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What is Nefopam?

By Andy Josiah
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

Nefopam is an analgesic drug, or painkiller, of the benzoxazocine chemical class used to relieve pain resulting from surgery, or post-operative pain. It is also known as Acupan. Nefopam has been used in Europe, particularly the United Kingdom, since the 1970s. As of March 2011, however, it has not been approved in the United States, where pharmaceuticals are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The nefopam medication is notable for being an alternative to opioid, a substance that has enjoyed a centuries-old reputation for curbing acute pain. The most popular opioid is the opium poppy, from which opium is extracted. Opioids work by decreasing perception and reaction to pain while increasing one's tolerance of it. The downside of opioids, however, is that they tend to cause a feeling of great—albeit exaggerated—joy, thus leading some people to use them as recreational drugs rather than for their therapeutic effects.

Nefopam is manufactured as a non-opioid drug to reduce the risk of it being used for recreational purposes. It also decreases the occurrence of side effects from opioids, such as respiratory depression, constipation and sedation. Although there have been reports of recreational use of nefopam, including fatal cases due to overdose, nefopam causes fewer such instances than do opioid-based pharmaceuticals.

Besides being used for post-operative pain, nefopam is helpful in reducing and preventing shivering. Some people experience shivering after surgery, which is widely attributed to being a side effect of the drugs used during the operation. In some instances, nefopam is also used to curb extremely bad hiccuping.

It is theorized that nefopam works by inhibiting neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine is associated with the basic functions of the brain. Serotonin is credited for contributing to one's feeling of well-being.

Nefopam is not without its shortcomings. It does not have as much potency as opioid analgesic drugs such as morphine and oxycodone. This means that while it produces less side effects and is less likely to be abused as a recreational drug, it is not as effective as the aforementioned treatments in reducing pain. It is, however, more effective than other analgesic drugs such as aspirin, although it is also responsible for a greater occurrence of side effects such as dizziness, nausea and sweating. Some people use it with other opioid analgesics and other types of painkillers.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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