Codeine Side Effects | Short And Long-Term Effects Of Codeine Use

Codeine abuse can lead to increased side effects of drowsiness and sedation, as well as a higher risk of opioid addiction and overdose.

Codeine is used in pain relievers and can be combined with other medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol). 

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), codeine is a Schedule II controlled substance. That means it has a high potential for abuse and severe physical or psychological dependence.

Codeine is an opiate analgesic which works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and affecting the central nervous system (CNS). The use of codeine can help with pain relief and is used in cough medicines.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, acetaminophen combined with codeine also helps to relieve pain after surgery to remove the tonsils and/or adenoids in children younger than 18 years of age.

Using codeine with or without a prescription can lead to a variety of side effects and adverse events.

Side Effects Of Codeine

This painkiller opioid medication can cause side effects ranging from common to life-threatening.

Short-Term Side Effects

Some of the short-term side effects associated with codeine use may include:

  • drowsiness
  • dry mouth
  • headache
  • lightheadedness
  • sedation
  • difficulty urinating
  • constipation

Long-Term Side Effects

Those who take codeine long-term may experience the following side effects:

  • risk of addiction
  • permanent damage to the liver, kidneys, or pancreas
  • sleeping problems
  • memory loss
  • blurred vision

Withdrawal Symptoms

Those who abuse codeine and abruptly stop “cold turkey” can experience serious side effects caused by withdrawal. Some of the codeine withdrawal symptoms, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), may include:

  • stomach cramps
  • irritability or agitation
  • cravings for the drug
  • anxiety
  • runny nose
  • muscle aches
  • restlessness
  • sweating
  • loss of appetite
  • chills
  • fast breathing

Codeine Warnings

When taking codeine, there are a number of warnings to be aware of. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states codeine is rapidly absorbed. When abused, this absorption can occur much more quickly.

Health Concerns

Women who are breastfeeding should avoid codeine as it can potentially pass to the newborn through breast milk which can lead to withdrawal symptoms or a potential overdose for the child. 

In addition to this, those who have gallbladder, pancreatic, liver, or intestinal diseases should avoid the medication.

More specifically, those who suffer from the narrowing of the intestines, paralytic ileus, may experience severe constipation due to the side effects of codeine. If you have had a previous head injury or low blood pressure concerns, inform your healthcare provider before taking codeine.

Those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), sleep apnea, or health conditions which cause trouble breathing may need to avoid codeine due to the shallow breathing which can be caused if too much of the drug is taken or certain medications are combined with codeine.

Drug Interactions

Codeine affects the CNS and should not be combined with other medications which depress the CNS. If certain medications are combined with codeine, severe breathing problems or an overdose may occur.

Speak with your local Ohio doctor before combining any of these medications with codeine:

  • benzodiazepines
  • antihistamines
  • supplements or vitamins
  • muscle relaxants
  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • certain prescription drugs
  • some over-the-counter medications

Risk Of Codeine Abuse

Some may not turn to other medications, but may participate in drug abuse by injecting, snorting, or smoking codeine. Participating in these practices are dangerous and increase the risk of addiction.

Some of the side effects of snorting codeine include damage to the nasal cavity, frequent nosebleeds, and a chronic runny nose. Those smoking codeine may experience frequent coughing and lung problems.

Injecting codeine can lead to abscesses on the skin, collapsed veins, or blood clots. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that sharing drug equipment such as needles or syringes can lead to diseases such as HIV or hepatitis.

Codeine Overdose

Those who combine codeine with other medications or take a large dose of codeine may experience an opioid overdose. Some of the symptoms of a codeine overdose may include:

  • cold or clammy skin
  • sleepiness
  • respiratory depression
  • coma
  • death

If an overdose is expected, contact 911 right away as an opioid overdose requires urgent medical attention. First responders may administer a medication known as naloxone, which has the potential to help reverse the effects of an overdose.

For Ohio residents, there are numerous healthcare professionals who can assist you on your road to recovery. To learn about inpatient opioid addiction treatment at Ohio Recovery Center, please contact us today.

  1. Drug Enforcement Administration — Controlled Substances List
  2. Food and Drug Administration — Codeine
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse — What Are Prescription Opioids?
  4. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Codeine
  5. National Library of Medicine: StatPearls — Codeine
  6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Medical Review Officer Manual

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: December 1, 2022

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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