Codeine is classified as both a legal and medical narcotic that is used as a cough suppressant and to treat pain.
It is a Schedule II drug, which means it is has a high potential for abuse and addiction. It can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. The amount manufactured yearly is federally regulated.
A narcotic is defined as a substance that binds to the opiate receptors in the brain. Narcotics are also regulated by the Controlled Substance Act. They include opium, opium derivatives, and synthetic opioid substances.
A medical narcotic is defined as being in a certain family of medications that slow brain activity. They are medically prescribed to treat pain, diarrhea, or chronic coughing. Narcotics can cause severe damage and even death in large doses.
The FDA approved codeine in 1950. It is often combined with acetaminophen or aspirin for more effective pain relief. Similar to other opioid drugs, codeine binds to the opioid receptors in the brain that work to transmit the sensation of pain throughout the body. The exact mechanism of codeine is not yet known, but a small amount of codeine converts to morphine in the body. Codeine works by increasing tolerance to pain, therefore increasing comfort in the individual. It also causes drowsiness and slows down breathing. There have been recorded deaths in children who have been given this medication after a tonsillectomy or other surgery. It is no longer used for children who have had surgery.
Codeine should not be used while operating machinery or a vehicle since it slows down brain activity and reaction time. It is important to tell your physician of you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as codeine does pass through to the fetus and breast milk. This can be very dangerous and even fatal for an unborn baby or an infant.
Because this is a Schedule II drug, it should be taken with caution, only used as prescribed, and not for an extended period of time. Codeine can be habit-forming, even if taken for a short period of time. Do not take more than the recommended dose or share this drug with other people. It is vitally important not to share this medication with a person who has a history of breathing problems, a heart condition, or a history of addiction.
Due to the medical classification of this drug, it should only be taken according to a doctor’s prescription. It may cause side effects such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach pain
Be aware of any of these side effects:
- Difficulty breathing
- Frequent sighing (trying to catch one’s breath)
- Slow breathing with long pauses in-between
- Sleepiness or difficulty to wake up
- Swelling of lips, face, throat, or tongue
- Blue-colored lips
If any of the above symptoms are apparent, seek medical assistance immediately.
Codeine. (n.d.). Retrieved February, 2016, from http://www.drugs.com/codeine.html