Codeine (codeine phosphate or codeine sulfate) is one of a group of drugs called opioids. Opioids mimic the effects of naturally-occurring endorphins, which reduce pain. They help to block the transmission of pain signals and so, even if the cause of the pain is still present, the patient actually feels less pain. Codeine is used to treat symptoms of abdominal pain in IBS. It is also used to treat diarrhea because it has a constipating side effect. Codeine comes in pill form. It is also found as an ingredient in other painkillers.
Codeine side effects
The most common side effects of codeine are incomplete or infrequent bowel movements (constipation), drowsiness, a feeling of relaxation and stomach cramps. It should be noted that codeine can be addictive and patients can experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking it after a long period of time. There are even codeine rehab programs to help people who become addicted.
REVIEWS OF CODEINE
Review by Bev
I am 73 and I have had IBS for so many years that I've lost count. I've had all the tests imaginable, but the only help has been codeine phosphate as I have the diarrhea type. If I have to travel or go out for a meal I take one codeine phosphate and if I feel crampy a Colofac. I also have learnt that gluten-free foods, lacto-free milk, cheese and soya spread help. I am suffering at the moment through stupidly eating a takeaway korma. And for the first time I believe the frequency of the diarrhea in half an hour has caused piles or at least a very uncomfortable aching 'below'.
Codeine has never been a problem with me as I take only 5mg which holds off any problems from excruciating pain and embarrassment. IBS has controlled my life and makes any unplanned trips impossible. There are some who think we are fussy and finicky people but I believe IBS is a disability and should be accepted as such.
Review by Paul
I've read a few stories and realise now just how big a problem IBS is. I am 50 years old and have only managed to have a normal life due to the tablet codeine phosphate. I use this tablet nearly every day to give me control over my need to use the loo with little warning. Even with these tablets if I haven't used it as a prevention I have had (embarrassingly) many an accident. How you get out of these situations I don't know, I've always managed looking back but I wonder how...
Back to the codeine. I've used them for 30 years and although I use them most days due to work I can go for days without when at home or on a holiday or long weekend. I'm not addicted. My concerns are the new laws on drugs and whether I can drive with them. I drive an electric vehicle at work and it seems that codeine is being labelled a nuisance prescription drug. To me it's been a lifesaver.
Review by Jase
Having read a number of your stories I thought I would add my short story. I have suffered for many years with IBS (or similar), including frequent trips to the toilet during the day and passing blood.I only ended up at the doctor with it after getting worried by the amount of blood one day (in the region of 200ml). After many trips to the hospital for tests and having things stuck up inside me they came to the conclusion that they could see blood but had no idea what was causing the problem.
Unlike many on here I do not suffer pain, but the affect it had on my day to day life was getting worse. My doctor is very, very understanding and I have tried all number of drugs. Like many here I accidentally found codeine. I take around 15 30mg tablets a day and I am symptom free. At one stage the doc was getting worried about addiction and popped me onto dihydrocodeine.This new drug worked also but with the side effect of nausea and getting high at the same time. I discontinued those after a couple of weeks and went back to codeine phosphate.
Having done some research it appears I may be in the 6% who do not metabilize codeine into morphine. I can stop taking the codeine without having to suffer the nasty withdrawal symptoms I have read about in others, but the problem is that I revert straight away to having to stay close to a toilet. I do lack energy for a week or so after taking them (so I guess a small side effect). All I can say is that codeine gave me my life back. I do stop taking them a few times a year to see if my bowel has corrected, but as of now it has not.
Review by Maria
I have suffered all my life fom IBS. By chance I was given codeine by my GP for a stomach bug and it's cured me of the dreaded symptoms of IBS. I take two twice a day and feel great! Give it a go.
Review by Craig
I have suffered so long from IBS-D. The pain and suffering was so prolonged and I only weighed 120 pounds for years. After years of searching and procedures and paying doctors' bills, I stumbled on codeine. This is the best thing to ever happen to me. I can eat whatever I want whenever I want. I now weigh 140 pounds.
I live my life normally these days, taking three pills a day. I have absolutely no problem taking this for the rest of my life. I cannot believe I have absolutely no symptoms while taking this medication. I do not care what anyone else thinks about me taking these pills; they have saved my life. I can actually leave the house and go to work and other things. I've been taking them for seven years now. I've had no side effects yet, but we'll see what happens after prolonged use of this med.
Review by Heather
I've had IBS for about 20 years. I've tried peppermint capsules, mebeverine, Imodium and codeine. The first two didn't help much, although I understand that they do help some people. A perhaps lesser known side effect of codeine is that it causes constipation. It does cause addiction if taken regularly, even on a really low dose, and you have to avoid all alcohol whilst taking it.
However, as a preventative drug for limited use when you know you would be really mega stuck if you had a flare-up, such as during long journeys when on holiday overseas etc, it is bit of a miracle drug and slows your digestive system right down. I always have a reserve of codeine but I am very careful not to use it very often.
Generally I use Imodium which I take as soon as I get the feeling that my system is rebelling. It helps but sometimes takes a while. Over time I've found that anything with bubbles (fizzy water, beer, cider etc) doesn't work well in combination with food. Red wine is more likely to cause IBS for me when eating compared to white wine.
Other triggers for me are sweetcorn, capers, MSG, branflakes, coffee, coke, overly oily food, and particular types of fat, butter and margarine. I avoid all of them so far as possible. It's become bit of a joke with friends who all know I have IBS that I need to be careful what I eat and occasionally may need help to find a loo quickly. Life's just so much easier that way and they know they don't have to worry about you if you do disappear from the restaurant table for a while (or repeatedly).
Lastly, about one and a half years ago I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism (too little thyroxine). My IBS has been noticeably better since then even though I'm taking thyroxine tablets to bring my level up to what it should be. Too much thyroxine can make your body work too quickly and with hindsight I actually wonder whether I may have had too much thyroxine pumping round my body years back when I had really bad IBS and lost a ridiculous amount of weight due to it.
You don't want to play around with your thyroid unless you have been diagnosed with a thyroid problem. However, to anyone who does think they fit the diagnosis of hyperthyroidism (ie: too much thyroxine) it might be worth speaking to your doctor since such a condition needs diagnosis and may be making your IBS worse.
In summary, have hope, strictly eliminate all known food offenders and tell your friends (just once) that you have IBS. If they ask you what that is, just say it means that sometimes you are ill when you eat. Oh and ask your doctor about the possibility of some rarely to be used codeine tablets. They are a lifesaver when needed. Walking every day and yoga also help.
Review by Mike
I've had IBS for years. Nothing seemed to work. My doctor suggested lots of different diets and medications including Risperdal (an anti-psychotic which made me feel like a zombie). About two years ago I took some Codis (codeine and aspirin) for a headache (I'd never had codeine before) and I noticed it relieved my IBS as well.
I mentioned this to my doc and he started worrying about addiction, but he said he'd give me a repeat script for 100 16mg tabs as the aspirin in the Codis is bad for my kidneys (I have hereditary polycycstic kidney disease). No more than two a day though he said (presumably in case of addiction). I have the two tablets when I get up and I am IBS-free for the whole day. I only get symptoms maybe once a month instead of every day as before. It's changed my life so much: I can go out without fear of pooping my pants, I feel more relaxed and less stressed out, and my whole mood seems better. It's wonderful.
Review by Barbara
I have suffered from IBS for years now. I've tried all sorts of remedies but nothing gives me as much relief as codeine. My problem with IBS is mostly diarrhea, cramps and speedy exits to the bathroom. I was in fear of going anywhere in case I had to rush to the loo. I'm a keen walker and love to walk in the mornings and evenings, but I'd quite often have to rush home, and it made my life a misery.
Then one year I had a really bad sore throat and started taking Nurofen Plus every four hours for a few days. In that time I realized I had had no IBS symptoms - normal motions once a day - and no cramps! So for the last few years I have taken Nurofen once a day and I am free of all symptoms! Life is so different.
However, I was recently diagnosed with gout and my doctor has put me on the NSAID Tenoxican and he said I can no longer take Nurofen. Of course, within a day of not taking Nurofen, all my IBS symptoms were back. I know it is the codeine that helps, so I don't know if there is any other way I can take codeine without it interfering with the Tenoxican. I enjoyed reading this site and I was pleased to hear that other sufferers have had such success with codeine.
Review by Sarah Jane
I had the worst attack over the past few days, which had been brewing from the stress of a long journey, and my doctor visited with anti-sickness tablets, anti-inflammatories and the recommendation that I come off codeine! But I think I'll brave any addiction accusations and stick with it. It definitely is the drug that works, alongside Colpermin and my kinesiology practitioner.
Review by Paul
Well, I am 29 years old and I have suffered from IBS for 16 years or so now. I have been through the NHS program twice to see if they could find out what is wrong and everything always shows up OK. Anyway, I suffer from constipation IBS. If I don't eat sensibly then I can guarantee I will get constipated and ultimately end up with incredibly painful stomach cramps. This happens about once every three months.
I have however over the years found some ways of managing it. I don't know if these tips will help anyone else but I try to eat fresh home-cooked meals with fresh veg every day. I have seen a vast improvement in the time between attacks since I have been buying an organic vegetable box every week. I also regularly drink prune juice. Today is the first time I have had an attack in five months. This has never happened before! And last week I ate Dominos pizza, a curry and some pre-packaged food, so it is probably no surprise I was ill!
But when I do get ill I take two to four 30mg codeine sulfate tablets over four hours and two Buccastem anti-sickness tablets (as I can get very, very ill with my IBS because the pain is so bad and throw up every 10 minutes for up to 12 hours). I then go and have a shower for 45 minutes or so. I find the hot water really helps the pain.
It's strange because I used to really dread these IBS attacks. Sometimes I would be literally writhing in agony and I would end up in hospital where they would give me 30-40mg of morphine. It would usually take two or three days to get back to work after such an attack. Since my doc prescribed codeine last year I can have an attack at 3.30am (like last night) and still make it into work by lunchtime. I am so glad at last I have found a way to help the pain. I can deal with the vomiting but the pain was unbearable.
Review by Tanya
I took codeine for about a year. I had IBS with diarrhea and cramping pains in my stomach every morning. It was a nightmare and the pain was unreal. I used to panic, especially if I had to go out anywhere. I took 15mg of codeine four times a day over a year. I gradually got more and more addicted to it until I was on 60mg four times a day, but it cured my stomach completely.
I didn't even think about it, but my doctor realized that I was taking too much and took me off of it. Now I take Spasmonal for the cramps and loperamide for the diarrhea. So far so good, and I just hope it stays that way. Unless you suffer from IBS you will not understand the stress and anxiety that you go through. Luckily I have a really understanding doctor.
Review by Penny
I have been taking codeine for six months now and it is a saving grace. When the pain is bad I just take one and thankfully it goes away, and it also makes me need the toilet less. The problem that I have is that sometimes the pain is worse, so I have to take more than one at a time (I am on 30mg) but then I get constipated so I have to take Senokot or something like that before I can go the toilet. I truly do not believe I am addicted as I can go days without it if I don't have any pain.
Review by Marcy
Codeine and Imodium AD have saved my life! I was on heavy pain meds before I figured out that a little codeine goes a long way to help my IBS. It is possible to take it and not get addicted. I have been taking it for IBS flare-ups for five years now and my life is almost back to the way it was before IBS.
Review by Sarah
I was so relieved to read of others using codeine. I discovered it as an aid to my IBS quite by accident, having been prescribed it for another problem. I use it only when going on a long journey (where the panic of being stuck without facilities tends to trigger an attack) and I find that I never have a problem.
I use it sparingly - just once on the outward journey and once on the return, for journeys involving flying, up to a maximum of four or five times a year. The additional drowsy effect also seems to slow down the panic and adrenalin rush which leaves me less open to attacks in the first place. I do not travel without it and it has dramatically reduced the amount of Imodium I used to need to be able to travel on holidays, making me a much easier holiday companion!
Review by Petita
I have coped with IBS for over 20 years. The only product that has truly made my life any better is codeine phosphate. Whenever I have a long trip, a stressful situation or a really bad turn I pop one or two 15mg codeine tablets and know that however bad it gets I'm not going to embarrass myself. Basically I can hold on.
The only side effect that I've experienced over the years is that as I have learnt to cope and gained more confidence I have had to reduce the amount I take, as it can cause me to get a bit bunged up. This product was recommended to me by a fellow IBS sufferer. I had to ask my doctor for it as his only answer was to send me to see a psychologist as it was all in my head. Thankfully now I have a very understanding doctor.
Review by Tanya
My IBS started just before I got pregnant with my first child and it was terrible - I had such pain in my stomach and needed the toilet quickly, up to eight times a day. The doctors at the hospital told me it was because I was pregnant, but after my daughter was born it still carried on. I registered with a new doctor and she is so nice and understanding. She gave me codeine which works well, but then my stomach got worse again, so I combine loperamide (Imodium) with codeine. It's brilliant and works so well I don't have to panic when I go out if there is not a toilet nearby.
Review by Jim
I have had IBS all my life. I am a 56 year-old male. My version is diarrhea which can happen within seconds of a warning twinge. I will not go into the sordid details. Twelve years ago my then doctor, after a string of defeated doctors, was on the verge of giving up when as a last throw of the dice he told me to try codeine phosphate tablets. These are painkillers with a side effect of constipation.
I only take the tablets when I travel and the effect has changed my life. They don't completely bung me up but the physical effect is complemented by the mental stress levels being reduced. They can make you drowsy, so caution must be employed.
Review by Sue
I started taking paracetamol and codeine analgesics when I started suffering from IBS - my GP could not help other than to say 'Horror! I can't give you codeine by itself!' This was five years ago after the death of my husband (obviously stress-related diarrhea IBS).
A few months ago, it started up again, but larger and larger doses of codeine (up to 180mg per day) give me no relief - in fact, I feel they are making me incontinent at night, quite apart from the dependency factor. Nothing helps now. I feel I should have stopped taking the codeine when my symptoms abated rather than my body becoming used to it. I am scared to stop taking it now in case my symptoms become far, far worse - if that's possible.
Review by Oliver
I suffer from diarrhea-predominant IBS and I tried many different diets to try to control it and avoid drugs, but nothing worked. My doctor convinced me to try codeine and I am very happy with the results. As said on this page, it is addictive in large doses, but I take only a small amount when I need it. I don't see anything wrong with taking codeine regularly because it has such a great effect on my symptoms.
Review by Leigh
I came across the wonder of codeine completely by accident a few years ago. I found that it works wonders in relieving the pain of IBS and also the number of bowel movements. I wouldn't leave for a long journey or a night out without taking it now. Fortunately for me I have found no lasting side effects nor have I become addicted. By the same token I try not to take it every day, only when I can feel a bad episode coming on.
Review by Kumar
I suffered from IBS for years without knowing what it was. A few months back a gastroenterologist suggested codeine sulfate and it worked like a miracle. I am still on a regular dosage of codeine and if I stop taking it even for one day I experience IBS-D. Whatever the side effects may be I would recommend this medicine since it has improved my quality of life very much.
Review by Pam
Codeine is what started me on this whole IBS mess. I was addicted to codeine, which I think in turn caused me to have IBS. Now that I'm off the codeine, I'm stuck with IBS. I've been off the stuff for months now, and my IBS symptoms have not gotten better since. Codeine, as everyone knows, constipates. A codeine addict is pretty well permanently constipated...or that is until their insides cannot hold any more waste.
Review by G
I have suffered from IBS for about five years. By accident I have found out that codeine phosphate helps to lessen the pain. When I told my doctor he said that you may become addicted if you use it continuously, so only take it when you have severe pain. I really recommend it.
Review by Mark
I have suffered from IBS for four years now. I have found codeine phosphate to help me so much. I only use it if I have a bad turn but I would recommend it for sure, just make sure that it is used as a last measure, as you must not get reliant on it.
Review by Claire
I took codeine to break the painful diarrhea when my IBS suddenly alternated...it's lovely to feel relaxed but now I won't go anywhere without it on me. I won't go on a long journey without taking it, or I get too nervous. And being nervous is the main trigger for me!
Do you suffer from IBS? Have you tried codeine? Please contact Sophie to send in your review.