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Codeine is a painkiller that is sometimes recommended when other painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen have not helped. It can also be used following an injury or to relieve pain after an operation.
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- Codeine is a type of opiate pain relief
- It can also be prescribed to treat diarrhoea or a dry, painful cough
- At low doses it can be bought from a pharmacy, but higher doses are only available when prescribed by a pharmacist or doctor
- Codeine is sometimes available as a preparation that is combined with other pain relief medications including paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin
- Codeine can occasionally cause constipation and nausea
- When taken long term, there is a risk of addiction and dependence
- It is important to read the patient leaflet for a full list of side effects and cautions.
How Does Codeine Work?
Like other opiate pain relief medications, codeine works by blocking pain signals. This means that the pain signal does not reach the brain, therefore reducing your sensation of pain.
Codeine will not treat the cause of the pain. However, it will help you to feel more comfortable. If you sustain an injury, for example, you may take codeine for a few days to manage the pain whilst your body begins the healing process.
One of the side effects of codeine is constipation. Healthcare professionals sometimes take advantage of this by prescribing codeine to treat diarrhoea.
Codeine is also known to reduce coughing. This is because codeine decreases brain activity in the area that is responsible for coughing. Although coughing is part of the body’s defence system against respiratory infections, there are occasions when you might want to minimise coughing. A dry, chronic cough that is causing muscular chest pain could be an indication for using codeine to reduce the frequency of the cough.
How is Codeine Taken?
Codeine is commonly taken as a tablet, but it is also available as a liquid and a cough syrup. In hospital, codeine is sometimes given as an injection.
Codeine tablets can be swallowed with water. Some people prefer to take codeine with a meal or snack to reduce the chance of nausea occurring.
Dosage of Codeine
When taking codeine to treat pain, the usual dose is 15mg to 60mg up to 4 times a day. Each dose should be six hours apart. The maximum dose of codeine in 24 hours is 240mg.
Elderly patients may be prescribed a lower starting dose of codeine to check that it does not cause side effects.
It is normal to be prescribed a short course of codeine that will last for a week or less. If the pain has not resolved in this time, a medical review may be required.
When codeine is taken for diarrhoea, the usual dose is 30mg 3 to 4 times each day.
To treat a dry or painful cough, 15mg to 30mg 3 or 4 times daily is often prescribed.
When taken long term, codeine can become addictive. Using it for longer than a week or two can increase your risk of becoming dependent on the medication. Your prescriber will therefore advise you that codeine is likely to be a short term treatment to deal with your acute symptoms.
Are there any Side Effects?
Like all medications, codeine can have some side effects. The most common side effects include:
- Nausea or vomiting (feeling sick or being sick)
- Feeling sleepy or drowsy
- Feeling dizzy
- Dry mouth.
If these side effects are troublesome or do not settle, speak to a healthcare professional for advice.
Rarely, more serious side effects can occur. These include:
- Changes to breathing such as breathlessness or shallow breathing
- Stiff muscles
- Feeling dizzy or tired due to low blood pressure.
If you notice any of these side effects, you should speak to a doctor.
If you experience a seizure (fit) whilst taking codeine, you must go to A&E straight away.
If you have a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) including breathlessness, lip or tongue swelling, call 999 immediately.
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Codeine may not be suitable for everyone. You should tell your prescriber if you have:
- Lung disease
- Kidney or liver disease
- A head injury
- Problems with your adrenal glands
- Alcohol or drug addiction
- Seizures (fits)
- Low blood pressure
- Inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis
- Myasthenia gravis
- An enlarged prostate
- Thyroid disease.
Codeine may not be suitable for you if you are pregnant, trying to conceive, or breastfeeding.
Some medications can interact with codeine. You may be advised that codeine will not suit you if you already take medicines to treat:
- Insomnia (difficulty sleeping)
- Nausea or vomiting (feeling sick or being sick)
- High blood pressure
- Mental health problems.
You should also tell your prescriber about any herbal remedies or supplements you take. This will allow your prescriber to check that codeine will not interact with them.
It is important that your doctor checks that codeine will suit you. Your doctor should complete a thorough health questionnaire and review your current medications before prescribing this medication.
Where to Buy Codeine Online?
You can safely buy codeine online here at EU Meds. Our purchase process will guide you through getting the necessary prescription and receiving your order online through a UK-located pharmacy.