What Is Tapentadol?

Tapentadol — also known as Nucynta — is a prescription drug recommended for treating short-term moderate to severe pain, such as after surgery. This medication is part of the family of opioid analgesics, which work to directly affect how your brain recognizes and responds to pain.

Your doctor will prescribe a dosage of tapentadol that is best fit to combat your pain levels. Always take tapentadol exactly as prescribed. Never take more medication than is needed or after your pain has subsided, as this can lead to adverse side effects, physical dependence or overdose.

How Is Tapentadol Used?

Tapentadol is a medication prescribed to alleviate short-term pain. It is typically prescribed to manage the type of pain that occurs after an injury or surgery. This opioid attaches to receptors in the brain, increasing the patient’s pain threshold. Tapentadol helps ease pain as a patient recovers from surgery or an injury.

Tapentadol is taken orally, with or without a meal. Taking this medication with food may help prevent nausea. Taking tapentadol at the first sign of pain is recommended for the medicine to work as effectively as possible. Do not stop taking this medication without being advised by a doctor, as this may cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, constipation, sweating, shaking or diarrhea. Your doctor may gradually reduce your dosage to avoid withdrawal.

Tapentadol Addiction

Taking any medication comes with the risk of misuse — even while following your prescription correctly. Your chances of developing a substance use disorder while taking tapentadol increase if you take this drug and other medications. Following your prescription precisely and accurately can help prevent you from developing a substance use disorder or experiencing adverse — and possibly fatal — side effects.

Speak with a healthcare professional if you experience serious withdrawal symptoms such as harsh stomach pain, hallucinations, confusion, loss of appetite, weight loss or trouble urinating. Rare yet serious side effects such as seizures, fainting, slowed breathing or severe drowsiness may indicate a dangerous drug interaction or even an overdose, and you should seek medical attention immediately. 

Tapentadol Addiction Side Effects

Tapentadol misuse or addiction may exacerbate the typical side effects of the drug, including: 

  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting 

The following more severe side effects are also possible. If you experience any of these conditions, you should seek medical treatment immediately: 

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Intense muscle aches
  • Trouble breathing
  • Painful urination
  • Rash or itching
  • Shaking of the hands

Even if the side effects seem mild, consult a medical professional or seek medical treatment as soon as possible. 

Tapentadol Overdose

Tapentadol overdose can happen to anyone, regardless of their tolerance for opioids. The dosage amount that can cause an overdose varies from person to person, but it is generally recommended not to exceed 600 mg daily for short-acting tablets and 500 mg daily for long-acting tablets. If tapentadol is mixed with other medications or alcohol, an overdose can happen even with small amounts.

Symptoms of a tapentadol overdose can include extreme drowsiness, sweating, confusion, blurred vision, clammy skin, slowed breathing and muscle weakness. One of the most noticeable signs of an overdose is a drastic change in breathing rhythm called respiratory depression, during which breathing becomes very shallow and weak. Respiratory depression can be fatal during an overdose and damage parts of the brain if left untreated.

If someone taking tapentadol appears to be very weak and their breathing is slower than normal, it is important to call 911 and administer naloxone if available.

Tapentadol Withdrawal and Detox

In most cases, doctors recommend tapering off tapentadol gradually over time to allow your body to adjust to the lower doses. Abruptly stopping tapentadol can cause unwanted withdrawal symptoms. Common tapentadol withdrawal symptoms include

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Rigors
  • Pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Diarrhea
  • Runny eyes and nose
  • Goosebumps

These symptoms can be unpleasant and uncomfortable, but they are temporary.

Tapentadol Withdrawal Timeline

The timeline and duration of tapentadol withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person. Generally, symptoms will start within the first 12 hours of the last dose. Some people may experience symptoms for a few days, while others may take longer. The time you experience withdrawal symptoms will depend on your age, metabolism, organ function, how long you have taken tapentadol and the dosage levels.

Tapentadol Detox

If you are having trouble managing your withdrawal symptoms, you may want to consider entering a medically assisted detoxification program. These programs provide medical supervision and support during the withdrawal process.

It is important to remember that not everyone experiences tapentadol withdrawal similarly. If you are struggling with withdrawal symptoms, do not be afraid to seek help.

How Long Does Tapentadol Stay In Your System?

The maximum pain relief effect of tapentadol occurs one to six hours after administration in tablet form, depending on whether you take the short or long-acting form of the drug. Tapentadol stays in your system for about 22 hours, on average. However, the exact time it stays in your system can vary depending on factors, including: 

  • Metabolic rate: People with a faster metabolic rate will typically clear tapentadol from their system faster than those with a slower metabolic rate.
  • Body mass: People with a higher body mass typically clear tapentadol slower than those with a lower body mass.
  • Activity level: More active people typically clear tapentadol from their system faster than less active people.
  • Age: Older adults may clear tapentadol from their system slower than younger adults.
  • Overall health: People with certain health conditions, such as liver or kidney disease, may clear tapentadol from their system more slowly than people with healthy livers and kidneys.
  • Tolerance: People who have been taking tapentadol for a long time may develop a tolerance to the drug, which means they need to take more of it to achieve the same pain relief.
  • Dosage: The higher the dosage of tapentadol, the longer it will stay in your system.

Treatment for Tapentadol Addiction

The Recovery Village offers many resources and programs to help patients treat and overcome their tapentadol addiction. These programs include inpatient and outpatient rehab and individual and group counseling.

Inpatient Tapentadol Rehab

Inpatient tapentadol rehab is a program that allows patients to live at one of The Recovery Village’s designated treatment centers while they begin their recovery. This program is especially beneficial for patients with a severe addiction to tapentadol or those who find it too distracting to recover while living at home.

Patients receive 24/7 care from a team of medical professionals during inpatient tapentadol rehab. They also participate in individual and group counseling sessions and recreational therapy activities. These activities help patients learn coping skills and develop a support network.

Outpatient Tapentadol Rehab

Another treatment option The Recovery Village offers is outpatient tapentadol rehab. Once patients finish the inpatient tapentadol rehab program, they will begin the outpatient options. While in the outpatient tapentadol program, patients live at home and come to The Recovery Village for scheduled treatment appointments. 

Patients with mild or less severe tapentadol addiction may skip the inpatient program entirely and begin their recovery with outpatient tapentadol rehab. This program benefits patients who are looking to recover but still need some flexibility to maintain life outside of rehab. 

Mixing Alcohol and Tapentadol

It is important to avoid drinking alcohol while taking tapentadol, as this can lead to serious side effects, including death.

Alcohol and tapentadol both work to slow down the central nervous system. When these two substances are combined, the effects of each substance are amplified. This can lead to increased drowsiness, dizziness, difficulty concentrating and impaired judgment. In severe cases, it can even lead to respiratory depression and death.

If you are taking tapentadol, it is important to avoid alcohol altogether. If you do drink alcohol, it is important to do so in moderation and to be aware of the potential risks. If you are concerned about your alcohol use, talk to your doctor. They can help you develop a plan to reduce your alcohol intake or quit altogether. The Recovery Village is also here to help with any concerns you have about alcohol.

Do you find yourself taking more tapentadol than what is prescribed? It’s time to discover all the possibilities of a drug-free lifestyle — contact The Recovery Village today to get started.

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Editor – Theresa Valenzky
Theresa Valenzky graduated from the University of Akron with a Bachelor of Arts in News/Mass Media Communication and a certificate in psychology. She is passionate about providing genuine information to encourage and guide healing in all aspects of life. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more

Drugs.com. “Tapentadol Monograph for Professionals“>Tapentad[…]Professionals.” April 19, 2023. Accessed August 13, 2023.

American Society of Addiction Medicine. “National Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder“>National[…] Use Disorder.” December 18, 2019. Accessed August 13, 2023.

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.