What are the Pros and Cons of Taking Acetaminophen and Codeine?

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  • Written By: Rebecca Mecomber
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2019
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Acetaminophen and codeine is a common painkiller combination drug that is available in many countries by prescription only. Although mixing painkillers is not a new practice among physicians, and the combination of acetaminophen and codeine might be very effective at reducing severe pain and inflammation, medical professionals often carefully apportion and manage its distribution because of the possible serious side effects. Acetaminophen might cause liver damage, and codeine is an addictive drug. So although the combination codeine medications are very effective for pain management, care must be taken against long-term use and accidental overdose.

The drug acetaminophen was developed as an alternative to the gastric irritant aspirin as a pain reliever and fever reducer. It first appeared on the consumer market in 1955, and it is believed to be the most commonly used pain reliever in the world. Codeine is extracted from the poppy plant, and it is the most commonly used narcotic in the world. Medications containing codeine are widely used as cough suppressants and used to treat diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and moderate pain. Codeine and aspirin are mixed to provide more effective pain relief; acetaminophen was added to codeine to provide effective pain relief for patients who have sensitive digestive tracts.


Mixing acetaminophen and codeine produces a very effective but mild and tolerable pain-relieving medication that reduces coughing and lowers fever. Taking acetaminophen with codeine, a depressant, often gives patients a window of much-needed rest that promotes recovery. Acetaminophen and codeine are widely prescribed by physicians for treating pain from surgery, dental procedures and short-term illnesses such as influenza. The combination of acetaminophen and codeine is not prescribed for chronic pain, because of the addictive properties of codeine and the risk of liver damage caused by acetaminophen.

Some of the properties that make acetaminophen and codeine so effective might cause serious side effects. Taking codeine and acetaminophen with alcohol or other depressants such as cough medicine or sedatives can cause difficulty breathing, seizures and death. Acetaminophen in large or lengthy doses might cause liver damage or liver failure. Codeine is physically and psychologically addictive. More common, less severe side effects might include dizziness, nausea, slow heart rate, slow respiration rate, constipation and vomiting.

Additionally, the widespread use of acetaminophen and codeine effects the environment. research has shown that acetaminophen and codeine can contaminating streams. Pregnant women and small children are especially susceptible to liver problems. Acetaminophen and codeine also contain sulfites that might cause allergic reactions. Although these drawbacks might seem to override the benefits of taking acetaminophen and codeine, careful and controlled distribution on a case-by-case basis might give countless sufferers adequate pain relief.


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