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Codeine is a narcotic pain reliever and cough suppressant. It is available in tablets, capsules, and codeine syrup. It is often combined with a non-narcotic pain reliever, and may be combined with cold or cough medications in codeine cough syrup. Typically, it is taken every four to six hours and may be prescribed on an as-needed basis.

Because codeine is a powerful medication that can interact with your other medications, it is very important to pay attention to the codeine dosage. Carefully following the dosing directions and warnings on your prescription bottle and drug sheet can ensure your safety. If you are given codeine cough syrup, ask your pharmacist for a special dosing spoon.

What is Codeine Used to Treat?

This medication is often prescribed to treat pain, providing relief to patients who are suffering mild to moderate levels of pain. As a pain reliever, it works by altering a person’s perception of pain. Doctors often prescribe it to treat coughs. Codeine syrup acts as a cough suppressant by reducing activity in the area of the brain that sends the message to the body to produce a cough. It is sometimes prescribed for other conditions, as well.

Although this drug is very effective at relieving pain and easing coughs, it is only effective as a way to help the symptoms of your condition. It doesn’t treat the underlying problem that causes your symptoms, and it does not make you recover more quickly or prevent your symptoms from returning.

Common Codeine Side Effects

Codeine side effects are usually mild, but they can sometimes be serious. Common side effects include headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, unusual changes in mood, drowsiness, nausea or vomiting, stomach pain, difficult urination, and constipation. These side effects are usually not dangerous; however, you should let your doctor know right away if any of them are severe or don’t get better.

Some codeine side effects can be more serious and should be reported immediately. Call your doctor without delay if you have a hard time swallowing or breathing, if you experience a heartbeat that is rapid, pounding or irregular, if you develop a rash, itching or hives, if you have a seizure or notice a change in your vision. Rarely, this medication causes side effects other than the ones listed here, so if you have unusual symptoms or problems while you are taking it, let your doctor know as soon as possible.

Codeine addiction is a serious medical condition. In order to prevent codeine addiction, the use of all narcotics is controlled by the government. Your doctor will carefully monitor your use of narcotic pain medication. He or she will choose the lowest effective codeine dosage for the shortest time necessary to treat your condition. Make sure your doctor knows about any other prescriptions, over-the-counter or herbal medications you are taking. In addition, speak to your doctor about whether it is safe for you to drink alcohol while you are on your medication.

Deciding if Codeine is Right for You

Before prescribing codeine to treat your pain, your doctor will take into consideration your overall health, other medications you are taking, and the severity and nature of your symptoms. Discuss all your symptoms with your doctor during your next appointment and ask whether this medication is right for you.