- Generic Name or Active Ingridient: Codeine
Codeine belongs to a class of drugs called opiates and is meant to be prescribed for mild to moderate pain. This narcotic drug can also be used as an antitussive, to help suppress a cough. In this case, codeine is most often combined with other medicines. There may be some instances when codeine is prescribed for other uses, such as to treat diarrhea.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says that codeine is the most widely used of the naturally occurring narcotic medicines in the world. This drug is found in opium but the DEA says most of the codeine in the United States is made from morphine.
Before Taking Codeine
If your doctor has prescribed codeine for you, there are some questions that should be addressed before you begin taking this medication. Your doctor or pharmacist will likely tell you what dosage he or she is prescribing and how long this medication should be taken.
Codeine is a narcotic medication often prescribed for mild to moderate pain or cough suppression. It can be an effective medication that is taken safely by most. However, there are some issues that should be addressed before you begin taking it.
Many of your questions can be answered in the leaflet that comes with every codeine prescription. Patients should make every effort to read it because it addresses important information such as how and when to take the prescription; possible codeine side effects; what to do if you experience an allergic reaction; and other possible complications such as opiate dependence, addiction and overdose.
Your doctor or pharmacist can answer any questions you have about codeine. However, it is incumbent upon the patient to let the doctor know about all medication, vitamins, supplements and other substances he or she is taking. It is also a good idea to mention if you have ever been dependent upon any substance at any time.
This is because codeine can be habit forming and may be more of a risk for people who have had prior issues with abuse and/or addiction. Your doctor can help determine if codeine therapy is the appropriate choice for you. He or she may decide it's not if you have been dependent upon other narcotics, alcohol or other prescription or illegal drugs.
Many experts agree that prescription drug abuse and addiction are out of control in this country. It doesn't take long for problems to develop if there is any kind of misuse going on. Taking codeine as directed is the best way to ensure safety.
If you feel you have become dependent (physically and/or psychologically) on codeine, speak with your doctor about options. If you are physically dependent and withdrawal develops when use stops, your doctor may want to switch dosages or medications. If it is more serious, you may need opiate detox and/or rehab.
What is Codeine and How Should it Be Taken?
Codeine is usually taken orally and when compared to morphine, produces less pain relief, sedation and respiratory depression. It is still, however, considered to be a drug of abuse and may be habit forming. Codeine tablets that contain just that drug are considered to be a Schedule II controlled substance. Preparations that combine codeine with other medications such as acetaminophen fall under a Schedule III classification. Liquid formulations of codeine used for cough suppression fall under the Schedule V classification.
Codeine changes the way the body senses pain. To suppress cough, codeine reduces activity in the part of the brain responsible for the cough reflex. It may be combined with non-narcotic drugs such as acetaminophen and aspirin, and is included in many cough and cold preparations.
Codeine should only be taken as directed to avoid possible complications. It may come in a tablet, capsule or liquid preparation. It is usually taken every 4 to 6 hours as needed. Taking codeine in a higher dosage than what's recommended, or taking it more often than recommended, can lead to problems such as a reaction or dependence.
Patients who are prescribed codeine should be up front with their doctors about alcohol use and all other substances they may be taking. These can include supplements, vitamins and other over-the-counter and prescription medications. Codeine can interact with these substances in a negative way.
Codeine Cough Syrup
Codeine is an opiate medication most often used for pain relief and cough suppression. In cough syrup form, codeine is often combined with other ingredients, such as an antihistamine to provide cough suppression and treatment for respiratory ailments caused by a cold or allergies.
Codeine works in the brain to suppress the cough reflex. The antihistamine component works by blocking histamines to alleviate symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as draining sinuses and a runny nose.
Codeine is a narcotic medication that causes secondary effects including respiratory depression. For this reason, children under 6 should not use codeine cough syrup because it can cause severe breathing problems. It should not be used by people who have compromised breathing from conditions such as sleep apnea, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Any form of codeine should not be used in combination with other medications or substances that depress the central nervous system.
Are There Alternatives To Narcotic Cough Syrup?
Codeine cough syrup can be taken safely and can be very effective. However, it is not meant for long-term treatment or for persistent coughs from chronic conditions and smoking. Speak to your doctor if you have had prior issues with drug abuse or addiction. He or she may be able to suggest a non-narcotic option for treating your symptoms.
This can include over-the-counter medication or holistic treatments. There are other things that you can do help to alleviate cold and flu symptoms. Saline nose drops or spray can help, in addition to taking an appropriate amount of fluids. A humidifier or neti pot can also have beneficial effects for those who are sick.
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