ARE YOU AT RISK?
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.
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 turntohelp.com.au for more information.