Codeine Side Effects

by on March 9, 2012

Codeine is not safe for all users, as it has the ability to cause side effects which can range from common, such as stomach pain, constipation, and nausea, to more serious conditions like hallucinations, renal failure, or vision changes.  Although rare, these side effects are a cause for concern, so patients should thoroughly understand the codeine side effects risks before taking this medication.

Common Codeine Side Effects

The use of codeine may cause side effects on patients. A doctor should be consulted if any of these side effects, although common, are severe or do not go away. Some of the most common side effects of this medication include:

  • Difficulty with urination
  • Stomach pain
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Mood change

In order to minimize potential side effects, it is important for patients that are prescribed codeine to tell their physician and pharmacist about any other medications, nutritional supplements, vitamins, or herbal products that they are taking or plan to take.

Serious Codeine Side Effects

codeine Some of the most frequently experienced serious side effects of codeine are due to an allergic reaction. If this occurs, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Some of the most common serious side effects include:

  • Rash
  • Swelling of the skin
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the tongue, lips, face, and mouth
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Difficulty breathing

Another potentially serious codeine side effect is respiratory depression. This depression is related to the dosage a patient takes, and it can have potentially fatal consequences. Other serious side effects that may require immediate medical attention include:

  • Changes in quantity of urine produced
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Psychotic symptoms
  • Changes in vision
  • Delirium
  • Seizures
  • Acute renal failure

These serious side effects are also thought to be more likely and more severe in patients with renal disease or liver disease.

Withdrawal and Dependence

Since codeine is an opiate-based pain killer, chronic use may cause physical dependence in users. After this physical dependence has been created, if a person suddenly stops taking this medication, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. This may include:

  • Craving the drug
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Irritability
  • Pain

In order to minimize the symptoms of withdrawal, it is suggested that long-term and chronic codeine users gradually reduce their medication usage under the supervision of a physician. Support groups may also exist to help people that have a dependence on codeine.

Codeine in the Elderly

Many of the serious side effects of codeine are thought to be most likely to occur in the elderly population. In addition, research has been conducted to study the risk of hip fracture in elderly patients receiving a prescription for codeine. It was found that concurrent users of codeine and psychotropic drugs, such as antipsychotics, antidepressants, and sedatives, had a risk of fracture 2.6 times greater than non-users of codeine.

When taken appropriately, codeine can relieve the discomfort that patients recovering from surgery or injury experience. However, this medication can also cause serious side effects when abused, taken by the elderly, or used by pregnant women. It is important to consult with a physician before taking this medication in order to discuss other health issues and medications that a patient is taking.