As codeine is a stronger painkiller than other painkillers such as ibuprofen, you might be wondering whether it is safe to consume other painkillers when prescribed codeine. It is safe to take codeine and ibuprofen together and the combination can provide effective pain relief. Note that this advice refers to the individual medications. If you are considering the combination medication, which consists of codeine and ibuprofen in one, then you must not combine this with additional ibuprofen or codeine. Read on to find out more about taking codeine and ibuprofen together and when you shouldn’t take or mix this combination.
Codeine is an opioid medication, which is a type of drug that can be taken to manage mild to moderate pain. It works by altering the way your central nervous system and brain respond to pain, blocking pain signals to the rest of the body. Codeine may also be used to help reduce a dry cough as it affects the part of the brain responsible for triggering the cough reflex. Available in pharmacies, it is sold as a syrup (linctus) for dry coughs. However, due to codeine’s potential for misuse and dependency, it’s generally only advised for pain management if other options have not been effective.
You are likely more familiar with ibuprofen, as it is the most commonly used and prescribed NSAID. NSAID stands for ‘non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug’, and ibuprofen is an NSAID used to relieve mild to moderate pain, reduce inflammation and lower fever. Ibuprofen works by reducing enzymes known as COX-1 and COX-2. This is effective because these enzymes have a vital role in the production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are substances in the body that cause inflammation, pain, and fever. By reducing the production of prostaglandins, ibuprofen helps to relieve these symptoms.
Both codeine and ibuprofen have a role in managing pain and other symptoms, but when used together, they can offer enhanced relief for specific types of pain. However, it’s crucial to be informed and follow medical advice when taking these drugs to mitigate potential risks and side effects.
Taking individual codeine and ibuprofen tablets
Taking codeine and ibuprofen together can form a potent solution for managing pain that hasn’t responded well to either drug used alone. Codeine and ibuprofen work in different ways to alleviate pain. Codeine influences the brain and central nervous system reducing the perception of pain, while ibuprofen works by decreasing the production of substances (COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes) in the body that cause inflammation and pain. Combining these two medications means pain is addressed from two different angles, potentially providing a more effective and widespread approach to pain management.
Single tablet containing both codeine and ibuprofen
Ibuprofen and codeine combined into one medicine is available to purchase from pharmacies. The combination medicine usually contains 12.8mg of codeine and 200mg of ibuprofen per tablet. The NHS website writes that it’s used to treat an array of aches and pains, including:
- headache and migraine
- back pain
- period pain
- sprains and strains
- pain from arthritis
- It is crucial to follow the prescribed dosage to ensure safe consumption and prevent any unwanted side effects.
- Tablets are recommended to be taken with food or milk. This way you decrease the chances of stomach pain or minor indigestion.
- You must not consume more than 6 combined ibuprofen and codeine tablets within 24 hours.
- If your pain has not improved after 3 days, it is important to tell your doctor and seek advice about ongoing pain relief.
While this combination can be effective, it’s not suitable for everyone. Whether this combination is safe for the individual depends on their overall health, any other medications they may be taking, and their susceptibility to the potential side effects of each drug. Therefore, it’s essential that this combination is taken following guidance from your doctor who can assess these factors.
Also, it’s vital to remember that the long-term use of any opioid, including codeine, should be avoided due to the risk of dependence and tolerance, while long-term use of ibuprofen can cause gastrointestinal problems, among other issues. Therefore, this combination should be used for short-term pain management unless otherwise directed by your doctor.
When to avoid combining codeine with ibuprofen
Whilst you can combine a single codeine tablet with a single ibuprofen tablet, you should not mix drug combinations already consisting of codeine and ibuprofen with additional ibuprofen or codeine.
You should also avoid mixing combined ibuprofen and codeine with other NSAIDs such as aspirin or naproxen. As ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen are from the same group of drugs, combining them can increase the risk of side effects. Combining additional codeine would mean that you’re taking more codeine than recommended which can have serious consequences, higher risk for side effects and dependency.
Who should avoid the tablet containing both drugs?
The combination drug containing both ibuprofen and codeine is not suitable for young children under the age of 12 years old. Never give combined ibuprofen and codeine to children.
Combined ibuprofen and codeine can be taken by adults and children aged 12 years and over. For those aged between 12-17 years old, the combination should only be given if other painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen have not worked individually.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women, people with specific health conditions or with allergies to ibuprofen or codeine should also avoid taking this combination.
As always, anyone considering this combination of medications should discuss with their doctor or a pharmacist to determine whether the medication is suitable for them.
In conclusion, it is safe to take codeine and ibuprofen together for effective pain relief. However, you must not mix combined medication already containing both ibuprofen and codeine with additional ibuprofen or codeine, or other NSAIDs such as aspirin or naproxen. Mixing these can lead to an increased risk of side effects and serious issues. Adhering to correct dosages and seeking health advice from your doctor or the pharmacist is paramount to avoid these consequences. Although these painkillers can offer significant relief, always prioritize using medications safely and responsibly.
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