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Serious adverse reactions associated with codeine are respiratory depression and, to a lesser degree, circulatory depression, respiratory arrest, shock, and cardiac arrest.
Other less frequently observed adverse reactions expected from opioid analgesics, including codeine sulfate, include:
Read the Codeine Sulfate (codeine) Side Effects Center for a complete guide to possible side effects
Concurrent use of other opioids, antihistamines, antipsychotics, antianxiety agents, or other CNS depressants (including sedatives, hypnotics, general anesthetics, antiemetics, phenothiazines, or other tranquilizers or alcohol) concomitantly with codeine sulfate tablets may result in additive CNS depression, respiratory depression, hypotension, profound sedation, or coma. Use codeine sulfate with caution and in reduced dosages in patients taking these agents.
Mixed Agonist/Antagonist Opioid Analgesics
Mixed agonist/antagonist analgesics (i.e., pentazocine, nalbuphine, and butorphanol) should NOT be administered to patients who have received or are receiving a course of therapy with a pure opioid agonist analgesic such as codeine sulfate. In these patients, mixed agonist/antagonist analgesics may reduce the analgesic effect and/or may precipitate withdrawal symptoms.
Anticholinergics or other medications with anticholinergic activity when used concurrently with opioid analgesics including codeine sulfate, may result in increased risk of urinary retention and/or severe constipation, which may lead to paralytic ileus.
Use of MAO inhibitors or tricyclic antidepressants with codeine sulfate may increase the effect of either the antidepressant or codeine. MAOIs markedly potentiate the action of morphine sulfate, the major metabolite of codeine. Codeine should not be used in patients taking MAOIs or within 14 days of stopping such treatment.
Patients taking cytochrome P-450 enzyme inducers or inhibitors may demonstrate an altered response to codeine, therefore analgesic activity should be monitored. Codeine sulfate is metabolized by the cytochrome P-450 3A4 and 2D6 isoenzymes. [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY] The concurrent use of drugs that preferentially induce codeine N-demethylation (cytochrome P-450 3A4) may increase the plasma concentrations of codeine's inactive metabolite norcodeine. Drugs that are strong inhibitors of codeine O-demethylation (cytochrome P-450 2D6) may decrease the plasma concentrations of codeine's active metabolites, morphine and morphine-6-glucuronide. The contribution of these active metabolites to the overall analgesic effect of codeine is not fully understood, but should be considered.
Drug-Laboratory Test Interaction
Codeine sulfate tablets may cause an elevation of plasma amylase and lipase due to the potential of codeine to produce spasm of the sphincter of Oddi. Determination of these enzyme levels may be unreliable for some time after an opiate agonist has been given.
Drug Abuse And Dependence
Codeine sulfate is an opioid agonist and is a Schedule II controlled substance. Codeine sulfate can be abused and is subject to criminal diversion.
Drug addiction is characterized by compulsive use, use for non-medical purposes, and continued use despite harm or risk of harm. Drug addiction is a treatable disease, utilizing a multi-disciplinary approach, but relapse is common.
“Drug seeking” behavior is very common in addicts and drug abusers. Drug-seeking tactics include emergency calls or visits near the end of office hours, refusal to undergo appropriate examination, testing or referral, repeated “loss” of prescriptions, tampering with prescriptions and reluctance to provide prior medical records or contact information for other treating physician(s). “Doctor shopping” to obtain additional prescriptions is common among drug abusers and people suffering from untreated addiction. Abuse and addiction are separate and distinct from physical dependence and tolerance. Physicians should be aware that addiction may not be accompanied by concurrent tolerance and symptoms of physical dependence. The converse is also true. In addition, abuse of opioids can occur in the absence of true addiction and is characterized by misuse for non-medical purposes, often in combination with other psychoactive substances. Careful record-keeping of prescribing information, including quantity, frequency, and renewal requests is strongly advised.
Codeine is intended for oral use only. Abuse of codeine poses a risk of overdose and death. The risk is increased with concurrent abuse of alcohol and other substances. Parenteral drug abuse is commonly associated with transmission of infectious diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.
Proper assessment of the patient, proper prescribing practices, periodic re-evaluation of therapy, and proper dispensing and storage are appropriate measures that help to limit abuse of opioid drugs.
Infants born to mothers physically dependent on opioids will also be physically dependent and may exhibit respiratory difficulties and withdrawal symptoms. [see Use In Specific Populations]
Tolerance is the need for increasing doses of opioids to maintain a defined effect such as analgesia (in the absence of disease progression or other external factors). Physical dependence is manifested by withdrawal symptoms after abrupt discontinuation of a drug or upon administration of an antagonist. Physical dependence and tolerance are not unusual during chronic opioid therapy. The opioid abstinence or withdrawal syndrome is characterized by some or all of the following: restlessness, lacrimation, rhinorrhea, yawning, perspiration, chills, myalgia, and mydriasis. Other symptoms also may develop, including irritability, anxiety, backache, joint pain, weakness, abdominal cramps, insomnia, nausea, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, or increased blood pressure, respiratory rate, or heart rate.
In general, opioids should not be abruptly discontinued.
Last reviewed on RxList: 5/26/2011
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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