What is Codeine Used For?

There is a lot of discussion surrounding prescription pain medications, particularly in the U.S. right now. For years prescription painkillers were given pretty often to patients, but now as the U.S. grapples with an opioid epidemic, which is in large part due to the over-prescription of these drugs, there is more focus on what these substances are, and how they affect the user.

One prescription opioid, also known as a narcotic, is codeine. Codeine is a controlled substance, meaning that if you use it without a prescription or in a way other than how it’s prescribed, it’s considered drug abuse.

So, what is codeine used for? What is codeine prescribed for?

What is Codeine Used For? | Codeine for Pain Dosage
Codeine is technically known as an opiate, although the terms opiate and opioid are often used interchangeably with one another. Opiates are naturally derived pain relieving and psychoactive substances from the poppy plant, while opioids are semi-synthetic or synthetic substances with the same effects as opiates.

Codeine can be prescribed to treat pain, usually mild to moderate in severity, and it can also help suppress the cough reflex, so it’s used in cough syrups and medications.

Codeine converts back to morphine when it enters the brain of the user, and then it binds to the central nervous system’s opioid receptors. Along with suppressing the sensation of pain, codeine can slow the functionality of the CNS, which includes breathing. It can also lead to drowsiness.

There is the risk with any opiate or opioid of addiction because of how these drugs affect the brain and in particular certain feel-good brain chemicals. This can trigger a reward response in the brain of the user which leads to addiction.

There’s also the risk of physical dependence with codeine, which means that when you use it for a period of time, your body becomes used to it. If you stop using it, you will go through a type of shock that’s called withdrawal.

Unfortunately, since there is the potential for abuse, codeine is sometimes used to achieve a euphoric high.

So while codeine is generally used for pain and cough, what specifically is codeine prescribed for?

It’s best for pain that ranges from mild to moderate, and it’s probably not going to be effective for more severe levels of pain. Codeine can also be prescribed for diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome.

It’s not necessarily useful to treat cancer pain, and it can also have more side effects than strong opioid medications for these patients.

In terms of being prescribed to treat coughs, it’s not ideal for an acute cough but is better suited to a chronic cough. Codeine also isn’t supposed to be prescribed for cough suppression in children younger than 12.

Codeine is prescribed as a single-ingredient drug sometimes, but also in combination with other substances such as acetaminophen. Codeine-acetaminophen combinations include Tylenol 3 and Tylenol 4. It can also be included in drugs with aspirin or ibuprofen, and the objective with these combination drugs is greater levels of pain relief.

Codeine can be prescribed as a time-release product, and in cough syrups with quite a few other ingredients.

As a pain reliever, codeine is thought of as being pretty weak compared to other opioids. Codeine also helps treat symptoms, but it doesn’t cure conditions it’s prescribed for. When codeine is used to treat pain, it changes the way the brain and the nervous system respond to pain, and when it’s prescribed for a cough, it decreased activity in the particular area of the brain that controls coughing.

So, what are the common dosages when codeine is prescribed for pain relief?

For adults, the typical codeine for pain dose is 15 to 60 mg, which can be taken every four to six hours on an as-needed basis. For a cough, the codeine dosage is usually 10 to 20 mg taken every four to six hours as needed. The maximum codeine dose for treating a cough is 120 mg every 24 hours.

If you’re taking codeine for pain or a cough it’s important that you don’t mix it with other sedatives such as Xanax, or alcohol. This can cause significant impairment and confusion, and it can also depress the nervous system to a dangerous level.

Something else to consider when evaluating codeine dosage guidelines is whether or not it’s combined with another substance because this can impact the level that’s considered safe. For example, if you’re taking codeine for pain and it’s a medication that’s paired with acetaminophen, you have to be really careful about the amount you take. This is because acetaminophen can cause liver toxicity, damage, failure, and death.

Never go outside of the instructions of your doctor when you’re taking codeine or any other prescription drug.

To sum up, what is codeine used for? Codeine is used for the treatment of pain and cough. It is best suited to pain that’s mild to moderate, and it’s often combined with other substances for more effectiveness.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Share on Social Media: