Most of us will suf­fer strong pain oc­ca­sion­ally and may take codeine-based med­i­ca­tions. How­ever, over-use has se­ri­ous health risks and can cause de­pen­dence, so you may need help break­ing free.

The Australian Women's Weekly - - Health -

Strong pain, like the kind you ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing a mi­graine, af­ter surgery or due to an in­jury, is a part of life. Of­ten, when pain re­lief is re­quired, a health­care pro­fes­sional such as a doc­tor or phar­ma­cist may rec­om­mend or pre­scribe a codeine-based medicine. It’s com­mon af­ter den­tal pro­ce­dures, sports in­juries and some­times even in cases of a bad cold and flu. Of­ten, th­ese codeinebased medicines also con­tain parac­eta­mol or ibupro­fen. They’re read­ily avail­able from phar­ma­cies or on pre­scrip­tion from your doc­tor, and are usu­ally ef­fec­tive.

Al­though eas­ily ob­tained, the over-use of medicines con­tain­ing codeine can have se­ri­ous health con­se­quences. When taken at high doses for a long time, they can dam­age the liver and kid­neys, cause gas­troin­testi­nal per­fo­ra­tions, stom­ach ul­cers, and even lead to heart at­tacks.

Since codeine, like mor­phine, is an opi­oid, your body can build up a tol­er­ance to it over time. When codeine is used reg­u­larly you can be­come de­pen­dent or even ad­dicted to it. That means you need in­creas­ingly strong doses of codeine to have the same ef­fect.

If this cy­cle con­tin­ues, when you need to stop tak­ing the codeine-based med­i­ca­tions, you could go through with­drawal symp­toms, just like if you had been tak­ing stronger opi­oid-based med­i­ca­tions, such as mor­phine. Be­cause the body con­verts codeine to mor­phine, high doses can lead to res­pi­ra­tory de­pres­sion – dan­ger­ously slow breath­ing – in peo­ple who have built up a tol­er­ance. In the most se­vere cases, this can even lead to death.

If you have con­cerns about codeinebased medicines and de­pen­dence, help is avail­able. Talk to your doc­tor and visit turn­to­ for more in­for­ma­tion.

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