadedness
  • fainting
  • confusion
  • hallucinations
  • sedation
  • seizure
  • jaundice

Risks Of Propoxyphene Use

Using and abusing propoxyphene can increase the risk of certain health issues including cardiovascular problems, drug overdose, and physical dependence and addiction.

Heart Problems

One of the reasons the FDA voted to ban propoxyphene was because of the amount of evidence showing it caused heart problems in those who used it. 

Propoxyphene basically changed the electrical activity of the heart and increased the risk of heart rhythm abnormalities, which could trigger:

  • arrhythmia
  • bradycardia
  • cardiac arrest
  • respiratory arrest
  • congestive arrest
  • congestive heart failure
  • tachycardia
  • myocardial infarction

In the FDA’s opinion, the risk of heart problems outweighed the benefits of pain relief, and they advised the pharmaceutical companies that made it (e.g. Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals) to voluntarily take it off the market.

Polysubstance Use

Taking propoxyphene with other drugs and substances can also lead to life-threatening effects. More specifically, taking the pain medication with alcohol, antidepressants, sedatives, or tranquilizers can increase the risk of overdose and lead to severe drowsiness and slowed breathing.


Anyone taking propoxyphene, especially nowadays when healthcare providers are no longer prescribing it, increases their risk of overdosing on it. This can lead to a variety of signs and symptoms that may include:

  • pinpoint pupils
  • slow heart rate
  • low blood pressure
  • weak pulse
  • respiratory depression
  • coma
  • seizures
  • blue fingernails or lips
  • nausea
  • vomiting

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these signs and symptoms, call 911 immediately. If left untreated, a propoxyphene overdose could lead to fatalities. 

In Ohio alone, there were 415 unintentional overdose deaths related to opioids in 2020. That was 45 more opioid drug overdose deaths than there were in 2019.


The more you take the pain medicine, the more likely it is that you’ll build a physical dependence on it. 

Once you build up a dependence, if you try to quit, unpleasant withdrawal symptoms can occur. To ease these symptoms, some may go back on the drug and this can lead to a cycle of abuse and addiction.

If you are worried that someone you know is abusing propoxyphene, there are some signs you can look out for:

  • trying to borrow or steal money to obtain more of the drug 
  • frequent problems at work, home, or school
  • reckless behavior
  • mood swings
  • impaired judgment
  • poor memory, focus, and concentration
  • loss of interest in activities they once loved
  • isolation
  • depression

If you or a loved one live with opiate/opioid addiction, contact Ohio Recovery Center to learn how we can help.


How Long Can Propoxyphene Be Detected In Your System?

For a hair test, propoxyphene can be detected in your system for 90 days. For a urine test, propoxyphene can be detected for up to 2 days after last use.

Learn more about How Long Propoxyphene Stays In Your System

  1. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA recommends against the continued use of propoxyphene
  2. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Propoxyphene overdose
  3. National Library of Medicine: PubChem — Propoxyphene

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: October 31, 2022

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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