Acetaminophen With Codeine

How Does Acetaminophen With Codeine Work?

Acetaminophen with codeine, as the name implies, contains two different medications: acetaminophen and codeine phosphate. Codeine is a narcotic, opioid pain reliever. It is effective at decreasing pain and relieving coughing, but also causes drowsiness, mood changes, and mental "clouding."
Codeine itself is not effective for relieving pain; in the liver, certain enzymes metabolize codeine into morphine (which is very effective for relieving pain). Some people who have lower-than-normal functioning of certain metabolizing enzymes in the liver may not get much pain relief from codeine, since they will not adequately metabolize codeine into morphine.
Acetaminophen ("APAP") is a pain reliever and fever reducer commonly found in nonprescription medications such as Tylenol®. "APAP" is an acronym for one of the chemical names for acetaminophen. Combining codeine with acetaminophen helps improve the combination drug's effectiveness at relieving pain.

When and How to Take It

General considerations to keep in mind when taking acetaminophen with codeine include the following:
  • The medication comes in tablet and oral solution (liquid) form. It is taken by mouth as frequently as every four hours (up to a certain maximum dose per day, depending on the particular strength).
  • Be careful not to exceed the maximum recommended daily dose, as this could lead to overdose symptoms or to poisoning from the acetaminophen component, which can cause liver failure.
  • Acetaminophen with codeine is either taken "as needed" or on a scheduled basis. "As needed" means you will only take a dose if you are experiencing pain (if you are not in pain, you will skip the dose), while "scheduled use" means you should take it on schedule, even if you are not in pain. Most healthcare providers prescribe acetaminophen with codeine on an "as needed" basis, rather than a scheduled basis. In some situations, a scheduled basis is appropriate (such as in people with constant cancer-related pain).
  • It is best to take acetaminophen with codeine with food, as this may help reduce nausea and vomiting.
  • For the medication to work properly, it must be taken as prescribed. Do not increase your dose without your healthcare provider's approval. Do not suddenly stop taking acetaminophen with codeine, especially if you have taken it regularly for more than several weeks.
8 Frequent Pain Syndromes

Info on Acetaminophen With Codeine

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