- Classification: Narcotic
- CSA Schedule: Schedule II, III, V
- Trade or Other Names: Tylenol w/Codeine, Empirin w/Codeine, Robitussin A-C
- Medical Uses: Analgesic, Antitussive (cough suppressant)
- Physical Dependence: Moderate
- Psychological Dependence: Moderate
- Tolerance: Yes
- Duration (hours): 3–6
- Usual Method: Oral; injected
- Possible Effects: Euphoria, drowsiness, respiratory depression, constricted pupils, nausea
- Effects of Overdose: Slow and shallow breathing, clammy skin, convulsions, coma, possible death
- Withdrawal Syndrome: Watery eyes, runny nose, yawning, loss of appetite, irritability, tremors, panic, cramps, nausea, chills, and sweating
Codeine is an opiate analgesic, meaning it is a pain reliever derived from the opium poppy plant. Its pain relief properties, as well as its side effects, are less than the related opiates Morphine and Heroin.
Doctors sometimes prescribe pills containing combinations of codeine and over-the-counter (OTC) analgesics, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or aspirin, for pain relief after minor surgery, or for broken bones, muscle sprains, migraine headaches, or other pain that is expected to pass relatively quickly. The other most common use of codeine is in cough syrup. The drug acts on the part of the brain that controls coughing. In the United States and many other countries, a prescription is necessary to obtain products containing codeine. This is because the drug is addictive, or habit-forming. It also can produce unpleasant side effects such as constipation and nausea. When codeine is abused, it is either ingested in its cough syrup form at greater than prescribed doses or extracted from prescription pills through chemical ‘‘cooking.’’ In either case, taking a large dose of codeine can be fatal, because it can cause the user to stop breathing.
Origins of Codeine Use
Codeine is an alkaloid that can be found in the opium poppy. Throughout history, this plant has been part of a variety of medical and hypnotic purposes.
In the 18th century, it was considered the most popular pain suppressant. At that time opium was usually sold in various preparations known as laudanum and paregoric elixirs.
By the beginning of the 19th century (1804), a German pharmacist, Friedrich Serturner, discovered a way to isolate morphine from the opium poppy plant. After the isolation of morphine, 28 years later (1832), Pierre Robiquet, a French chemist, discovered the codeine derivative. Its name, “codeine” comes from the Greek word “kodeia” that refers to the head of the opium poppy plant.
Many chemists and pharmacists were very excited about Codeine’s medicinal properties. Not long after its discovery Codeine production “exploded” all around the globe. Usage of this new drug began to grow very quickly, and the authorities began to worry about the consequences the population was about to face. Concerned about the prevalence of the drug use, President Richard Nixon called for a War on Drugs. President Nixon’s call made it very difficult for the drug manufacturers to obtain the opium poppy tar (one of the main ingredients used for synthesizing morphine, codeine and almost all opiate-based drugs). Opium poppy resin was obtained from unfriendly areas to America’s pharmaceutical interest (countries like Afghanistan). After that some say, the drug manufacturers even had to make deals with heroin dealers in order to obtain the required ingredient. All of these events forced the chemists to discover a method to synthesize the codeine from coal tar, which eliminated the need of having the authentic opium tar and eliminated the competition between the pharmaceutical companies and the drug cartels.
All things considered, codeine remains one of the least addictive and safest opiate drugs. Many specialists believe that this is the main reason that makes the Codeine is the most used painkiller drug in the entire world.
One of the most common medical uses of Codeine is related to its ability to suppress chronic coughing, nausea and diarrhea. It is still important to note that most all the opiate medications that contain Codeine require a medical prescription.
How is Codeine Consumed?
Prescription codeine is available in several forms. Tylenol 3, for instance, is a pill containing 300 milligrams of acetaminophen and 30 milligrams of codeine. Some oral medications containing codeine also contain small doses of caffeine to counteract the sedating effects of the codeine. Pill-form medications containing codeine are swallowed, and their pain-relieving effects can last from three to six hours. Liquid cough syrups containing various strengths of codeine are usually combined with an Expectorant agent for clearing the airways of Phlegm. Phlegm must be spit up, or expectorated, to improve a patient’s breathing. Cough remedies with codeine and expectorants are taken by the spoonful every four hours with a full glass of water.
Effects of Codeine Use
Short Term Use Effects:
- Diminished sexual impulses
- Breathing problems
- Impaired judgement
- Relief of pain
- Constricted pupils
- Warm flushing of the skin
Long term Use Effects:
- Infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, hepatitis
- Bacterial infections
- Venous sclerosis
- Cardiovascular disease
- Cold sweats
- Loss of appetite
- Dentition problems
- Respiratory (breathing) illnesses
- Muscular weakness that may evolve to partial paralysis
- Reduced sexual potency and long-term impotence in men
- Menstrual disturbance in women
- Inability to achieve orgasm
- Impaired immune system
- Loss of memory
- Lowered intellectual performance