What Should I Tell My Healthcare Provider?You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to taking this medication if you have:
- A history of drug or alcohol dependence
- Liver disease, such as cirrhosis, liver failure, or hepatitis
- Kidney disease, such as kidney failure (renal failure)
- Gallbladder or pancreas disease
- Lung disease of any sort
- A head injury or high intracranial pressure
- Severe abdominal (stomach) pain
- Seizures or epilepsy
- Any allergies, including to foods, dyes, or preservatives.
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
- Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant (see Nucynta and Pregnancy)
- Breastfeeding (see Nucynta and Breastfeeding).
Make sure to tell your healthcare provider about any other medications you are taking, including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
(Click Precautions and Warnings With Tapentadol to learn more, including information on who should not take the drug.)
How Does Tapentadol Work?Tapentadol is classified as a "centrally acting opioid analgesic." This means that it works in the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), acts much like morphine in the body, and relieves pain. Much like morphine, tapentadol binds to certain opioid receptors in the body known as μ ("mu") receptors.
Tapentadol also works a little like some antidepressant medications by inhibiting the reuptake of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is one of several chemicals used to send messages from one nerve cell to another. As a message travels down a nerve, it causes the end of the cell to release norepinephrine.
The norepinephrine enters the gap between the first nerve cell and the one next to it. When enough norepinephrine reaches the second nerve cell, it activates receptors on the cell and the message continues on its way. The first cell then quickly absorbs any norepinephrine that remains in the gap between cells; this is called "reuptake." By inhibiting reuptake of norepinephrine, tapentadol essentially increases its activity.