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What Is Naproxen? Uses, Half-Life, Abuse and Withdrawal 

Last Updated: March 23, 2024

Authored by Isaak Stotts, LP

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Naproxen is a popular and accessible painkiller. Benefits of Naproxen Sodium (Naproxen generic name) mainly involve effective treatment of conditions like arthritis, gout, menstrual cramps, and mild to moderate fever. The drug’s daily usage is generally safe when a patient is adhering to the instructions; however, the misuse of this drug can lead to a risk of addiction. Naproxen abuse is dangerous and can cause severe health issues.

Table Of Contents:

Two doctors wearing masks.

Aleve Definition

Aleve (Naproxen) is mostly used as a painkiller as it has both anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. It has been available as a prescription drug in the USA since 1976. It is both a prescription and OTC medicine. One can buy a prescription Naproxen, in which case it is available as a tablet or an effervescent. Moreover, its classification as a painkiller means the prescription is necessary, especially for patients suffering from different types of soreness and tissue inflammation.

The drug is available as an over-the-counter (OTC) drug with the brand name Aleve. At the same time, prescription Naproxen is known as Naprosyn and Anaprox.

Is Aleve an NSAID? Naproxen Drug Class

According to Aleve definition – it is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Its anti-inflammatory properties are beneficial for treating soreness and painful sensations. In the U.S, this med is commonly prescribed for pain relief. It is quite usual for individuals to use Naprosyn for headaches.

Woman taking Naproxen pill.

According to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), prescription Naproxen is not a controlled drug. Thus, the possibility of abusing or misusing the med is very high, especially among patients who use it for soreness relief. Often, one may be tempted to take a higher than the recommended dose of the original medicine or Naproxen generic.

Naprosyn is not classified as a narcotic, albeit some of its effects are similar to narcotic drugs. A study published by the Harvard School of Medicine found that the med provides as much relief from pain as narcotics. People who took prescription Naproxen 250mg (Naprosyn) experienced the same level of relief from backache as those who combined OTC Naproxen with a muscle relaxant or other painkillers like oxycodone.

The medicine does not induce a feel high effect on patients.

Is Aleve a Blood Thinner?

According to Aleve definition, it is not classified as a blood thinner. However, older people require blood-thinning drugs and are also prone to arthritis. Geriatric patients tend to combine OTC Naproxen with antiplatelets and anticoagulants such as Aspirin and Warfarin, respectively. But given that Naprosyn affects how blood platelets work, there is a risk of internal bleeding. A study by Harvard Medical School cautions against mixing NSAIDs with blood thinners.

Is Naprosyn A Muscle Relaxant?

Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, patients may feel relaxed after taking Aleve. However, this medicine is not a muscle relaxant. Naproxen is classified as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). However, patients suffering from low back pain can use the prescription version of the medicine alone or in combination with relaxants to relieve the ache in skeletal muscle.

What is Naproxen Used for?

Being one of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications, Naprosyn is a useful tool for pain management. A common Aleve use case is in the treatment of inflammation that may occur due to various health conditions. Moreover, Aleve pills help with headaches and other types of acute soreness.

Woman touching her neck because of pain.

As a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent, the uses for Naproxen are quite similar to that of its counterparts in treating pain and inflammation.

The Drug’s Use Includes (but is not limited to):

  • Body ache
  • Dental pain
  • Arthritis
  • Headache
  • Muscle/joint inflammation
  • Rheumatic pain
  • Bechterew’s disease
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Soft-tissue rheumatism
  • Gout
  • Chronic polyarthritis
  • Juvenile arthritis
  • Migraine attacks
  • Tumor-induced fever
  • Blood loss resulting from menorrhagia in women that use IUDs as contraceptives.

Naproxen generic pills may cost less than the prescription brands, but they all share the same active ingredient. The drug is available in three forms: Naproxen, Naproxen sodium, and Naproxen suspension.

How Long Does Aleve Last?

Since Naprosyn is a popular NSAID for pain management, people are afraid that Aleve affects the drug test. According to a study, Naproxen half-life is longer compared to other NSAIDs. It is completely cleared from the body between 12 to 17 hours from the last dose.

How is Naproxen Metabolized?

The drug is metabolized by the liver, and its by-products are eliminated through the urine. On average, the medicine and its metabolites are completely cleared from the body for 2.5 days, but it may take as long as 4 to 5 days for full elimination. However, drug elimination times also depend on the amount of dose taken, length of time the drug was taken, and any possible Naproxen interactions with other drugs.

Naprosyn Detection Window

So, can Aleve show up on a drug test? Several factors may contribute to a false-positive result, including what sample is taken to test for drugs.

Naproxen In Urine

Urine tests are typically used as the first line of screening for the presence of drugs in the system. There are reports of the substance being detected in urine, causing false-positive results in drug tests. One study showed that both OTC and prescription-only medications might cause false-positive results when urine tests, most commonly immunoassays, are used. The researchers recommended that patients who test positive using urine samples only must be made to undergo more rigorous confirmatory testing to rule out the possibility that non-metabolized routinely prescribed medications, including Naprosyn, are not causing the positive results.

Naproxen in Blood

In general, testing blood for the presence of drugs in the system is more accurate than a urine test. Although, there is no reliable information currently about how metabolites of Naproxen may show up in drug tests using blood samples. There is also no information about how long Aleve can be detected in the blood.

Doctor carries out a blood test.

Naproxen in Saliva

In general, drug tests using saliva are unreliable, even though the oral swab test is the most common drug testing procedure employed in the workplace. There are no reliable accounts documenting false-positive results when taking Naproxen on a drug test using a saliva sample.

Naproxen in Hair

Illicit drugs can usually be detected for several months by performing drug tests on hair samples. It is not clear if Naprosyn will show on hair strands. There is also no reliable information about Aleve causing false-positive results for this drug test.

False-Positive Test For THC

The possibility that drugs like Aleve show up on drug tests is well-documented. In one of the studies, researchers reviewed available evidence for false positive drug tests for a number of commonly prescribed medications. The researchers found that taking Aleve before a drug test may potentially cause a false-positive result for Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient found in marijuana that causes a “high”. In less common instances, the study also found cases where Aleve caused false-positive results for barbiturates.

What Does Naproxen Do? Mechanism Of Action

The Naproxen onset of action is around an hour, and its effect can last for up to 12 hours.

The components of Aleve structure block arachidonate binding, causing an inhibition of the cyclooxygenase enzymes (COX-1 and COX-2). This consequently results in antipyretic, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory effects in the body.

So, Naproxen Mechanism Of Action Consists Of:

Anti-Inflammatory Mechanism

The Naprosyn medication slows down the prostaglandin synthesis by inhibiting the cyclooxygenase isoenzymes – mostly the COX-2 isoenzymes. COX-1 is only expressed at a few inflammation sites, especially in patients dealing with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It is also the major enzyme of prostaglandin synthesis in inflammation of the bursae.

Antipyretic Mechanism

The antipyretic activity involves the return of body temperature to a normal level through the suppression of prostaglandins (PGE2 in this case) in the circumventricular organs within and around the hypothalamus. This means that the use of Naprosyn will help to battle the high temperature, but the desired effect depends on the dose’s strength.

Analgesic Mechanism

Aleve also comes in handy when inflammation leads to the sensitivity of pain receptors in specific areas of the body. The mechanism involved here is the indirect analgesic effect that the substance imposes on prostaglandins E and F – both of which are responsible for the sensitization of pain receptors. The analgesic effect occurs due to the inhibition of any further production of prostaglandins in the affected areas. However, it does not directly impact the pain threshold or hyperalgesia.

Is Naproxen Addictive?

The dependency on Naprosyn medicine is widespread because of its addictive nature. The drug is very commonly prescribed, available, and used for any sort of pain. The fact that it treats and gives instant relief explains its abuse as well.

Because of its quick and highly effective reaction to the condition, people often become habitual of taking it in bearable conditions as well. They become so addictive that they sometimes prefer consuming the drug to experience its effect even before the ache becomes unbearable. This also leads to a dosage increase. A patient may start the treatment course with a 220 mg dose and increase it to 500 mg to achieve the desired effect.

However, the prolonged use of the drug may grow a tolerance to it. While one may not notice the impending addiction to this medication, the user should still be aware of how long Naprosyn stays in one’s system and how harmful it can be for kidneys and stomach lining.

Signs Of Naproxen Abuse Include:

  • Defensiveness
  • Changes to habits
  • Social withdrawal

Symptoms Of Abuse Include:

  • Mood changes
  • Brain fog
  • Anxiety
  • Lethargy
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Low pain tolerance
  • Use of high doses

If you experience any of the abuse symptoms – consult your doctor. To avoid the risk of addiction, the medical specialist may prescribe other Naprosyn alternatives.

Naprosyn Abuse Risk Groups

Certain groups of people are more likely to misuse or abuse the medication due to constantly experiencing pain.

These Groups Include:

  • Physically Active People
  • Pregnant Women
  • Chronic Pain Sufferers

Athletes and physically active people are mostly a victim of Aleve abuse due to the chronic consumption for strains, cramps, and mild/severe injuries.

Painful sensations are not rare during the prenatal stage. Fevers, headaches, cramps are all common during pregnancy. Thus, future mothers may become addicted to Aleve since the pain threshold is an individual thing. However, using Naproxen while breastfeeding should be avoided as it can lead to severe complications.

Pregnant woman taking Aleve pills.

Patients who experience chronic pains due to different medical conditions have the highest risk of becoming addicted to Aleve med. Such patients can’t live a full life without constantly taking pain medication. Also, it is not rare that people with chronic pain may abuse a combination of Aleve pills and alcohol to enhance the medication’s analgesic properties.

Withdrawal From Aleve

While the medication can be taken safely when used as prescribed by the physician, it can cause dependence and tolerance, even if used for a short time. Anyone who is chronically using the drug will experience withdrawal. The process of quitting the Naprosyn is presented with a range of signs and symptoms.

Physical withdrawal symptoms of Aleve can last from 48-72 hours or up to 30-60 days. The severity of withdrawal depends upon the quantity and how long the user has used Naprosyn. Withdrawal symptoms occur as the body strives to recover from the interference of Naproxen within its systems.

Some Of the Aleve Physical Withdrawal Symptoms Include:

  • Severe and repeated episodes of headache that become painful to the extent that vomiting and shivering happen to be a common part of it
  • Fever and flu-like symptoms
  • Nausea with no specific reason before, during, and after having a meal
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Hallucinations

Some Of the Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms Are:

  • Restlessness
  • Irritation
  • Fluctuating mood swings
  • Insomnia

Quitting the medication cold turkey or without medical help is dangerous. The management of Naproxen side effects and withdrawal requires proper medical attention.

Avoiding Naproxen Abuse

Naprosyn med is a widespread painkiller with a high number of annual prescriptions. Though the Naproxen high is not achievable, this doesn’t mean that the medication is not abusable. It is easy to obtain the drug from the pharmacy. One should also be aware of imprints like Naproxen 500 as different dosages have their respective imprints. This will help in recognizing the proper dosage for an underlying condition.

If one is suffering from drug abuse, it is important to seek medical attention from rehab specialists. Specialized addiction rehabilitation facilities with professional staff is the only viable solution for those struggling with Aleve addiction. Customizable treatment programs for addicts will help to overcome the addiction and resolve the root problem. Moreover, these programs will also help mitigate Naprosyn withdrawal side effects in a secure and knowledgeable environment.

If one suspects a family member or a close person in Aleve abuse or addiction, it is vital to look for medical attention. Specialists at the local rehabilitation centers will provide adequate help for those struggling with substance abuse. In such facilities, a patient may find various substance addiction treatment programs that are fully customizable to suit one’s needs.


Page Sources

  1. Bansal, V., Dex, T., Proskin, H. and Garreffa, S. A Look at the Safety Profile of Over‐the‐Counter Naproxen Sodium: A Meta‐analysis. The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 2001. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11210392
  2. Brutzkus JC, Varacallo M. Naproxen. StatPearls Publishing. 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK525965/
  3. Harvard Medical School. The Best Meds For Back Pain. 2018. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/the-best-meds-for-back-pain
  4. Gregory Curfman. FDA strengthens warning that NSAIDs increase heart attack and stroke risk. 2015. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/fda-strengthens-warning-that-nsaids-increase-heart-attack-and-stroke-risk-201507138138
  5. FDA Naprelan (Naproxen Sodium) Prescription Information https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2011/020353s028lbl.pdf
  6. Suthisisang, C.C., Poolsup, N., Suksomboon, N., Lertpipopmetha, V. and Tepwitukgid, B. (2010), Meta‐Analysis of the Efficacy and Safety of Naproxen Sodium in the Acute Treatment of Migraine. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20236345

Published on: March 23rd, 2020

Updated on: March 23rd, 2024

About Author

Isaak Stotts, LP

Isaak Stotts is an in-house medical writer in AddictionResource. Isaak learned addiction psychology at Aspen University and got a Master's Degree in Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling. After graduation, he became a substance abuse counselor, providing individual, group, and family counseling for those who strive to achieve and maintain sobriety and recovery goals.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.

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