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Is Codeine Use Amplifying Your Pain?

Have you been taking codeine based analgesics for that stubborn headache or aching joints only to find that your pain hasn’t been dulled?

In fact your pain is even worse than before you began taking the medication?

Researchers from the University of Adelaide, Australia reveal that this may be a common phenomenon for codeine users, as the drug has been found to increase pain sensitivity following repetitive use rather than relieve it.

Lead author Jacinta Johnson explains, “Pain sensitivity is a major issue for users of opioid drugs because the more you take, the more the drug can increase your sensitivity to pain, so you may never quite get the level of relief you need.

In the long term it has the effect of worsening the problem rather than making it better. We think that this is a particular problem in headache patients, who seem more sensitive to this effect.”


How A Pain Killer Can Make Your Pain Worse 

It is well known that use of medications with opioid effects can lead to dependancy and tolerance over time.

In addition to these serious side effects, opioid medications such as morphine and codeine have also been found to induce a state of pain hypersensitivity known as hyperalgesia.

This paradoxical effect of analgesic (pain relieving) opioids was first reported over 60 years ago, however the mechanisms by which this effect occur are still unclear.

Researchers speculate that the causes may include peripheral nerve ending sensitisation and imbalance of neurotransmitters involved in pain perception.

Codeine is commonly used in pain relief and anti-cough medications, however it is a weak pain reliever as only 15% or less of codeine is converted to the most active metabolite, morphine.

In this most recent research, Johnson’s team compared the effects of codeine and morphine on a test group of mice.

Study results showed that while morphine has  a more potent opioid analgesic effect than codeine, both medications produced similar effects in increasing hyperalgesia.

In other words, codeine was found to be a less effective pain reliever, but caused equal increases in pain sensitivity as morphine.


What You Need To Know

A number of genetic variants have been discovered which influence the rate at which an individual will metabolise codeine to morphine, and thereby influence their reaction to the drug. Most notably, variations to the liver detoxification CYP2D6 gene.

Certain medications inhibit the function of this gene reducing the efficacy of codeine for pain relief. These include quinidine, some selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs anti-depressants) and neuroleptic drugs.

Conversely, gene variations to CYP2D6 causing enhanced codeine to morphine conversion can result in toxic levels of morphine, even with recommended doses of codeine, and have been linked to life-threatening side effects such as respiratory depression in adults.

Infant deaths from codeine exposure through breastmilk have also been recorded and are linked with CYP2D6 genetic variances in breastfeeding mothers.

In general, children and infants have a reduced ability to metabolise morphine through glucoronidation liver detoxification pathways and are therefore at higher risk of adverse effects from codeine and morphine.


Pain Relief Without The Risks 

Why waste your time and risk your health by using medications that have been shown to have low efficacy and may even WORSEN   your pain?

A few diet and lifestyle changes with the right supplements could be all you need to turn your pain around – naturally.

Read on here to find out more about how your diet and specific nutrients such as magnesium, omega 3 and vitamin D can provide you with pain relief and improve your wellbeing.

Start on a natural anti-inflammatory supplement such as Curcuma Active or Nalgestic Forte turmeric extract.

Turmeric is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatories found in nature and has a range of other health promoting actions such as antioxidant, cardio and cancer-protective effects.


Further Reading: 



Codeine and Morphine May Increase Pain Sensitivity Equally, Neurology Reviews, September 2013, Vol. 21(9)

Has The Time Come To Phase Out Codeine? Canadian Medical Association Journal, November 2010, Vol 182(17)


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