Pentazocine is a generic drug, sold under the brand name Talwin as well as other trade names, prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. Pentazocine is a unique drug in that it activates certain opioid receptors while blocking others. Because pentazocine activates some opioid receptors as a way to relieve pain, it is classified as an opioid.
The side effects of pentazocine are similar to other opioids. For example, side effects can include nausea, vomiting, constipation, itching or drowsiness. However, unlike many other opioids, Pentazocine can also cause hallucinations, bad dreams and delusions. What’s unique about Pentazocine along with these side effects is the ceiling effect. Once someone reaches a certain dose, pentazocine doesn’t provide any more pain relief or side effects. So, even if someone were to use a high dose of pentazocine to get high, there would be a ceiling on the potential effects. The ceiling effect in pentazocine is because naloxone is included with the formulation. If someone tries to crush or break the medication in any way, the naloxone prevents misuse. If pentazocine is taken as prescribed and used orally, the naloxone shouldn’t have any effect. While pentazocine acts on brain receptors to provide pain relief, naloxone helps prevent the misuse of the drug. For this reason, pentazocine’s official name is pentazocine-naloxone.
When someone is prescribed pentazocine, they’re usually instructed to take it by mouth every three to four hours as needed. If it causes nausea, patients should take it with food. If someone has already regularly been using an opioid medication, pentazocine may cause withdrawal. This is because when someone is opioid-tolerant and they use naloxone, it can trigger sudden withdrawal. Of course, this should only occur if the pentazocine is misused by physically disrupting the tablet. The medicine itself may also cause dependence and withdrawal symptoms in some patients.
Pentazocine usually comes as a tablet. The tablets are oblong-shaped and scored. The dosages of pentazocine hydrochloride and naloxone hydrochloride are usually 50 mg of the pentazocine and 0.5 mg of the naloxone. Some dosages of pentazocine are light green, and others are yellow. The imprints on the tablets vary, depending on who the manufacturer is. Pentazocine is also available in injectable formulations.
The addition of naloxone to pentazocine formulations was included after the medical community, and drug enforcement officials started to see the drug was being misused. Pentazocine was frequently misused when the tablets were crushed and snorted or dissolved, which is the case with many opioids intended for oral use. The addition of the naloxone was intended to reduce the misuse potential, and the recreational use of pentazocine has gone down significantly as a result. However, that doesn’t mean there is no potential for pentazocine to be addictive. There is a warning that comes with pentazocine indicating it can be habit-forming, particularly with prolonged use. People who are prescribed pentazocine are instructed to use it only as directed and to let their doctor know if they have ever had a substance use disorder with alcohol, prescription drugs or street drugs.
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