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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 not been effective or cannot be used.
  • Suddenly stopping tapentadol can cause withdrawal symptoms.
  • Always take tapentadol exactly as prescribed by your doctor to reduce the risk of harmful side effects and dependence.

What is tapentadol?

Tapentadol is an opioid medicine your doctor can prescribe to treat severe pain, only available with a 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. It will only be prescribed if your doctor decides other non-opioid medicines cannot effectively manage your pain, or you can’t tolerate those treatments.

Tapentadol is not usually recommended for the treatment of chronic (long term) pain conditions.

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 forms of tapentadol are available?

Tapentadol is available as an oral tablet.

Some forms of tapentadol are ‘immediate-release’ (known as IR), meaning they start working straight away and their effects wear off more quickly. Others are ‘controlled-release’ (also called ‘sustained release’ or SR), which means that their effect is spread out over a longer period of time.

What are the possible side effects of taking tapentadol?

All opioids, including tapentadol, can have side effects including causing life-threatening or fatal breathing problems.

The risk of these is higher:

  • when you first take 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. Always take medicines exactly as prescribed by your doctor.

If you experience side effects while taking tapentadol, or are concerned about your opioid use, speak with your doctor. Your doctor can advise you on alternatives or whether you may need a dosage adjustment.

For a complete list of side effects see the consumer medicines information (CMI) leaflet.

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 breathing problems.

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

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

If your kidney or liver function is impaired, your doctor may decide that tapentadol is not suitable for you. There are also other factors that may limit your use of tapentadol — for example, if you 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. Your doctor will also guide you on when and how to stop taking tapentadol.

Opioid dependence

If you take tapentadol you may become dependent on this medicine if you take it regularly, even if you take it exactly as prescribed and for a short time only. 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 that 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.

Continue to take tapentadol for as long as your doctor tells you to. If you stop taking tapentadol suddenly, you may experience withdrawal symptoms.

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 temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The Australian Government is offering this medication free of charge and without a prescription to people who may experience, or witness, an opioid overdose.

Learn more about the Take Home Naloxone program.

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 manage the effects of pain. This may include:

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, unexpected or unwanted 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', as this can lead to dangerous or inappropriate use.

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

Resources and support

Asking about your treatment or medicine is important to help you understand your options. Here's a guide to questions you should 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:

  • Call 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) to talk about the medicines you are taking for your pain.
  • Discuss your pain with Pain Link helpline (1300 340 357) which is staffed by volunteers with personal experience of chronic pain.
  • Go to Painaustralia to find pain services and programs in your area.
  • Learn more about prescription opioids on the Choosing Wisely website.

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

Last reviewed: May 2023

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