I've been taking Darvon for about three months for a chronic back pain problem. So far I'm getting good pain relief and no bad effects. I've been warned about the downward spiral of these drugs. Just what does that refer to?
Darvon is an opioid used for the relief of mild to moderate pain. It's been on the market since 1957 and is considered a weak narcotic. Other similar drugs include tramadol and codeine. Darvon is about one-third to one-half the strength of codeine. A 65 mg dosage is equal in pain relief to about 600 mg of aspirin but without the acid content of aspirin at that dosage.

Opioids such as Darvon are advised for short-term use (several weeks up to several months) for pain control. Long-term use over years may result in the opposite effect: increased pain with other side effects. This turn around in pain relief is referred to as the downward spiral.

Pain starts to increase while taking the same drug that formerly brought pain relief. The patient finds that he or she needs more and more of the same drug (or a stronger drug) to get the same pain relief. This first step is called tolerance.

As part of the downward spiral, addiction can occur. A red flag sign of addiction occurs when the patient starts to experience symptoms of drug withdrawal without the drug. The person's activity level, outlook on life, and sense of well-being start to decline. Depression and anxiety can become additional problems the patient must now cope with.

Contact your doctor immediately if you find yourself experiencing any of these effects. Narcotics for pain relief should never be used alone. Exercise, physical therapy, behavioral or cognitive therapy, acupuncture, and other alternative methods of pain control should be part of a total treatment plan.