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Codeine Side Effects | Short-Term & Long-Term Health Effects

Published on October 30, 2020
middle aged man sitting down and staring at the floor

Codeine is a narcotic analgesic used to provide pain relief. In most cases, codeine will be prescribed to patients who have mild to moderate pain, and may be prescribed on a short-term or long-term basis. 

In many cases, codeine will be prescribed in combination with other medications to improve pain relief. The most common combination is Tylenol (acetaminophen) with codeine. In some cases, people may also buy and use codeine illegally or without a prescription. 

Many people who take codeine will experience side effects. In addition, taking codeine leads to both short-term and long-term effects on your health. Here is an overview of the side effects codeine can cause, as well as the impact it may have on your body over time. 

Codeine Side Effects

The most common side effects of codeine are a relaxed, calm feeling and drowsiness. 

If you take codeine, you may also experience any of the following side effects:

  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • indigestion
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • bloating
  • dizziness
  • lightheadedness
  • fainting
  • headache
  • trouble sleeping
  • feelings of warmth
  • sweating
  • dry mouth
  • trouble breathing
  • chills
  • fever
  • clammy skin
  • skin rash
  • changes in vision, including color perception changes, blurriness and double vision
  • confusion
  • tiredness
  • weakness
  • fear or anxiety
  • dark urine
  • yellowing of eyes or skin
  • fast heartbeat
  • pain in the abdomen
  • redness in the face, neck, upper chest and/or arms

While some people may experience no side effects when taking codeine, others may experience multiple side effects. 

In general, the risk of side effects increases at higher doses and when used for longer periods of time. Some side effects may be serious, and all side effects should be reported to your doctor. 

Tylenol With Codeine Side Effects

Acetaminophen/codeine side effects are similar to the side effects experienced with codeine alone. However, you may also notice additional side effects because of the presence of acetaminophen. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, side effects of acetaminophen are rare but may include:

  • hives or skin rash
  • red spots on skin
  • pain in the back or side
  • fever and/or chills
  • blood in the urine
  • blood in stool 
  • yellow skin and/or eyes
  • tiredness 
  • weakness
  • unusual bleeding/bruising
  • decreased urine output
  • sores in the mouth or on the lips

Short-Term Health Effects Of Codeine Use

Taking codeine puts the user at risk of serious short-term effects, especially when high doses of this drug are consumed. Codeine relieves pain by impacting the central nervous system. Unfortunately, this mechanism also causes negative consequences. 

In some cases, someone who has taken too much codeine may even experience a fatal overdose. 

Some of the more dangerous short-term effects of codeine use may include:

  • Respiratory depression: Respiratory depression occurs when codeine impacts your breathing. In some cases, breathing may become shallow and slow. In patients with overdose, breathing may stop altogether. 
  • Changes in heartbeat: Codeine affects the way your cardiovascular system works. This may lead to a fast, pounding heartbeat or an irregular heartbeat for some people. In someone who has overdosed on codeine, the pulse may slow or stop. 
  • Loss of consciousness: Codeine causes sleepiness in many people. However, loss of awareness and consciousness can occur when too much codeine is consumed. 

Long-Term Health Effects Of Codeine Use

When you take codeine for an extended period of time, you’re at risk of experiencing certain long-term effects. 

Some of the long-term effects of codeine use include:

  • Addiction: Codeine can become both mentally and physically addictive when used for an extended time. Professional addiction treatment is usually required in these cases. 
  • Depression: Studies have shown that long-term use of codeine can lead to depression in as many as two-thirds of people. 
  • Weight loss: Using codeine leads to changes in appetite. For some people, loss of appetite may cause weight loss. 
  • Withdrawal: If you take codeine for a long time, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the drug. Withdrawal symptoms may include cravings, insomnia, irritability, gastrointestinal changes, and other problems. 

If you or a loved one is addicted to codeine, professional addiction treatment is the best resource available to help you overcome this condition. 

Please contact Ark Behavioral Health today to learn more about medication-assisted treatment, behavioral therapy, and other treatment services that are available for codeine addiction.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.
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