Why are Irish pharmacists wary about codeine?

There are many over-the-counter pain remedies available and it can be hard to decide which one to use at any particular time (codeine).  Your pharmacist can be a great source of help and advice in this regard.

Paracetamol and ibuprofen are the first steps on the ladder of pain relief. These are very effective for most day-to-day pain. They also act to help reduce fever and are, as such, particularly good drugs to take in the case of a cold or flu. It is important not to take more than the recommended amount. Overdose of Paracetamol can cause liver failure and death.

Ibuprofen belongs to a group of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). If these drugs are overused, there is an increased risk of stomach ulcers and bleeding, kidney damage or failure, increased blood pressure and cardiovascular damage.

Codeinecontaining products are the third step on the ladder.

Codeine-containing compounds, such as Solpadeine, are available over the counter in Irish pharmacies, although their use has been restricted in recent years. It is for this reason that many of those who were using such remedies regularly now have to attend their GP and request a prescription. Used correctly, codeine can be a very effective painkiller. However, abuse of codeine-containing products is increasing and most doctors have come across patients who are taking these products on a regular basis.

Codeine is an opiate painkiller, which means it is derived from morphine. As with all opiates, addiction and tolerance can develop if these are used regularly – higher doses are required to have the same benefit. The extra danger lies in the fact that most over-the-counter codeine preparations are combined with other drugs such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, and so, increasing the amount of codeine you use also leads to increasing the dose of these drugs, to potentially damaging or dangerous levels.

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