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Tapentadol

6-minute read

If a person is not breathing, or if they are unresponsive, seek help straight away. Call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

Key facts

  • Tapentadol is an opioid pain-relief medicine that can only be prescribed by your doctor.
  • Tapentadol is prescribed for relief of severe pain, where other pain medicines have been ineffective or cannot be used.
  • Suddenly stopping tapentadol can cause withdrawal symptoms.
  • Always take tapentadol exactly as your doctor prescribed.

What is tapentadol?

Tapentadol is an opioid medicine available on prescription from your doctor.

LOOKING FOR A MEDICINE? — See this list of medicines that contain tapentadol to find out more about a specific medication.

What is tapentadol used for?

Tapentadol is used to treat severe pain and should only be used when other forms of non-opioid pain relief have not been successful in managing pain or are not tolerated. Tapentadol is not usually recommended for the treatment of chronic pain.

How does tapentadol work?

Tapentadol works directly on opioid receptors in the central nervous system and reduces feelings of pain by interrupting the way nerves signal pain between the brain and the body.

What are the possible side effects of taking tapentadol?

All opioids, including tapentadol, can have side effects including life-threatening or fatal breathing difficulties. The risk of these is higher:

  • when you are first taking tapentadol
  • after a dosage increase
  • if you are older
  • if you have an existing lung problem

The side effects of tapentadol are similar to those of other opioids, and include:

The higher your dosage, the more likely you are to experience one or more side effects.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

What are the risks associated with tapentadol?

Opioids are strong pain-relief medicines and can cause life-threatening or fatal breathing difficulties.

If you are taking tapentadol, you may become reliant on this medicine even if you take it exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Your doctor will monitor how you use tapentadol, to reduce your risk of harm, including through misuse, abuse and addiction.

You can also develop tolerance when you take tapentadol — this means you may need to take larger amounts of the opioid to get the same effect. As the dosage increases, so does the risk of side effects.

WORRIED ABOUT YOUR OPIOID USE? — The Opioid Risk Indicator can help you find out if you may be developing a problem.

Continue to take tapentadol for as long as your doctor tells you to. Suddenly stopping tapentadol can cause withdrawal symptoms.

Tapentadol may make it difficult for you to drive or operate heavy machinery. If you have recently started taking an opioid medication or changed dosage, you may be at higher risk of having an accident.

If your kidney or liver function is impaired, your doctor may decide that tapentadol in not appropriate for you. There are also other factors that may limit your use of tapentadol — for example, if you take certain medicines or drink alcohol or take other medicines that can cause drowsiness.

Your doctor is the best person to guide you on whether tapentadol is the right medicine for you, how much you need and how long you should take it for.

If a person is not breathing, or if they are unresponsive, seek help straight away. Call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

Access to overdose-reversing medication

Naloxone is a medicine that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. A pilot program, funded by the Australian Government, is offering certain individuals in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia this medication (including the nasal spray Nyxoid) free of charge and without a prescription.

Learn more here about the take home naloxone pilot.

Are there any alternatives to tapentadol?

Everyone's pain is unique, and different pain relief medicines will work in different circumstances. Some people’s pain will respond well to non-opioid medicines, which are generally associated with fewer risks and side effects.

Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before making any change to the dosage or type of medicine you take.

If you have chronic (long-term) pain, your doctor might suggest lifestyle changes to help you manage the discomfort. This may include physical fitness and activity pacing, social activities, relaxation techniques and overall health management.

You can find more information here about options for managing chronic pain.

When should I see my doctor?

If your pain is not well controlled by taking tapentadol, or you have any new or unexpected side effects, see your doctor.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Pain Question Planner to prepare for your doctor’s appointment.

How do I dispose of medicines safely?

It's important you dispose of unwanted opioid medicines safely — unused medicines can be returned to any pharmacy. Don't keep unused tapentadol 'just in case' since this can lead to inappropriate use.

Keep tapentadol out of reach of children and pets. Never throw medicines into a garbage bin or flush them down the toilet — this is dangerous to others and harmful to the environment.

Resources and support

Asking about your treatment or medication is important to help you understand your options. Here's a guide to questions to ask your pharmacist or doctor before taking a medicine.

See also this list of medicines that contain tapentadol to read the consumer medicine information (CMI) leaflet for the brand prescribed. You can also:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: January 2021


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