Phenacetin (or acetophenetidin) is a pain-relieving and fever-reducing drug, which was widely used between its introduction in 1887 and the 1983 ban imposed by the FDA on its use in the United States. Its use has declined because of its adverse effects, which include increased risk of certain cancers and kidney damage. It is metabolized as paracetamol (acetaminophen), which replaced it in some over-the-counter medications following the ban on phenacetin.
Phenacetin was widely used until the third quarter of the twentieth century, often in the form of an “A.P.C.” or aspirin-phenacetin-caffeine compound analgesic, as a remedy for fever and pain. Phenacetin is now being used as a cutting agent to adulterate cocaine in the UK and Canada, owing to the similar physical features of the two drugs.
Due to low cost phenacetin is used for research into the physical and refractive properties of crystals. It is an ideal compound for this type of research.