What Are the Side Effects of Codeine?

What Are the Side Effects of Codeine?

Codeine is an opioid medicine that is typically prescribed for pain relief purposes. It is only available legally in the UK with a prescription from your doctor and isn’t usually prescribed for long-term pain relief because long-term use can lead to codeine addiction.

Here, we explore codeine in more detail as well as the common side effects of codeine and associated risks.


What is Codeine Used For?

Only legally available on prescription from your doctor in the UK, codeine is an opioid medicine that is an effective treatment for short-term pain relief as well as dry coughs. It is not usually prescribed for severe pain or chronic pain treatment.

When codeine is ingested, it gets to work on the opioid receptors in the central nervous system. Pain signals being sent to the brain are blocked which is why it is an effective pain relief medication. In the same way, codeine also suppresses the part of the brain that controls coughing which is why it is also used as a dry cough treatment.

Codeine can be addictive, however. As codeine interacts with the brain’s reward system which is responsible for pain relief, relaxation and satisfaction, over time, it can actually change the function of the brain. Put simply, the brain can begin to depend on codeine in order to feel less pain and be relaxed or even happy, and the body will require more codeine in order to achieve the desired effects. This is why codeine prescriptions are monitored by medical professionals who will assess an individual’s substance use and whether any tolerance is being developed.


Common Side Effects of Codeine

Like other opioids, codeine can cause several physical, psychological, and behavioural effects. This includes:

  • Stomach and digestive concerns including constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Mood changes
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Unusual dreams

It is important to remember that codeine side effects can vary from person to person and also in severity. It may also depend on the dosage of codeine consumed, duration of use and individual factors such as weight, age and metabolism. The risk of codeine side effects is higher if you are older, have an existing lung condition, take increased dosages or when you first take codeine. This is why codeine should only be used under the direction of a medical professional.


Serious Side Effects and Potential Risks

The majority of people who take codeine as prescribed by their doctor won’t experience any unusual side effects. However, if you take more than the recommended amount or even without a prescription, there are a number of serious side effects that you could suffer from. This includes low blood pressure and abnormal breathing, stomach bleeds and organ failure.

There are also several risks of using codeine over a long period. Codeine has been shown to lower blood pressure and impact breathing which can result in respiratory arrests. Several fatal side effects can also occur when codeine is mixed with other drugs, including sedatives, and alcohol. As codeine alters brain function, long-term codeine use can also be linked with an increase in mental health concerns including anxiety and depression.

There is also a high chance of someone developing a tolerance, codeine dependence and addiction when taking codeine. This means that you need to take more of the substance to get the same effect. As the dosage of codeine increases, so does the chance of side effects. When there is an active codeine addiction, withdrawal symptoms can also be experienced when someone stops taking codeine. These cannot only be painful but life-threatening in some circumstances.

For this reason, it’s crucially important that you only take codeine when you have a prescription from your doctor and that you only take it as recommended by your GP.


Managing Codeine Side Effects

The best way to manage any codeine side effects is to only take codeine as prescribed by your GP. If you do experience any side effects of codeine, be sure to tell your doctor so they can keep an eye on it. There are certain medications that can interact with codeine, which is why it’s so important to inform your doctor if you are taking any other medications. The same can be said for alcohol and other drugs.

Your doctor will also advise you to begin your codeine prescription at the lowest effective dose and will monitor your symptoms and side effects. Staying hydrated and enjoying a healthy lifestyle can also help minimise side effects. If your symptoms do persist while on codeine, it’s important to talk to your doctor instead of increasing your dose yourself.


How Cassiobury Court Can Help

If you have any questions about codeine addiction or want to know what treatment is available for managing severe codeine side effects, the friendly team at Cassiobury Court can help. Our private drug and alcohol rehab clinic has helped so many people to get their life back on track and recover from various addictions including codeine addiction.

We do this via individualised therapy including group and one-to-one sessions, talking therapy and art therapy. Not just that but, as an inpatient, you’ll also have access to leading facilities and holistic approaches to help you to understand your drug addiction, its triggers and to help you to carve out new and healthier ways of behaving and thinking. We also work with individuals on relapse and prevention advice to ensure that you are resilient when you leave rehab.

As well as this, we offer a medically-assisted prescription drug detoxification process for drugs such as codeine. This process is where the body rids itself from the substance and it typically takes 7-10 days. As the body tries to adjust without the substance, it’s very common for withdrawal symptoms to occur. These can range in severity and can make the detox process very difficult to see through alone. But, with the Cassiobury Court team by your side, guiding and motivating you every step of the journey, you can achieve the life you’ve always wanted. For more information, speak to our team today on 0800 001 4070.