Tapentadol for pain relief

  • Tapentadol is a strong opioid painkiller.
  • It may make you feel sleepy or dizzy, so not drive or use tools or machines.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
Type of medicine Opioid analgesic
Used for Pain relief in adults
Also called Palexia®
Available as Tablets, and prolonged-release tablets

Tapentadol is a strong painkiller which works in two ways. It binds to certain receptors (called opioid receptors) in your brain and spinal cord, and it also regulates the level of a chemical called noradrenaline in your brain. These actions together reduce the pain you feel.

Tapentadol is used to ease pain which cannot be managed with other types of painkillers.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking tapentadol, it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you have any breathing problems, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • If you have liver or kidney problems.
  • If you have prostate or thyroid problems.
  • If you have epilepsy or low blood pressure.
  • If you have a problem with your bile duct.
  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • If you have been constipated for more than a week or have an inflammatory bowel problem.
  • If you have ever been dependent on drugs or alcohol.
  • If you have recently had a severe head injury.
  • If you have a condition called myasthenia gravis (a muscle wasting disease).
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to this or to any other medicine.
  • If you are taking any other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal and complementary medicines.
  • Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about the specific brand of tapentadol you have been given, and a full list of possible side-effects from taking it.
  • Take these tablets exactly as your doctor has told you. Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you how many to take and when to take them. Your dose will also be on the label of your pack.
  • You can take the tablets before, during or after your meals.
  • If you have been given prolonged-release tablets (these have 'SR' after the name - for example, Palexia® SR) these are specially formulated to release the medicine slowly to give you a more even painkilling effect. You should swallow these tablets whole - do not chew or crush them.
  • If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember and then continue as before. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
  • It is recommended that you do not drink alcohol while you are on tapentadol, as it increases side-effects such as feeling dizzy and sleepy.
  • Taking tapentadol regularly for a long time can lead to your body becoming dependent on it, which might cause you to feel restless and irritable when you stop taking it. When you no longer need to take tapentadol, your doctor may want you to reduce your dose gradually over a few days before you stop taking it. This will help to prevent any unpleasant effects.
  • If you are planning a trip abroad you are advised to carry a letter with you from your doctor because tapentadol is a controlled drug. If you plan to travel for more than three months, you must check with the Home Office before you travel, as you will need to apply in writing for a licence to take tapentadol with you.
  • If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment that you are taking tapentadol.
  • If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable to take with your other medicines.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common tapentadol side-effects - these affect around 1 in 10 people who take this medicine What can I do if I experience this?
Feeling dizzy, sleepy, weak or tired If this happens do not drive or use tools or machines. Do not drink alcohol
Feeling or being sick, indigestion This usually passes after a few days, but let your doctor know if it continues. Your doctor may prescribe a medicine to ease the sickness
Constipation Try to eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water each day. If this continues your doctor may prescribe a laxative for you
Diarrhoea Drink plenty of water to replace lost fluids
Dry mouth Try chewing sugar-free gum or sucking sugar-free sweets
Lack of appetite, headache, feeling confused, sleeping difficulties, shakiness, flushing, itchy rash, and muscle spasms If any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
  • Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that someone has taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital at once. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
  • This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
  • Never keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
  • If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Helen Huins
Document ID:
13861 (v1)
Last Checked:
14/03/2012
Next Review:
14/03/2015
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