Codeine Side Effects: Common And Long Term Side Effects Of Codeine

Last Updated: June 3, 2020

Authored by Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

The common Codeine side effects are not  severe, but they could go worse when users body adjusts to the drug, and that could lead to Codeine abuse. For one thing, it can occur when the user’s body develops tolerance to the effect it brings. Knowing about the side effects in advance may help to reduce their occurrence. Also, the patient should check the precautions to avoid complications.

What Codeine Is

Codeine belongs to a class of pain medications called opiates. It alters the way the brain perceives and processes the pain signals. That way, it helps to relieve mild to moderately severe pain. Because it works in the brain, it may cause addiction even when it used properly. A doctor may prescribe it to treat a type of a cough that does not produce phlegm.
Currently, one can get some products that contain Codeine mixed with Acetaminophen or Aspirin like over-the-counter cough syrups.

Side Effects of Codeine

Side Effects of CodeineCodeine side effects occur as the body respond to the changes brought by the medication. Many factors can have an impact on their severity. For example, these factors can be individuals body characteristics, genetics, the presence of other diseases, consumption of alcohol, and the doses they take. In addition, if one takes a combination product, the side effects may be more widespread.

Common Codeine Side Effects

If one is taking it under a doctor’s prescription, watch out for the following side effects:

  • Feeling sick
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness and sleepiness
  • Dryness of mouth
  • Sweating
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Breathing problems

Key Takeaways

Normally, the Codeine side effects from above do not pose a major risk to one’s health. This is considering the results from the many scientific studies done to date. Notably, many of them may gradually subside as the treatment continues. However, if they persist, worsen or cause significant problems, one should consult a doctor.

Severe Codeine Side Effects

  • Dependence
  • Convulsions
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Extremely low breathing or heart rate
  • Retention of urine
  • Kidney failure
  • Mental confusion
  • Very low or high mood
  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Very weak pulse

If one experiences any of these symptoms, a call to the doctor is advised.

Codeine Use In Children: Increased Risk Of Death

In 2013, the FDA issued a new warning for Codeine use in kids. It states that Codeine could be fatal in the kids who have had surgery to remove their tonsils. Therefore, one should take extra care if a kid is using it.

What A Parent Can Do?

Watch out for the following side effects in the children.

  • Slowed or noisy breathing
  • Unusual sleepiness
  • Signs of confusion

Seek emergency medical help or call 911 if any of the symptoms mentioned above have been noticed.

Key Takeaways

Presently, it is not clear if using it during pregnancy or breastfeeding is totally safe. Therefore, one should not forget to inform a doctor about any of these conditions before taking it.

Allergic Reactions Due To Codeine: Why One Should Seek An Emergency Medical Help?

Allergic reactions can occur with any medication. It occurs when the immune system shows an abnormally aggressive response to Codeine. On the other hand, a body might be reacting to another ingredient used to make the preparation.
Of course, an allergy is a medical emergency. That means any delayed treatment can be potentially life-threatening.
Codeine allergy can have one or many of the following symptoms.

  • Rashes on the skin
  • Hives
  • Severe itching
  • Swelling of the lips, eyes or tongue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest tightness
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Blisters in the mouth

Codeine Addiction Risks

Addiction is compulsive use of a prescription medication or illicit substance despite knowing that it is causing harm. It is a brain disease rather than just a habit. Codeine affects how the brain processes the pain signals. Regrettably, it also produces a high that can begin to take charge of the brain. Then, it can start a continuous cycle of its abuse. As a result, you could have a potential overdose and ultimately an addiction. All things considered, one should take it in the doses, frequency, and duration recommended by the medical doctor. Even with that, there may still be a certain degree of risk of an addiction. Therefore, if something does not go right, one should consult a doctor.

What To Do In Case Of Codeine Abuse?

If one spotted that a loved one has an addiction, they should talk to an addiction counselor. They can teach ways to deal with the cravings, prevent relapses. Finally, the addict will be on their way to a full recovery. Looking for professional medical help for Codeine addiction? Get the best rehabs page here.

Page Sources

  1. Yoo H. S., Yang E. M., Kim M. A., et al. A Case of Codeine Induced Anaphylaxis via Oral Route. Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Research. 2014; 6(1):95–97. doi:10.4168/aair.2014.6.1.95.
  2. Medline Plus. Codeine. 2019.

Published on: March 28th, 2017

Updated on: June 3rd, 2020

About Author

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

After successful graduation from Boston University, MA, Sharon gained a Master’s degree in Public Health. Since then, Sharon devoted herself entirely to the medical niche. Sharon Levy is also a certified addiction recovery coach.


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