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Is Tramadol Stronger Than Codeine?

31st August 2022

Tramadol and codeine are both prescription opioid painkillers that are given to people suffering from acute to moderate pain. Both of these medications are relatively similar and are used to treat the same conditions. But, what is the stronger medication, and what medication is best for you? In this article, we will answer both of these questions. We will also provide more information regarding the side effects and withdrawal symptoms of tramadol and codeine, as well as some precautions you should follow while taking either tramadol or codeine.

What are tramadol and codeine?

As mentioned, tramadol and codeine are both opioid painkillers that are prescribed to people that are suffering from acute to moderate pain. They are very similar in terms of what they do and what they treat, and it can be difficult to differentiate one from the other. Opioids are medications that derive from the opium poppy. They are commonly used to treat pain as they block signals of pain from the body to the brain. They can also help people to relax and are good for helping those with constant pain be it acute or chronic.

What are tramadol and codeine used for?

Tramadol and codeine are both opioid painkillers that are used to treat acute to moderate pain. They are considered to be lower-strength painkillers than others, for example, morphine. However, they are still stronger than over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. They can also have different uses, for example, codeine is used in some cough syrups and cold remedies due to its pain relieving properties. Often, opioids are prescribed to people that are suffering from pain for a sustained period of time as they may be more effective than over-the-counter alternatives.

Is tramadol stronger than codeine?

The main difference between tramadol and codeine is that tramadol is man-made, whereas codeine is taken directly from the opium poppy. Both medications can be taken in different dosages based on the level of pain that someone is experiencing. Codeine, for example, is available in strengths of 15mg and 30mg, with the latter being prescribed to those suffering from moderate to moderately severe pain.

Side Effects and Withdrawal Symptoms

Are there any side effects of using tramadol and codeine?
As with all medications, there are side effects that some people may experience. Tramadol and codeine have very similar side effects as they are similar medications. The most common side effects that some people could experience include:

  • Sedation
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness

These side effects are all linked to both codeine and tramadol, and they are relatively minor side effects. The more severe side effect of both of these medications is addiction. Opioids can be addictive if abused.

Are there any withdrawal symptoms of tramadol and codeine?
When someone stops taking tramadol or codeine, they should not expect to notice any withdrawal symptoms, as long as they have only had the amounts prescribed by their doctor or prescriber. Long-term users of tramadol and codeine may experience withdrawal symptoms when they come off of the medication and should get in touch with their doctor if they do. Some common withdrawal symptoms people suffer from include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Fluctuating temperatures
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Unpleasant dreams

Dosage

What is the dosage of tramadol and codeine?

There are many different dosage options for both tramadol and codeine, all of which are dependent on the condition of the patient. For people with low to moderate levels of pain, a dosage of around 15mg will suffice. However, those suffering from moderate to severe pain they may be better off with a dosage of 30mg. It is important to stress that you should only ever take tramadol and codeine as instructed by your doctor or prescriber, and you should make sure never to take more than your prescribed amount as indicated.

Precautions

Do any other drugs interact with tramadol and codeine?

When you are taking either tramadol or codeine you may have to take precautions about what other medications you take at the same time. You should always avoid other painkillers when taking either tramadol or codeine as mixing painkillers can cause severe side effects such as seizures, breathing problems, and comas. You should also never drink or take drugs whilst using tramadol or codeine as this can lead to side effects such as drowsiness becoming worse.

Can you take tramadol and codeine when pregnant?

When you are pregnant you should avoid any opioid medications as they can lead to complications with the baby's development and birth. When you take opioids when pregnant, you are more susceptible to miscarriage, premature birth, and drug withdrawal. The withdrawal you may face is known as NAS, which stands for neonatal abstinence syndrome. NAS withdrawal means that your baby will feel withdrawal symptoms from the medication that you used.

Can you take tramadol and codeine when breastfeeding?

Again, it is strongly recommended that you do not take any opioid painkillers whilst you are breastfeeding. When a woman breastfeeds, some of the chemicals in her body will be in her milk. This is usually by no means harmful for women that are not taking any other substances. However, when a woman uses opioids, her milk may become affected. Babies that drink breastmilk from mothers who are using opioids may begin to feel drowsy, as well as experiencing difficulty breathing and breastfeeding. In serious cases, babies can even die from drinking milk from a mother using opioids.

Are tramadol and codeine addictive?

As mentioned, opioid medications can become addictive when used in the long term. You should only ever use your prescribed medication as directed by your doctor or prescriber. Opioids are addictive as they provide the brain with raised levels of dopamine, a chemical that relieves stress and makes the brain feel better. This feeling can become addictive, and your body may become reliant on it.

Sources
https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/codeine/

https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/tramadol/

https://www.gloshospitals.nhs.uk/documents/12811/Opioids_for_Acute_Pain_Relief_GHPI1661_04_21.pdf