Propoxyphene (one of the active ingredients in the medication) is classified as a mild, centrally-acting, narcotic pain reliever. "Centrally-acting" means that it works in the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). Propoxyphene is chemically related to methadone.
The other active ingredient in propoxyphene/acetaminophen is acetaminophen (commonly known as "APAP"). It is a pain reliever and fever reducer commonly found in non-prescription medications such as Tylenol. Adding acetaminophen to propoxyphene increases the effectiveness for relieving pain and also provides fever-reducing properties.
Propoxyphene/acetaminophen has a significant potential for both psychological and physical dependence and abuse. In fact, it is classified as a controlled substance, meaning that there are special rules and regulations for prescribing and obtaining the medication. Because propoxyphene/acetaminophen can be a desirable drug of abuse, people often try to buy it through illegal means, such as from foreign countries or online sources that do not require a prescription.
For more information, visit the following eMedTV articles:
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Briggs GG, Freeman RK, Yaffe SJ. Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation. 8th ed. Philadelphia (PA): Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2008.
National Library of Medicine (US). Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMED). NLM Web site. Available at: http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/htmlgen?LACT. Accessed date.
Food and Drug Administration, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Propoxyphene: Withdrawal -- Risk of Cardiac Toxicity (11/19/2010). FDA Web site. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm234389.htm. November 19, 2010.
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