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Should I take codeine for my arthritis pain?

Codeine is a powerful painkiller from the opioid range which means that it contains a derivative of opium. For this reason, it can be addictive and can create withdrawal symptoms if a patient is taking it for too long. If you have been prescribed a course of codeine by your doctor, you should always taper off the dose and come off it slowly. There are other painkillers within this group, including tramadol and morphine. Whilst codeine can help with arthritis, it is not the first choice of drug chosen by medical professionals for many reasons.

Codeine and arthritis

If you are suffering from arthritis, your G.P. will most probably try you on a course of pain relieving drugs that you can buy over the counter or it may be more convenient to buy co-codamol online, after all a cancer patient maybe in great difficulty. He or she may also try to give pain relief by prescribing cortisteroids. If these are not effective he may prescribe stronger painkillers such as codeine Phosphate 60mg. If you are an elderly patient, then your doctor may be particularly wary of giving your codeine due to the various possible side effects, which can be particularly worrisome for older people.

Your safety

Before prescribing any dose of codeine, your doctor will carefully check your medical history. He will try to only give opioids for short term pain relief rather than for long term chronic conditions like arthritis. However, all of these treatments can have adverse reactions and codeine more particularly, simply because it is an opium-based medication. Side effects vary but can include sickness, dizziness and constipation. Other drugs can also react badly with codeine. In severe cases, patients can suffer breathing problems as an unpleasant and particularly dangerous reaction.

Side effects of codeine

Codeine can also cause:

  • Sleepiness “ in older people living alone, this could be potentially worrying as it may increase their tendency to fall over and injure themselves.
  • Shallow breathing “ this can be particularly intense when asleep.
  • Heart problems “ the risk of heart attack can be increased.

If you experience any side effects at all, consult your doctor. Do not stop taking the codeine immediately as this may create withdrawal symptoms and a feeling of being unwell. There are a number of alternative pain remedies and medications that your doctor can prescribe so do not feel that taking codeine is your only alternative.

Codeine and alcohol

If you have arthritis and have been given codeine for short term pain relief, you should never mix it with alcohol. Your doctor will explain to you that codeine can massively increase the effects of alcohol such as feeling dizzy, nauseous and sick. This can also cause your blood pressure to drop excessively low, which could be life threatening. The other worrying thing about mixing the two ingredients is that you can build up a tolerance to both which means that you could end up taking more and more in order to obtain the same effect. For instance, if your pain relief lessened, you may take more codeine and if you drink a lot of spirits, more alcohol too. The end result could be severe and very debilitating.

Codeine as a depressant

You may be feeling low and particularly unhappy due to the pain caused by your arthritis. Codeine is also a depressant drug and so it has a sedative effect. Taking alcohol with it intensifies this so sufferers may end up feeling depressed, drugged and too tired or sleepy to conduct a regular lifestyle. As well as affecting your home life, you might find yourself with so little energy that you may end up taking time off work. This would not necessarily be due to the arthritis but to the drugs. As they are prescription drugs, many people do not appreciate that codeine can be such a potentially harmful and excessively addictive drug.

For this reason, although codeine can help with arthritis, it is unlikely that your doctor will prescribe it for you. If you have had surgery due to your complaint i.e. hip or knee replacement, he may issue a prescription for it just for a short time to give temporary pain relief post operatively.