Codeine May Make Your Headache WORSE?

Codeine.  It's in our cough medicine.  We take it when we're in pain.  It's been around since forever.  But what if it made you feel worse?

"Using large and frequent doses of the pain-killer codeine may actually produce heightened sensitivity to pain, without the same level of relief offered by morphine, according to new research from the University of Adelaide," as reported by newswise.com.

The Web site quotes the University's Professor Paul Rolan, a headache specialist at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, who says codeine has been widely used as a pain reliever for more than 100 years, "but its effectiveness has not been tested" in this way before.

"In the clinical setting, patients have complained that their headaches became worse after using regular codeine, not better," Professor Rolan tells newswise.com. "Codeine use is not controlled in the same way as morphine, and as it is the most widely used strong pain reliever medication in the world, we thought it was about time we looked into how effective it really is."

As far as how codeine compares to morphine, "Codeine provided much less pain relief than morphine, but resulted in the same level of increased sensitivity to pain" in the study, according to newswise.com.

I've had many surgical procedures, some that required morphine, and there's nothing quite like that dreamy feeling, floating on a cloud, when nothing seems to bother you too much.  To think of it not working is, well, you wouldn't want to be around me.

Researchers found that codeine provided much less pain relief than morphine, but resulted in the same level of increased sensitivity to pain.

"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," University of Adelaide PhD student Jacinta Johnson, who worked on the study, tells newswise.com. "We think that this is a particular problem in headache patients, who seem more sensitive to this effect."

She explains that codeine is a "kind of 'Trojan horse' drug – 10% of it is converted to morphine, which is how it helps to provide pain relief. However, despite not offering the same level of pain relief, we found that codeine increased pain sensitivity just as much as morphine."

Most people only take codeine for limited amounts of time, both Rolan and Johnson say.  But for those with chronic pain, this could be a real game-changer. ""People who take codeine every now and then should have nothing to worry about, but heavy and ongoing codeine use could be detrimental for those patients who have chronic pain and headache," Professor Rolan says. "This can be a very difficult issue for many people experiencing pain, and it creates difficulties for clinicians who are trying to find strategies to improve people's pain."

Comments

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