Codeine Side Effects

Codeine Side EffectsCodeine is an opiate (narcotic opioid alkaloid) drug, used like most opiates for its analgesic effect. Codeine is prescribed for the treatment of mild and moderate pain, to relieve cough in case of various respiratory tract diseases, and due to its antidiarrheal effect it’s used to treat diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome (a diseases that features abdominal bloating and discomfort, and chronic abdominal pain).

In most countries, codeine is regulated under narcotic laws. In the United Kingdom, codeine and other drugs that contain codeine in quantities higher than 30 mg (like co-codamol) are drugs available only with a physician’s prescription. However, drugs with lower contents of codeine are “behind-the-counter” available, in other words, available as pharmacy supervised.

One of the main codeine side effects is dependence. Since it’s one of the opiate based pain relievers, it doesn’t make an exception from this rule, that’s why long-term treatment with codeine isn’t recommended. Of course, along with addiction to the drug, tolerance also installs, especially after a long-term use of codeine. The patient may develop resistance to the therapeutic effect of codeine and also to the side effects associated with the consumption of this drug.

One of the signs of opiate sedation from which codeine doesn’t make an exception, is miosis, or the constriction of the pupils. Also, opiates in general, may somewhat increase the cravings for sugar and sweets.

Other common codeine side effects are dry mouth, thirst, nausea and sometimes even vomiting, drowsiness and dizziness. Codeine can also cause orthostatic hypotension, also known as postural hypotension or head rush, which is given by a sudden fall of blood pressure when the patient stretches or quickly stands up.

Due to its antidiarrheial effect, it may cause constipation which can be quite severe in some cases, or if codeine is administered with other drugs or foods that favor constipation. Along with constipation, one of the codeine side effects can also be urinary retention.

One of the most dangerous side effects of codeine is the depression of the respiratory system. In conjunction with other analgesics or opiates, it may even lead to respiratory arrest and death.

Lastly, codeine side effects can also be of allergic nature. Patients that experience an allergic reaction to codeine may have to deal with symptoms like skin rashes and flushing, angioedema, respiratory problems, swelling of the mouth, lips, tongue, pharynx, or in worst cases anaphylactic shock.

One of the adverse effects associated with the long-term use of codeine is addiction, and especially in case of abrupt administration interruption, various withdrawal effects may occur. To minimize the intensity of the withdrawal effects of codeine and other opiates in general, gradual and supervised discontinuation is recommended.

Among the codeine withdrawal effects can be numbered: craving for the drug, irritability and nervousness, sweating, insomnia, runny nose, chills, tremor, muscle spasms, gastrointestinal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or in worst cases, a state of general pain.

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