July 27, 2016
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"Despite being at the front lines in the nation's battle against opioid addiction as the first to treat chronic pain, and opioid overuse, few primary care and family physicians use the one drug available to them to treat addiction, buprenorphine, "...





Patients Dependent on Narcotics

Because of its opioid antagonist properties, butorphanol is not recommended for use in patients dependent on narcotics. Such patients should have an adequate period of withdrawal from opioid drugs prior to beginning butorphanol therapy. In patients taking opioid analgesics chronically, butorphanol has precipitated withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, mood changes, hallucinations, dysphoria, weakness, and diarrhea.

Because of the difficulty in assessing opioid tolerance in patients who have recently received repeated doses of narcotic analgesic medication, caution should be used in the administration of butorphanol to such patients.

Drug Abuse and Dependence

Drug Abuse-Butorphanol tartrate, by all routes of administration, has been associated with episodes of abuse. Of the cases received, there were more reports of abuse with the nasal spray formulation than with the injectable formulation.

Physical Dependence, Tolerance, and Withdrawal-Prolonged, continuous use of butorphanol tartrate may result in physical dependence or tolerance (a decrease in response to a given dose). Abrupt cessation of use by patients with physical dependence may result in symptoms of withdrawal.

Note-Proper patient selection, dose and prescribing limitations, appropriate directions for use, and frequent monitoring are important to minimize the risk of abuse and physical dependence. (See Drug Abuse And Dependence)



Hypotension associated with syncope during the first hour of dosing with STADOL (butorphanol tartrate) NS has been reported rarely, particularly in patients with past history of similar reactions to opioid analgesics. Therefore, patients should be advised to avoid activities with potential risks.

Head Injury and Increased Intracranial Pressure

As with other opioids, the use of butorphanol in patients with head injury may be associated with carbon dioxide retention and secondary elevation of cerebrospinal fluid pressure, drug-induced miosis, and alterations in mental state that would obscure the interpretation of the clinical course of patients with head injuries. In such patients, butorphanol should be used only if the benefits of use outweigh the potential risks.

Disorders of Respiratory Function or Control

Butorphanol may produce respiratory depression, especially in patients receiving other CNS active agents, or patients suffering from CNS diseases or respiratory impairment.

Hepatic and Renal Disease

In patients with hepatic or renal impairment, the initial dose of STADOL (butorphanol tartrate) Injection should generally be half the recommended adult dose (0.5 mg IV and 1.0 mg IM). Repeat doses in these patients should be determined by the patient's response rather than at fixed intervals but will generally be no less than 6 hours apart. The initial dose sequence of STADOL (butorphanol tartrate) NS should be limited to 1 mg followed, if needed, by 1 mg in 90-120 minutes. The repeat dose sequence in these patients should be determined by the patient's response rather than at fixed times but will generally be at intervals of no less than 6 hours (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY: Pharmacokinetics and Individualization of Dosage).

Cardiovascular Effects

Because butorphanol may increase the work of the heart, especially the pulmonary circuit, the use of butorphanol in patients with acute myocardial infarction, ventricular dysfunction, or coronary insufficiency should be limited to those situations where the benefits clearly outweigh the risk (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY).

Severe hypertension has been reported rarely during butorphanol therapy. In such cases, butorphanol should be discontinued and the hypertension treated with antihypertensive drugs. In patients who are not opioid dependent, naloxone has also been reported to be effective.

Use in Ambulatory Patients

  1. Opioid analgesics, including butorphanol, impair the mental and physical abilities required for the performance of potentially dangerous tasks such as driving a car or operating machinery. Effects such as drowsiness or dizziness can appear, usually within the first hour after dosing. These effects may persist for varying periods of time after dosing. Patients who have taken butorphanol should not drive or operate dangerous machinery for at least 1 hour and until the effects of the drug are no longer present.
  2. Alcohol should not be consumed while using butorphanol. Concurrent use of butorphanol with drugs that affect the central nervous system (eg, alcohol, barbiturates, tranquilizers, and antihistamines) may result in increased central nervous system depressant effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, and impaired mental function.
  3. Butorphanol is one of a class of drugs known to be abused and thus should be handled accordingly (see Drug Abuse And Dependence).
  4. Patients should be instructed on the proper use of STADOL (butorphanol tartrate) NS (see PATIENT INSTRUCTIONS).

Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility

Two-year carcinogenicity studies were conducted in mice and rats given butorphanol tartrate in the diet up to 60 mg/kg/day (180 mg/m2 for mice and 354 mg/m2 for rats). There was no evidence of carcinogenicity in either species in these studies.

Butorphanol was not genotoxic in S. typhimurium or E. coli assays or in unscheduled DNA synthesis and repair assays conducted in cultured human fibroblast cells.

Rats treated orally with 160 mg/kg/day (944 mg/m2) had a reduced pregnancy rate. However, a similar effect was not observed with a 2.5 mg/kg/day (14.75 mg/m2) subcutaneous dose.


Pregnancy Category C: Reproduction studies in mice, rats, and rabbits during organogenesis did not reveal any teratogenic potential to butorphanol. However, pregnant rats treated subcutaneously with butorphanol at 1 mg/kg (5.9 mg/m2) had a higher frequency of stillbirths than controls. Butorphanol at 30 mg/kg/oral (360 mg/m2) and 60 mg/kg/oral (720 mg/m2) also showed higher incidences of post-implantation loss in rabbits.

There are no adequate and well-controlled studies of STADOL (butorphanol tartrate) in pregnant women before 37 weeks of gestation. STADOL (butorphanol tartrate) should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the infant.

Labor and Delivery

There have been rare reports of infant respiratory distress/apnea following the administration of STADOL (butorphanol tartrate) Injection during labor. The reports of respiratory distress/apnea have been associated with administration of a dose within 2 hours of delivery, use of multiple doses, use with additional analgesic or sedative drugs, or use in preterm pregnancies (see OVERDOSAGE: Treatment).

In a study of 119 patients, the administration of 1 mg of IV STADOL (butorphanol tartrate) Injection during labor was associated with transient (10-90 minutes) sinusoidal fetal heart rate patterns, but was not associated with adverse neonatal outcomes. In the presence of an abnormal fetal heart rate pattern, STADOL (butorphanol tartrate) Injection should be used with caution.

STADOL (butorphanol tartrate) NS is not recommended during labor or delivery because there is no clinical experience with its use in this setting.

Nursing Mothers

Butorphanol has been detected in milk following administration of STADOL (butorphanol tartrate) Injection to nursing mothers. The amount an infant would receive is probably clinically insignificant (estimated 4 g/L of milk in a mother receiving 2 mg IM four times a day).

Although there is no clinical experience with the use of STADOL (butorphanol tartrate) NS in nursing mothers, it should be assumed that butorphanol will appear in the milk in similar amounts following the nasal route of administration.

Pediatric Use

Butorphanol is not recommended for use in patients below 18 years of age because safety and efficacy have not been established in this population.

Geriatric Use

Of the approximately 1500 patients treated with STADOL (butorphanol tartrate) Injection in clinical studies, 15% were 61 years of age or older and 1% were 76 years or older. Of the approximately 1700 patients treated with STADOL (butorphanol tartrate) NS in clinical studies, 8% were 65 years of age or older and 2% were 75 years or older.

Due to changes in clearance, the mean half-life of butorphanol is increased by 25% (to over 6 hours) in patients over the age of 65 years (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY: Pharmacokinetics). Elderly patients may be more sensitive to the side effects of butorphanol. In clinical studies of STADOL (butorphanol tartrate) NS, elderly patients had an increased frequency of headache, dizziness, drowsiness, vertigo, constipation, nausea and/or vomiting, and nasal congestion compared with younger patients. There are insufficient efficacy data for patients ≥ 65 years to determine whether they respond differently from younger patients.

The initial dose of STADOL (butorphanol tartrate) Injection recommended for elderly patients should generally be half the recommended adult dose (0.5 mg IV and 1.0 mg IM). Repeat doses should be determined by the patient's response rather than at fixed intervals, but will generally be no less than 6 hours apart (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY: Individualization of Dosage).

Initially a 1-mg dose of STADOL (butorphanol tartrate) NS should generally be used in geriatric patients and 90-120 minutes should elapse before administering a second 1-mg dose, if needed (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY: Individualization of Dosage).

Butorphanol and its metabolites are known to be substantially excreted by the kidney, and the risk of toxic reactions to this drug may be greater in patients with impaired renal function. Because elderly patients are more likely to have decreased renal function, care should be taken in dose selection.

This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

Last reviewed on RxList: 6/2/2008


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