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Facts about Codeine

Stephen Rampur
Most of us are unaware of what codeine is. However, did you know, that this drug is present in small amounts in many medicines we consume in our daily lives. This story presents facts about codeine such as, its side effects, addiction, withdrawal symptoms, etc.
The other name given to codeine is methylmorphine, and it belongs to the 'opiate' class of drugs. The opiate group consists of all naturally occurring and synthetic drugs like codeine and heroin, which have effects similar to that of 'morphine'.
According to a survey conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and its League of Nations agency, codeine stands first in the list of the most used opiate drugs. Generally, it is consumed orally and not through injections, and also has a wide safety margin.
However, the dependency ratio of morphine, oxycondone, or hydrocodone is much higher than that of codeine. Now, let us look at some important facts about codeine that one should consider before or while using this drug.

Effects on Body

The chemical name for this substance is 'expoxy-3methoxy-17-methylmorphian-6-ol', and formula is 'C18H21NO3'. For it to be effective, our body has to first convert it to morphine.
If codeine is directly injected in the veins, it can later lead to many severe complications like pulmonic oedema, facial swelling, harmful release of histamines, and various cardiovascular problems. It cannot be consumed by snorting, but in some cases it can be taken by smoking.
When it is consumed, the aftereffects start within 10-30 minutes and may last for 4-6 hours, depending on the level of the dose.

Withdrawal Symptoms

If an individual consumes codeine regularly, his/her body and brain get well-adjusted with its use. Then to produce the same effects, it needs to be consumed in increasing amounts. If it is consumed in lesser amounts, or if the consumption is completely stopped, the brain slows down or stops the production of endorphin, which may cause acute pain.
If a person is addicted to codeine and suddenly stops its usage, he will suffer from some withdrawal symptoms. Such symptoms exist for a few days, and it can take up to a few months to feel normal again.
These symptoms include a runny nose, perspiration, muscle pain and cramps, headaches, change in the heartbeat, nausea and vomiting, hypertension, high fever, sleep disorders, desiccation, and weakness. Codeine is primarily used as a medicine to reduce pain, and, hence doctors usually prescribe it as a painkiller.
There are also cases where the patient consumes it to reduce pain as per the doctor's advice, but gets addicted to it. If he stops the consumption as per the doctor's directions, he may go through problems that are related to its withdrawal symptoms.
If needed, it may be prescribed with some other muscle relaxers. Incredibly, in some places it is directly sold over the counter. However, there are few pharmacists who refuse to do so, which is actually the right thing. In some nations, syrups and tablets which contain small amounts of codeine can also be bought over the counter.

Side Effects

Like any other medication, codeine also has some side effects like somnolence, xerostomia, and constipation. One severe side effect is the respiratory depression disorder. Hence, its overdose can lead to serious consequences.
If a mother is breastfeeding her baby, and at the same time, consuming codeine in excess quantities, it can pass through her milk, and a newborn can suffer from severe breathing problems which can be fatal to the baby. If a woman is taking codeine doses regularly and finds out that she is pregnant, she should immediately inform her doctor about it.
One should never mix this drug with alcohol, as alcohol increases its strength to a great extent, and can even impair the thinking ability. Moreover, its abuse can also cause euphoria. Nevertheless, its long-term use should not be discontinued suddenly without consulting a physician.
There is a high possibility of developing a codeine addiction when in the medicinal course. To avoid this, simply ensure that you only take the required doses prescribed by your doctor. Besides serious health issues, an addiction will lead to personal and family problems. The best option is to stay away from it and be safe and happy.
Disclaimer: This story is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.