Codeine is found in concentrations of 1% to 3% in opium poppy. The name codeine comes from the Greek word kodeia (κώδεια) for “poppy head”. Codeine is currently the most widely used opiate in the world.

In Canada tablets containing 8 mg of codeine combined with 15 mg of caffeine and 300 mg of paracetamol are sold as T1s (Tylenol 1) without a prescription. There amount of codeine in Tylenol is as follows; Tylenol 1 has the least amount with 8 mg, Tylenol 2 has 15mg, Tylenol 3 has 30mg and Tylenol 4 contains 60mg.

A similar tablet called an AC&C which has 325 mg or 375 mg of acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) instead of paracetamol also contains caffeine 15 mg and codeine phosphate 8 mg. Also available without a prescription in Canada and kept behind the counter, a pharmacist may limit quantities.

In Manitoba in February 2016, Codeine became a prescription-only medication in the province. Pharmacists logged each purchase to a central database to prevent over-prescribing.

Street names for codeine include Cody, Captain Cody, Loads, and Schoolboy. Codeine is usually taken through pill form but can be injected into the muscle.

Codeine Short-term Effects

Codeine is often abused for its effects at high doses, such as:

  • euphoria,
  • feelings of being drunk,
  • altered consciousness.

However, some of the more common negative short-term effects of codeine use include:

  • excessive drowsiness or confusion,
  • dry mouth,
  • constipation,
  • mild itching or rash,
  • allergic skin reaction,
  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • stomach pain,
  • mood swings.

At high doses dangerous short-term effects can occur:

  • Breathing can slow,
  • heart rate can drop,
  • blood pressure can fall.

An excess dose of codeine may produce:

  • loss of consciousness,
  • respiratory collapse and/or cardiac arrest.

This decrease in oxygenated blood can be quite devastating. Without enough oxygen, tissues in the brain and heart can die. This can lead to permanent organ damage or even death.

Side Effects

Other side effects not listed above include:

  • vertigo or dizziness,
  • stomach upset and loss of appetite,
  • indigestion,
  • hallucinations,
  • tremors,
  • depression and
  • urinary retention or inability to urinate.

Some side effects are not as serious as others. For instance, stomach upsets might last just a few hours while mood changes and depression can persist for years.

Signs of Overdose

  • Blue lips or skin,
  • loss of consciousness,
  • pinpoint pupils,
  • lack of a pulse,
  • shallow or halted breathing,
  • sluggish pulse or slowed heartbeat,
  • chest pain,
  • frequent vomiting and
  • extreme fatigue.

When you suspect an overdose it is essential to get immediate emergency care.

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