How Does Codeine Work?

By: Annabelle Clarke
May 11, 2021

Codeine tablets is an opioid-based treatment that is used to relieve mild to moderate pain. The pill is also used as a cough suppressant and sleeping aid to patients who suffer from respiratory tract infections, bacterial sinusitis, bronchitis and more. This oral ingestant can be safely taken on its own or in conjunction with other treatments. Though the pill is considerably weaker than most opioids in its class, its effects are synonymous with them. This is because codeine works by the same principle as strong opioids, more specifically morphine.

The treatment contains the active ingredient codeine phosphate, which is rapidly absorbed into the system once the pill is ingested. The compound is broken up into tiny molecules, which are dispersed to specific regions of the brain that house opioid receptors. Once in that region, the compound inhibits communication between pain receptors to stifle the body’s natural response to pain sensations and discomfort. This natural mental manipulation is one of the reasons why the tablet is so popular among patients. A small fraction of the tablet is also converted into morphine, increasing the patient’s pain tolerance.

It alters the emotional response one has to pain by elevating pain thresholds. The agent’s conversion from codeine to morphine also causes sedation and drowsiness. Sleep promotion helps accelerate the patient’s recovery process and allows the tablet to carry out its function properly. The treatment also has the ability to suppress one’s urge to cough by affecting specific parts of the brain responsible for coughing. The tablets mechanism of action, potency and classification as a weak opioid reduces risks such as addiction, tolerance, dependence and withdrawal.

How Long Does Codeine Take to Work?

Like all medication in the opioid class, this one is categorised as a controlled substance. However, unlike other substances that have a single classification, this treatment is classed as a Schedule II, III, IV, and V medicine, depending on its formulation and use.

This treatment’s effects take approximately 30-60 minutes to be activated, which is relatively short compared to other onset times linked to popular painkillers in the UK. The short onset of action time ensures that the pain is dealt with sooner rather than later, preventing prolonged suffering.

It also ensures that the pain is not left to cause complications to the body or mind. This painkiller’s effects are viewed as a wielding force because it can reduce pain levels by more than 30% in the first hour of treatment. The tablet’s efficacy and short-acting nature come from its mechanism of action and absorption by the gastrointestinal tract.

Codeine Tablets

How Long Does Codeine Last?

Pain is a complex sensation that has a significant effect on the body and mind. Due to the sensation’s perplexing nature, finding a well-balanced solution can be difficult however, the inception of codeine tablets lead to patients breathing a sigh of relief.

In contrast to codeine’s short onset of action times, the duration effects are slightly longer and last 4-6 hours. When it comes to pain relievers, this time frame is considered ideal because it is not overwhelmingly short where the effects cannot be adequately felt or insistently long where patients feel weighed down.

Most patients assume that a single codeine dosage produces different effects to that of multiple doses, however, this assumption is misguided. All strengths/doses of the tablet produce the same effects that last for the same amount of time. The durational effects of the pill can treat pain that is sporadic or predetermined.

How Long Does Codeine Stay in Your Bloodstream?

Once the tablet is ingested, the active ingredient codeine phosphate is rapidly metabolised by the liver, resulting in metabolite production. Codeine and its metabolites are excreted through the urinary channel.

Below are the estimated detection times for the treatment:

Detectable componentsDetectability/Elimination Time frame
UrineThe compound can be detected in a urine sample 1-3 days after use. Thereafter, it is eliminated. The kidneys excrete about 90% of the medicine
BloodThe agent can last in the bloodstream for up to 24 hours before being eliminated.
SalivaTraces of the substance can be found in saliva up to 4 days after ingestion; thereafter, it is undetectable
HairThe substance can be detected in the hair follicle up to 3 months after ingestion. Thereafter it will be eliminated.

The above time frames are accurate estimations of the tablets detectability/stay in the body. However, there certain factors that can influence them, such as:

Other variables include:

  • The age of the patient
  • The dose/strength being taken
  • How often the medication is used
  • The hydration level of the patient
  • Other health conditions that patients might have
  • Patients level of activity, metabolism levels, weights

These variables may slightly affect the detection and elimination of codeine phosphate by approximately 10-15 minutes.

Codeine in the UK

Can You Drink Alcohol with Codeine?

When using strong painkillers such as this, adhering to dosage, usage and warning guidelines are crucial. One of the guidelines that are included with almost every medicinal treatment is alcohol use warnings. The codeine and alcohol combination is becoming an increasingly popular trend among people around the world. Patients often use the combination to increase the level of intoxication or euphoria alcohol provides. Although the effects of this combination may seem intriguing, it can have devastating effects on an individual’s body. This is because both substances have similar effects on the brain and can seriously impair or alter a patient’s mental state.

The intoxication that results from mixing these substances is much more intense than using each one independently. Besides lowering pain perceptions, codeine painkillers also cause sedation, which is intensified when combined with alcohol. The mixtures of the substances also lead to codeine side effects becoming more apparent. In addition, it causes shallow or depressed breathing, gastrointestinal issues, hallucinations, delusions and uncharacteristic behaviour. It can also increase the risk of nervous system side effects such as drowsiness and light-headedness.

In some instances, the combination can lead to more life-threatening effects like respiratory distress, coma or even death. When patients buy codeine in the UK, online experts warn them against the dangers of mixing the treatment with alcohol due to these consequences.

More Useful Information About this Product

  • What is Codeine?
  • Codeine Dosage Guide
  • Codeine Side Effects

For more information and to view our complete product range visit, where along with the most popular painkillers, you will find a selection of anxiety medication and available sleeping pills in the UK. If you have any questions about the products sold on our website you can contact our medically trained customer service staff 24 hours a day.

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