What Is Butorphanol?

Butorphanol is a prescription medication used as a pain reliever. Most commonly, butorphanol is prescribed as a nasal spray to help deal with pain associated with migraines. Butorphanol can also be used to treat moderate to severe pain before surgery and during childbirth. While the nasal spray is what’s most prescribed to patients to use outside of a hospital setting, there are injectable versions of the drug as well. Butorphanol was available in the U.S. as the brand-name Stadol, but the manufacturer recently discontinued that. Now, butorphanol is only available in the U.S. as a generic drug. Butorphanol is an opioid pain reliever, and it’s similar to morphine. Like other opioids, which are also called narcotics, butorphanol acts on certain brain centers to provide pain relief. Butorphanol is different from many other opioid pain medications in a key way, however. Butorphanol both activates opioid receptors and also behaves as an opioid antagonist, blocking the effects of other opioids. If someone is dependent on opioids and they take butorphanol, they may go into sudden withdrawal.

Symptoms Of Butorphanol Abuse

Butorphanol has a lower potential for misuse than a lot of prescription narcotic pain medications. However, it does still carry a black box warning. According to the black box butorphanol warning, this medication has a misuse and dependence potential. As with other opioids, butorphanol can cause a euphoric high in patients, which is something people may find desirable with this medication. Physicians are instructed to assess patients for misuse potential before prescribing this medication. Some of the symptoms of butorphanol misuse can include taking higher doses than prescribed or using it more often than instructed by a doctor. Another symptom of butorphanol misuse is taking it without a prescription. Some people may also misuse butorphanol by combining it with other substances, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines, to increase the effects. Anytime a drug like butorphanol is used outside of prescribing instructions, it’s considered a symptom of misuse.

Side Effects Of Butorphanol Abuse

Butorphanol not only affects the central nervous system and certain brain centers to reduce pain but, as with other narcotic pain medicines, butorphanol can slow the functions of the central nervous system. Many of the side effects of butorphanol misuse will reflect this CNS slowdown. Side effects of butorphanol misusecan include dependence and addiction as well as the physical side effects listed below. Some of the side effects of butorphanol misuse can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Confusion
  • Lethargy
  • Heart palpitations
  • Using butorphanol to achieve certain desired effects, such as mild euphoria
  • Dysphoria (a general feeling of unease or dissatisfaction)

Butorphanol Addiction

It’s possible for butorphanol addiction to form when using this medication as prescribed or recreationally. Butorphanol, like other opioids, activates reward pathways and responses in the brain, contributing to the development of addiction. A butorphanol addiction can include symptoms such as use of the drug that’s out of control. Someone addicted to butorphanol might want to stop using it but feel like they’re unable to. Other signs of a possible butorphanol addiction can include:

  • Compulsive drug-seeking behaviors
  • Making the use of butorphanol a top priority
  • Doctor shopping or creating symptoms to get more butorphanol
  • Putting oneself in dangerous situations either because of using butorphanol or attempts to get more
  • Having failed attempts to stop using butorphanol
  • Declines in one’s performance at school or work because of drug use
  • Problems with relationships due to drug use

Butorphanol Long-Term Effects

Butorphanol can produce not only short-term but also long-term side effects. Butorphanol is similar to morphine, and one long-term effect of narcotic pain relievers is an increased pain sensitivity. The brain and body become used to the presence of the drug, so a person will have more pain sensitivity when they’re not using it. Physical dependence is another long-term butorphanol effect to be aware of. The longer someone uses butorphanol, the more likely they are to become dependent and go through withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop using it. Long-term use of butorphanol can have negative effects on the cardiac system because it can affect heart rate and blood pressure. It can also cause damage to the respiratory system of people who have been taking it for a long time. For some people, the long-term use of butorphanol can lead to the misuse of other opioids such as heroin or other powerful drugs.

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.