Background Pentazocine was introduced in 1967 as a “non-narcotic, nonaddicting” analgesic. However, the abuse potential of this medication was soon recognized, and cutaneous and muscular complications of pentazocine abuse have been reported.
Methods Demographic and clinical data on 10 patients with pentazocine-induced ulcers attending the Dermatology Outpatient Department of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, India between November 2000 and October 2002 have been compiled.
Results Ten patients with pentazocine-induced ulcers were seen at AIIMS between November 2000 and October 2002, six of whom were female. The average age of these patients was 32 years. The duration of the complaints ranged from 10 days to 7 years (average 17.5 months). Nine of the 10 patients had past history of painful medical conditions for which they had received pentazocine injections. All the patients presented with deep ulcers and sinuses over the accessible sites. The margins of these ulcers were hyperpigmented and indurated. Six patients had scars along the superficial vein access sites. Three patients had puffy-hand syndrome, while two had muscle contractures. No underlying psychiatric disorders were found in any of these patients. Urine screening for pentazocine was positive in two patients. Antinuclear antibody (ANA), antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA) and antibody against DNA (antidsDNA) tests and screening for infections such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) were negative in all patients.
Conclusions Pentazocine abuse can be suspected from cutaneous findings, even when the patient does not volunteer a history of self-medication. Recognition of the condition will prevent misdirected investigations and treatment. The patient should be encouraged to seek treatment for drug dependence.