Office of Diversion Control
Propofol (2,6-diisopropylphenol, U.S. patent 4,447,657) is a
AstraZeneca) as a sterile emulsion. It is currently available in
the United States as a prescription medication for use in
human and veterinary medicine.
Propofol is a nonbarbiturate sedative, used in hospital settings
general anesthesia, and sedation of ventilated adults receiving
intensive care, for a period of up to 72 hours.
Propofol, or 2,6-diisopropylphenol (C
a simple molecule and its chemical structure is shown below.
Propofol produces loss of consciousness rapidly within 40
seconds of an intravenous injection. Its duration of action is
short with a mean of 3 to 5 minutes following a single bolus
dose of 2 to 2.5 mg/kg of body weight. Studies investigating
the recovery profile of propofol have reported that patients
anaesthetized with propofol wake-
up “elated”, “euphoric”, and
Clinical studies indicate that 50% of participating
subjects reported “liking” on the Visual An
alog Scale and
showed preference for propofol over placebo. Sub-anesthetic
doses of propofol are
reported to produce feelings of “
-headedness, spaced out and sedation. Propofol at
anesthetic doses is reported to cause dream incidence in 20%
to 60% of the exposed population.
The primary effect of propofol is potentiation of GABA-A
propofol has been shown to produce rewarding and
reinforcing effects in animals. Sub-anesthetic and anesthetic
doses of propofol have been shown to increase dopamine
concentrations in the nucleus accumbens (brain reward
system) in rats.
Propofol has a fast onset of action and crosses the blood-
rapid distribution from the central nervous system to other
tissues. Approximately 70% of the dose is excreted in the
urine within 24 hours and 90% is excreted within 5 days of
with propofol is associated with cessation of breathing in some
adults and children. Prolonged high dose infusions of propofol for
sedation in adults and children have been associated with
cessation of breathing, breakdown of heart muscle, and heart and
kidney failure leading to death in some cases, referred as
“Propofol Infusion Syndrome”
. Propofol abuse may also cause
accumulation of fluid in the lungs, cardio-respiratory depression
and death. There is no antagonist or reversal medication for
Case reports and surveys published in scientific literature indicate
anesthetists, practitioners, nurses and other health care staff.
Some fatalities occurred from propofol abuse. A survey of
propofol abuse in academic anesthesia programs revealed that
18% (23 of 126) of anesthesiology departments in the United
States experienced one or more individuals abusing propofol in
the last 10 years (up to mid-2006) and two departments had more
than one incidence of abuse. The incidence of propofol abuse
among all anesthesia personnel was 0.10%. The mortality among
anesthesiologists abusing propofol was 28% (7 deaths in 25).
This survey also suggested that among anesthesiology staff, the
incidence of propofol abuse increased compared to the previous
survey reported in 2002.
Propofol is rarely encountered by law enforcement personnel or
part, due to its non-control status. According to the National
Forensic Laboratory Information System and the System to
Retrieve Information from Drug Evidence (STRIDE), there were 13
propofol reports from Federal, state, and local forensic
laboratories from January 2010 to June 2012. Two of these were
reported in the first six months of 2012.
Propofol is mostly abused by health care staff including
Propofol is not scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act.
Comments and additional information are welcomed by the Drug
202-307-7183, or Email ODE@usdoj.gov.