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Codeine FAQs

Codeine FAQs

What is codeine?

Codeine is an strong analgesic (a pain killer) belonging to a group called Opoids. It can be used for the relief of moderate pain such as migraines, backaches, toothaches, period pain, neuralgia and rheumatic pain. Some well known preparations of the drug are:
  • Co-codamol: Codeine and Paracetamol.
  • Co-dydramol: Dihydrocodeine and Paracetamol.

How does codeine work?

Codeine works by mimicking the body's own pain reducing chemicals called endorphins. The codeine, like the naturally occuring endorphins, connect with the opiod receptors in the brain to reduce pain signals transmitting from the body to the brain. This means that even when pain is present less pain is felt.

Can children take codeine?

It is always advisable that you contact your GP or pharmacist for advice on codeine. Doctors may prescribe codeine to children as young as 5.

Can I take codeine if I am pregnant or breast feeding?

Codeine should not be taken whilst you are pregnant. The medicine could affect the growth of the baby and can also make the unborn baby dependant on the drug. A safer analgesic such as paracetamol is recommended for women who are pregnant.

Should I be cautious when taking Codeine?

Codeine should not be taken by patients with the following conditions:
  • Slow, shallow breathing.
  • Asthma.
  • Liver failure.
  • Paralysis.
  • Diarrhoea caused by inflammation of the bowel associated with antibiotic use.
  • Diarrhoea associated with acute attacks of ulcerative colitis.
  • Intracranial pressure.
  • People with a head injury.
  • Children under five years of age.
  • It is also advised to avoid codeine whilst drinking alcohol.
Codeine should be taken cautiously in:
  • Elderly people.
  • Decreased liver/kidney function.
  • Asthma.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  • Bronchiectasis.
  • Enlarged prostate gland.
  • Underactive thyroid gland.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Biliary tract disorders.
  • pilepsy.
  • History of drug abuse or dependence.
You should never exceed the stated dose on the packaging and codeine shouldn't be taken with any other medicines that contain codeine.

Does codeine have any side effects?

Side effects with Codeine are uncommon, however known side-effects include:
  • Constipation.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Dizziness.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Headache.
  • Itching or nettle rash.
  • Slow, shallow breathing.
  • Decreased blood pressure.
  • Difficulty passing urine.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Sweating.
  • Flushing.
  • Mood changes.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Contraction of the pupils.
  • Changes in heart rate.
  • Decreased sex drive.
  • Dependence on the medicine.
Codeine may cause drowsiness, if this occurs do not drive or operate heavy machinery. Avoid drinking alcohol when taking codeine.

Will taking codeine interfere with my other medication?

Codeine can indeed interact with several medicines. If you begin to take codeine, speak to your GP or pharmacidt to ensure your combination of medicines is safe. Codeine should be avoided when taking the following medicines:
  • Antipsychotics.
  • Benzodiazepines.
  • Sedating antihistamines.
  • Sleeping tablets.
  • Strong opioid painkillers.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants.
  • Domperidone.
  • Metoclopramide.
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