Codeine is a substance used medically to relieve pain. It is highly addictive (that is, it is habit-forming). Mental and physical dependence usually occur when used for long-term relief of pain but are unlikely to occur when used for short-term pain relief. Its use by pregnant women is highly discouraged because it can cause Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome in the newborn, which may be life-threatening if not treated on time.
The primary use of this substance is to:
- Treat mild to moderate pain (for relieving of pain). For more severe pain, it is best to use a different type of opioid drug instead because side effects are less likely to occur.
- Suppress a dry cough. Codeine is a constituent of many cough suppressants.
- Relieve short-term diarrhea.
It is important codeine is only used on a short-term basis for these indications and not as a continuous treatment to avoid addiction. Any other use of this opioid other than those listed above is considered Abuse especially when administered on humans.
This drug comes in tablet form (solid form) or syrup (liquid form). It is the main ingredient in prescription-grade cough suppressants. Sometimes it can be combined with another substance to achieve a synergistic effect. A typical example is Tylenol 3, which is codeine combined with acetaminophen.
Mechanism of Action
Codeine is a narcotic (opioid) pain-reliever and cough suppressant similar to morphine and hydrocodone. As a result, whenever even the smallest amount is taken, it is converted to morphine in the body. For example, if you take a 30mg dose of codeine, you would produce approximately 4.5mg of morphine from the dose in your liver.
NOTE: The exact amount of morphine produced in the body varies from one person to another according to the individual’s genetic makeup.
The actual mechanism of action of this opioid is not yet known; but just like morphine, it binds to receptors in the brain (opioid receptors). These receptors are biologically important for transmitting the sensation of pain throughout the body and brain.
There is a certain enzyme in the liver that is involved in converting codeine to morphine. The enzyme is called CYP2D6 and everyone has a different amount of this enzyme in their body.
How Codeine Functions
What functions does this opioid play in the body in a bid to relief pain? It:
- Increases tolerance to pain
- Decreases discomfort, meanwhile, the pain is still apparent to the patient.
By increasing tolerance to pain and decreasing discomfort, Codeine is able to relieve the patient off the pains.
In addition to reducing pain, codeine also have other effects on the body just like any other drug or xenobiotic. These other effects are known as side effects. So, what are the side effects of codeine?
The most frequent (mild) side effects of codeine include:
- Sedation (calmness and unhuriedness)
- Drowsiness (sleepiness/dizziness)
- Depresses breathing (Shortness of breath)
- Nausea (feeling of vomiting)
- Allergic reactions
- Abdominal pain
The side effects listed above are only the mild and most frequent ones.
Codeine also has some serious and rare side effects.
Serious side effects of codeine includes:
- Life-threatening respiratory depression
- Severe low blood pressure
- Adrenal insufficiency
- Accidental ingestion of codeine can result in fatal overdose.
Read: Gonorrhea: Symptoms, Prevention And Treatment
Codeine is the generic name or the name of the actual drug component inside the medication. There are many different brand names, depending on which company has manufactured the drug.
Is codeine addictive?
Like I said before: this opioid is highly addictive (that is, it is habit-forming). Mental and physical dependence on codeine usually occur when used for long-term relief of pain but are unlikely to occur when used for short-term pain relief. The use of codeine by pregnant women is highly discouraged because it can cause Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome in the newborn, which may be life-threatening if not treated on time.
Codeine Addiction usually develops from continued abuse of the drug or any other substance containing codeine. Codeine can lull its users into a false sense of security because many people do not consider it to be as powerful or addictive as its opiate family members.
When this addiction starts to set in, many people don’t stop at codeine anymore. They try to reach a better high by mixing it with other substances, including alcohol and some other soft drinks with high gas contents like Coker Cola and those containing caffeine. Combining codeine and alcohol can lead to dangerous levels of depression in the brain and respiratory system since they are both central nervous system (CNS) depressants.
The use of this drug often starts out innocently enough with a drug prescription for a cough syrup containing codeine. Because it is less regulated than some opiates considered to be more dangerous (such as morphine and OxyContin), getting and abusing it is relatively easy. Though less potent, codeine provides effects similar to morphine.
These effects include:
- Euphoria (feeling of happiness)
- Apathy (lack of interest or enthusiasm)
- Drowsiness and
As an opiate (narcotic), this substance runs a high risk of its users developing a tolerance and eventually a dependence on it. Although many people begin using codeine to relieve a legitimate condition, it is frequently abused as tolerance develops.
Many codeine users begin to turn to the drug to cope with all of their physical pain and eventually their emotional pain as well. That is exactly how codeine addiction develops.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with a codeine problem, get help now.
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