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Codeine – uses, health risks, and side effects at

Wednesday, August 22, 2018 by

Codeine is a narcotic pain-reliever and cough suppressant. The drug is similar to morphine and hydrocodone, and a small amount of codeine is turned to morphine in the body.

Like morphine, codeine binds to the opioid receptors in the brain that transmit the sensation of pain throughout the body and brain. The drug increases your tolerance to pain and minimizes discomfort. However, this doesn’t completely eliminate the pain that a patient is feeling.

Codeine is addictive or habit-forming. Mental and physical dependence may occur but this is unlikely if the drug is only used for short-term pain relief. If the drug is used during pregnancy, the newborn may develop opioid withdrawal syndrome that can be fatal if not treated immediately.

Withdrawing codeine suddenly after prolonged use may result in symptoms of withdrawal. Reduce the dose of the drug gradually to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Known health risks or side effects of Codeine

Codeine may cause common side effects such as:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Allergic reactions
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Itching
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Rash
  • Sedation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting

You may require immediate medical attention if you experience severe side effects such as:

  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Fatal overdose (may occur due to the accidental ingestion of the drug)
  • Life-threatening respiratory depression
  • Severe low blood pressure

List of organs that might be affected by Codeine

An overdose of Codeine may cause the following complications:

  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Fainting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Slow heartbeat

An overdose of the drug may cause an allergic reaction. Signs of an allergic reaction may include difficulty breathing; hives; or the swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat.

If you think you’ve taken too much of this drug, consult a healthcare professional. If your symptoms are severe, go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Food items or nutrients that have similar effects to Codeine

The following foods or nutrients have similar effects to Codeine:

  • Capsaicin – Capsaicin comes from hot chili peppers and topical capsaicin can help relieve pain. The substance can reduce substance P, a compound that sends the pain sensation from the peripheral to the central nervous system. However, it may take several days before capsaicin takes effect.
  • Ginger – Ginger extract can help with joint and muscle pain since it has phytochemicals that can prevent inflammation.
  • Turmeric – Turmeric is used to relieve arthritis pain and heartburn. It’s also used to minimize inflammation. This effect may be due to a chemical called curcumin that has inflammatory properties. The spice is safe to use, but high doses or long-term use may result in indigestion. If you have gallbladder disease, don’t use turmeric.

Treatment and management options for the side effects of Codeine

The following treatments and management options can help prevent the side effects associated with Codeine, like constipation and nausea:

  • Fiber – Consuming at least 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily can help prevent and relieve constipation. Sources include fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and whole grains. Fiber adds bulk to stool so it can move smoothly.
  • Peppermint – Peppermint leaves and oil can help ease indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome while peppermint oil can address nausea. Peppermint eases nausea thanks to its calming and numbing effect that relaxes the stomach muscles. This allows bile to break down fats so food can move through the stomach more easily. Drink some peppermint tea if you’re feeling nauseated. Skip the peppermint if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
  • Prunes/dried plums – Prunes can help relieve constipation because it contains fiber and sorbitol, a type of sugar alcohol.

Where to learn more


Codeine is a narcotic pain-reliever and cough suppressant. Codeine is addictive/habit-forming.

Codeine may cause common side effects such as constipation, dizziness, and nausea.

An overdose of Codeine may cause complications like cold and clammy skin, difficulty breathing, or fainting.

Capsaicin, ginger, and turmeric have similar effects to Codeine.

Fiber, peppermint, and prunes can help prevent the side effects associated with Codeine, like constipation and nausea.

Sources include: 1 2


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