Daily Mail

PATIENT MISTAKES

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Dr Helen Cowan, a qualified nurse with a PhD in cardiac pharmacolo­gy, describes some of the mistakes she’s come across. This week: Getting constipate­d on codeine I’VE COME across countless patients who become constipate­d when taking the painkiller codeine, a strong, potentiall­y addictive opioid from the same family of drugs as morphine.

Patients assume because they have never had bowel problems in the past that they don’t need to take the laxative ( such as lactulose) which is generally prescribed alongside it. Codeine is an effective painkiller, but it reduces the muscular contractio­ns that move food and faecal matter through the gut and the patient will often become constipate­d. In rare cases, taking codeine for more than a few weeks can cause impaction where the faecal matter builds up in the bowel and it can be gruesome to have to treat.

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