Why Propoxyphene and Methaqualone Are No Longer Need in the Drug Panel Mix

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Posted by: David Garcia October 17, 2023

As a recruiter or human resource employer, you know the importance of conducting thorough background checks on potential employees. Drug testing is a crucial component of this process, which can help you identify candidates who may pose a risk to your business, potential customers, or other employees due to drug use.

Two drugs commonly prescribed as painkillers and sedatives in the past, Propoxyphene and Methaqualone, have had a rollercoaster journey in the world of drug testing. Let’s dive into the rise and fall of these substances and what you need to know.

The Rise of Propoxyphene and Methaqualone: How These Two Drugs Became Popular Painkillers and Sedatives

Over the years, the pharmaceutical industry has seen drugs come and go. Some have left a mark in medical history, while others have been forgotten. Two such drugs are Propoxyphene and Methaqualone. Despite having different purposes, they have one thing in common – they were heavily prescribed during their peak periods. But what made them so popular, and how did they impact the lives of those who took them? Let’s delve deeper into the history and use of these drugs.

Firstly, let’s talk about Propoxyphene. It was marketed under different brand names, like

Darvon and Dolene. Propoxyphene is an opioid that binds to opioid receptors in the brain, blocking pain signals from reaching the brain. 

When Propoxyphene was first introduced in the 1950s, it was considered a game-changer in pain management. It was widely prescribed for various conditions, including muscle pain, headaches, menstrual cramps, and dental pain. In fact, at its peak, Propoxyphene was one of the most commonly prescribed painkillers in the United States. The drug was popular partly because it was less addictive than other opioids, but this also made it more prone to abuse as people believed it to be less harmful than other painkillers.

On the other hand, Methaqualone was first introduced in the 1960s as a sleep aid. It was marketed under the brand name Quaalude. Methaqualone is not an opioid-like Propoxyphene, but it is a sedative-hypnotic drug that works by enhancing the effects of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain.

Methaqualone became widely used in the 1960s and 1970s due to its reputation as a safer

alternative to barbiturate sleeping pills, which had a high risk of overdose and dependence. In 1972, Methaqualone was one of the most frequently prescribed sedatives in the United States.

However, as time passed, both Propoxyphene and Methaqualone fell out of favor due to

increased reports of addiction, dependency, overdose, and other adverse effects, as we will explain next.

The Fall of Propoxyphene and Methaqualone in the United States: Safety Concerns and Product Withdrawals

As with any drug, long-term use and misuse can result in dangerous side effects, and unfortunately, Propoxyphene and Methaqualone were no exception. The abuse of these drugs caused concern among medical professionals and regulatory agencies, leading to product withdrawals.

In the case of Propoxyphene, reports of addiction, dependence, overdose, and other adverse effects emerged. One of the most significant issues with Propoxyphene was its cardiac toxicity. Several studies found a link between Propoxyphene use and an increased risk of heart arrhythmias that could potentially be life-threatening.

In 2010, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally pulled Propoxyphene from the market, citing concerns about its safety. Propoxyphene was estimated to be responsible for over 10,000 deaths in the United States between 1981 and 2006.

Methaqualone was also linked to a range of adverse reactions, including hallucinations, seizures, and even coma. In the 1980s, the drug was classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it had no recognized medical use and a high potential for abuse. By 1985, its production and distribution were banned in the United States.

The withdrawal of Propoxyphene and Methaqualone from the market had lasting effects. It increased awareness of the dangers of prescription drugs and sparked discussions on the need for better regulations in the pharmaceutical industry.

In addition, the withdrawal of these drugs created a demand for safer alternatives for pain management and sleep aids. This led to the development of new drugs less prone to abuse, addiction, and adverse effects.

Removing Propoxyphene and Methaqualone from Your Drug Testing Panel: Why It’s Time to Focus on Commonly Abused Substances

As a background screening company, we understand the importance of ensuring a drug-free workplace. Drug testing is crucial to this process, which can help you identify candidates who may pose a risk to your business or other employees due to drug use.

However, as times change, so do drug trends. The once popular and commonly abused drugs

may no longer be prevalent, and staying up to date with the current drug landscape is crucial. For example, Propoxyphene and Methaqualone, once heavily prescribed as painkillers and sedatives, have fallen out of favor due to safety concerns and product withdrawals. As a result, it may not be necessary to include them in your drug testing panel.

In fact, studies have shown that between 2019 and 2022, with 7.5 million samples tested, zero had been positive for Propoxyphene; between 2012 and 2022, with 8 million samples tested, zero had been positive for Methaqualone. This data highlights the decreasing usage and abuse of these substances.

Instead, focusing on commonly abused substances in today’s market may be more beneficial. These can include opiates, cocaine, amphetamines, and marijuana. By targeting these substances, you can ensure that your drug testing panel is relevant and effective in identifying potential drug use among employees.

In addition, it is essential to stay current with changing drug laws and regulations. Several states have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use, and some employers have opted to remove marijuana from their drug testing panel, except for safety-sensitive positions.

In conclusion, reviewing and updating your drug testing panel is crucial to ensure it is relevant and effective as the drug landscape changes. Removing Propoxyphene and Methaqualone from your panel may be a wise choice, and focusing on commonly abused substances can help you maintain a drug-free workplace.

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