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Painkillers are one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the world. These medications belong to different categories with varying intensities. While individuals suffering from mild to moderate level pain usually begin with everyday painkillers, like paracetamol and ibuprofen, those with higher pain intensities often resort to more potent medications like co-codamol. Co-codamol is an over-the-counter analgesic that combines paracetamol and codeine to rapidly kill pain signals.

Commonly used to treat toothache, migraines, and muscle pain, co-codamol is can be a highly effective medication to get instant relief. That said, it is imperative to know about its potential to damage health, especially if taken in high doses for a long time. A doctor should make everyone aware of these possible co-codamol side effects before prescribing it.

Using co-codamol, especially for more extended periods or persistently high doses can trigger certain side effects. How frequent or severe these side effects are may vary from one person to another. These side effects may also depend on whether or not an individual is simultaneously undergoing any other treatment. For example, it may be typically worse in people using other drugs or seeking radiotherapy while using co-codamol.

Some of the most common co-codamol dangers that may expect to occur in its long-term users are listed below. Keep in mind that it is unlikely for someone to have all these side effects, but they may develop some of them simultaneously.

Bleeding

Co-codamol may cause a drop in the total amount of platelets in the blood due to which a user may experience bleeding from the nose or gums. Gum bleeding is particularly prevalent after brushing teeth but usually stops on its own. Additionally, they may notice multiple tiny spots, similar to bruises, on their arms or legs.

Increased Risk of Infection

In addition to dropping platelets, co-codamol also decreases the number of white blood cells in the body. Because white blood cells are primarily responsible for keeping the body safe from infections, a decrease in their levels automatically puts the body at a high risk of acquiring an infection. Some common symptoms of an everyday infection may include a change in body temperature, feeling cold and shivery, headaches, aching muscles, and a general sense of unwellness. Individuals may develop other specific symptoms depending on what infection they have acquired.

Liver Damage

Codeine alone is not necessarily bad for the liver; however, using it in combination with other medications may put a higher strain on the organ. One such combination is with acetaminophen or paracetamol which is the primary formula of co-codamol. Paracetamol is one of the most commonly used medications in the world and is easily available over the counter under different labels. While it is among the safest drugs to take, its excessive consumption can cause serious problems, especially for the liver. The liver is chiefly responsible for processing paracetamol and if someone takes too much of it, it may cause liver damage.

Using paracetamol in higher amounts has also been linked to liver failure and deaths. Hence, it is critical for people using co-codamol to carefully stick to their prescribed dose.

Kidney Damage

Many pain relief medications that are presumably safe to use in prescribed doses can be particularly toxic to the kidneys in the long run. These medications use some everyday painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen that have been linked to side effects as serious as renal failure.

While co-codamol may not hurt the kidneys badly, experts recommend using it with caution as it includes a combination of two different drugs that may increase the pressure on the kidneys for filtering it.

Allergic Reaction

Some people may develop a mild allergic reaction during or after treatment with co-codamol. This reaction may include symptoms like itching, a rash, or facial redness and swelling.

Mood Changes

Mood changes refer to any abrupt elevation or depression of mood. Most people using co-codamol report developing depressive episodes; however, they usually resolve independently. However, if someone continues to suffer from these symptoms, it is essential to let a medical professional know so that they can commence necessary treatment before the condition worsens. In some people, co-codamol may also induce anxiety or confusion.

Drowsiness

Some people report feeling dizzy or drowsy while using co-codamol. Hence, experts advise against driving or operating machinery while taking this medication.

Headaches

Rarely, co-codamol may induce headaches in certain users. However, most of them are self-limiting and do not require any treatment.

Hearing Changes

Co-codamol has also been associated with a certain degree of hearing loss, especially when it comes to high-pitched sounds. Always inform a nurse or doctor if you notice any of these changes.

Difficulty Breathing

Some individuals have reported wheezing or coughing while using co-codamol. If these breathing difficulties persist, consider seeking help from a doctor, as it might be a medical emergency.

Feeling Sick

Using co-codamol may make users feel generally unwell and nauseous. This side effect is common during the initial days but subsides on its own soon. To cope with it, experts recommend avoiding fried or fatty food, drinking plenty of water, eating smaller meals, and practicing relaxation techniques.

Constipation

Constipation is one of the most common co-codamol side effects triggered by codeine. However, this side effect with manageable by drinking plenty of fluids and eating fruit and vegetables to increase the fiber intake. If this side effect continues for more than three days, contact a doctor to get a laxative.

Pancreatic Inflammation

In the long run, co-codamol can cause inflammation or swell the pancreas, which may manifest in the form of sudden, severe pain in the tummy.

Skin Problems

In some people, co-codamol may induce skin issues, like itching, dryness, and rashes. These problems are reversible and subside as soon as the treatment finishes.

Addiction

Prolonged use of co-codamol can trigger dependence in many individuals. This co-codamol abuse forces the users to increase their daily dosage to feel the same effects, ultimately paving the way for addiction. Once an addiction develops, it becomes difficult for a person to stop using this pain medication. Most people develop uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit using co-codamol on their own. These symptoms include:

  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Cravings for co-codamol
  • Anxiety or agitation
  • Runny nose and watery eyes
  • Excessive yawning
  • Sweating
  • Muscle aches
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dilated pupils

Overdose

When a person dependent on co-codamol continues to take this medication in progressively higher doses, they put themselves at risk of an overdose. Some common symptoms of a potential co-codamol overdose include the following:

  • Blue tint to the skin, lips, or under the fingernails
  • Chest pain
  • Changes in consciousness
  • Slowed, irregular breathing
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Loss of pulse
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Coma

It is crucial for people experiencing a co-codamol overdose to receive emergency medical attention right away. If you suspect that someone around you has developed the symptoms of an overdose, call the local emergency medical services immediately. The victim requires treatment with naloxone, a chemical that temporarily reverses the side effects of narcotics, such as codeine, and potentially saves their life.

Before initiating co-codamol to manage pain, it is important to educate yourself regarding its safety in special circumstances.

Combining with other foods, drinks, and medicines

The components of co-codamol may interact with certain other medicines and herbal supplements. So before taking it, always tell your healthcare provider about any medications that you are currently taking, including herbal supplements, vitamins, and other over-the-counter remedies.

Contraception and Pregnancy

Experts are unsure whether or not co-codamol can harm a baby developing in the womb. However, for safety reasons, they advise against conceiving as long as the treatment with this medication continues. For more tailored advice, consider talking to your doctor.

Breastfeeding

Most experts advise against breastfeeding during co-codamol treatment as the drug may pass onto the breast milk and enter the baby’s body.

Simultaneous Treatments

If you are having any other treatments for an active medical health condition, such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or even dental problems, make sure the healthcare physician prescribing co-codamol knows about it.

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