Tapentadol is a narcotic that’s used to treat severe pain. It’s available under the brand names Nucynta ER (extended-release) and Nucynta. Nucynta extended-release is prescribed to individuals who require round-the-clock care and treatment for severe pain. As an opioid, tapentadol acts by attaching to opioid receptors located throughout the body, blocking pain signals that are sent to the central nervous system (CNS). Considering the risks of opioid use (even with a prescription), our Massachusetts treatment center is sharing more on tapentadol side effects and what users should know.
What Is Nucynta Used For?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved tapentadol for the treatment of acute (short-term) pain that’s severe enough to need opioid medication and when other medications are ineffective or intolerable. Nucynta is classified as a controlled substance – specifically a Schedule II drug – meaning it has a medical purpose and potential for abuse and addiction.
This means a substance use disorder marked by an uncontrollable urge to use tapentadol can occur in cases where the medication is misused or used in ways that it’s not intended. A substance use disorder, or addiction, can lead to problems with physical and mental health as well as problems at school, work, and home.
For these reasons, Nucynta can only be legally taken with a prescription from a healthcare professional. It’s also important to take the prescribed dose, take the medication as frequently as directed, and avoid using other substances – such as alcohol – along with the medication.
How to Take Tapentadol (Nucynta)
Once you’ve received a prescription for tapentadol, read the label and information leaflet on the bottle. Make sure you ask your healthcare provider any questions you may have about how to take the drug. Stick with their directions in terms of dosage and frequency of use.
When you start taking the medication, avoid drinking alcohol entirely, as this substance could exacerbate any adverse tapentadol side effects that may occur. It’s also important to talk to your healthcare provider about naloxone, which is a medication that blocks the symptoms of opioid overdose long enough to allow the person to receive medical treatment.
Don’t use Nucynta with other opioids or sedatives, as these combinations can also lead to adverse reactions. If you find yourself unable to stop using the drug or you’re using it more frequently or at higher doses than you should, speak to your doctor right away.
Short and Long-Term Tapentadol Side Effects
It’s crucial to understand the side effects of Nucynta before starting the medication. Oftentimes, side effects are most uncomfortable in the beginning stages of treatment as the body adjusts to the medication. These effects should subside over time.
However, patients who continue experiencing Nucynta side effects well into their treatment should speak to their healthcare providers right away. Severe side effects can also occur if the medication is misused. Below is a list of common tapentadol side effects to look out for.
Short-Term Side Effects of Tapentadol
When people begin taking tapentadol, they may experience side effects like:
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth
- Excess sweating
- Hot flashes
- Stomach problems including nausea, vomiting, constipation, and indigestion
- Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
- Vertigo (dizzy, spinning sensation)
- Lack of energy and motivation
More severe short-term side effects may include:
- Respiratory depression (slow, shallow breathing)
- Respiratory arrest (stopped breathing)
- Hypersensitivity reaction or anaphylaxis
- Sleep apnea
- Bradycardia (slowed heart rate)
- Serotonin syndrome
- Increased intracranial pressure
- Paralytic ileus (block intestines that prevent food from passing)
Long-Term Side Effects of Tapentadol
While many people tolerate Nucynta well, long-term side effects may also occur, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Excess sweating
- Numbness and tingling in the extremities
- Decreased sense of touch or sensation
- Sore throat/infection
- Decreased libido (low sex drive)
- Absence of monthly menstrual cycles
- Reduced fertility (reduced chances of getting pregnant)
- Slurred speech
- Memory problems
- Impotence/erectile dysfunction (inability to get or maintain an erection)
- Low sodium levels
- Adrenal insufficiency (when adrenal glands don’t make enough hormones)
- Neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (if the medication is used while pregnant)
- Serotonin syndrome
- Suicidal thoughts
- Orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure when standing up from a sitting or lying down position)
In addition to the ones listed above, common tapentadol side effects may also include a sensation of euphoria and pleasure, otherwise referred to as a high. An opioid high can occur if drugs of this class are abused, such as taken in high doses or taking them more frequently than prescribed.
Due to their potency and high potential for abuse, opioids are among the most addictive and dangerous drugs in the world, let alone the nation. In fact, the U.S. is currently experiencing an opioid epidemic, during which millions of lives have been lost to opioid addiction and overdose.
Even prescription opioids are addictive and can lead to a substance use disorder if misused. Therefore, it’s important to follow your doctor’s directions on its use and reach out to them if you have any concerns.
Tapentadol Abuse & Addiction Risk
As we previously mentioned, tapentadol is an addictive drug, and using it longer and in higher doses than prescribed can contribute to a severe substance use disorder. The longer a person uses opioids, the more drugs they’ll need to experience a high. This leads to an increase in doses, which can eventually result in an overdose.
As scary as this is, the good news is that there’s professional care available to help those with opioid addictions recover and get sober. Our Massachusetts inpatient drug rehab offers various addiction services to aid in long-term sobriety, ranging from medical detox to aftercare programs.