Opioid based pain relievers are making the news almost each day. As the pressure on the formerly favored pain medication increases, individuals are increasingly turning to an, up-till-now, little known medication.

Codeine/acetaminophen, co-codamol is an analgesic made of a combination of codeine phosphate and paracetamol. Used for the relief of mild to moderate when medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin don’t sufficiently work as a pain relief.

Marketed under a variety of brand names, Co-codamol is available in seven strengths for those who buy online .

Side Effects

Side effects may include constipation, skin rashes and sedation as well as shortness of breath, fainting, nausea, and vomiting. In 5 percent of persons, metabolism can happen especially fast. This may lead to higher levels of morphine passed through breast milk which potentially may cause fatal respiratory depression of a breastfed baby.

Josie Cowan

Josie takes three co-codamol tablets a day. She only keeps three tablets with her and keeps the rest of the box at their mom’s home, so she doesn’t cave into temptation.

Josie, a twenty-four-year-old barmaid, has been taking the high dose pills for twelve years. Suffering a back injury on a trampoline as a teenager, she initially was prescribed a four-week course of the medication.

Each tablet contains 30mg of codeine, a potentially addictive opioid in the same chemical family as morphine. Josie became hooked. When her initial prescription ran out, she was given another. Within several months she was craving the tablets before the next dose was due.

When Josie told her physician that she needed the tablets more often, he recommended doubling the dose. He never mentioned that Josie, who was 13, could be addicted.

By 15, Josie was consuming the tablets every three hours.

Melanie Hill

Coronation Street’s Melanie Hill has started to talk about her secret battle with drug addiction.

Hill, 53, plays Cathy Matthews on the hit show, Coronation Street. Hill became hooked on painkiller Co-codamol following a hip operation to help deal with osteoarthritis.

Hill told Woman magazine, “I needed an injection, but I had to get rid of it when I was shooting scenes. I pushed on for two years since I didn’t want to miss work.”

When Hill decided to kick the habit, it took her three months to completely wean off the drugs.

Prescriptions Soar

Experts have continually warned that opioid painkillers, like those Josie had been taking, are highly addictive — yet prescriptions have soared.

The most recent figures found there were 22 million prescriptions for the drugs — more than double than prescribed in 2005.

Experts are beginning to recognize the drugs often don’t work for chronic pain — and can make it worse. Yet, their use has increased. Opioids have conventionally been reserved for short-term use for severe pain following heart attacks or surgery. They are also often used in palliative care for people dying of cancer.

The past decade has seen opioids used more often for arthritis, fibromyalgia, and endometriosis. Part of the surge in opioid prescripts is driven by an aging population. More people are living longer with chronic pain.

Opioids do have their place: as a short-term treatment for severe pain.

“There are some situations where they might be beneficial in longer-term chronic pain,” says Roger Knaggs,  a member of the British Pain Society.

“But they should be monitored carefully. Patients should start off on opioids on a trial basis and regularly reviewed. The dose should be intermittent — not continuous.”