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Tylenol With Codeine: 6 things you should know

Medically reviewed by C. Fookes, BPharm Last updated on Nov 12, 2018.

1. How it works

  • Tylenol With Codeine is a combination tablet containing both acetaminophen and codeine. Acetaminophen and codeine are two different pain-relieving medicines with two different mechanisms of action.
  • Experts aren't sure exactly how acetaminophen works, but suspect it blocks a specific type of cyclo-oxygenase (COX) enzyme, located mainly in the brain. Codeine is metabolized to morphine in the liver through liver enzymes such as CYP2D6. Morphine binds to specific receptors known as opioid receptors that block pain signals on their way to the brain.
  • Tylenol With Codeine belongs to the group of medicines known as combination narcotic analgesics.

2. Upsides

  • May be used to relieve mild-to-moderately severe pain. Use is limited by the addiction and dependence potential of codeine; codeine can also cause constipation.
  • Some people find taking fixed-dose combination tablets easier to take than taking two different medicines.
  • Tylenol With Codeine is available as a generic under the name Acetaminophen/Codeine.

3. Downsides

If you are between the ages of 18 and 60, take no other medication or have no other medical conditions, side effects you are more likely to experience include:

  • Stomach upsets including drowsiness and sleepiness, constipation, headache, sometimes abdominal pain or nausea (codeine component).
  • Drowsiness which may impair a person's reaction time and affect their ability to drive or operate machinery (codeine component). Avoid alcohol.
  • Codeine is potentially addictive and may be sought out by drug misusers. Do not overuse Tylenol With Codeine. Tolerance can also develop to codeine's analgesic effect and codeine may no longer work at the prescribed dosage. Products containing codeine have also been misused and may be sought out by drug users.
  • Marked differences may exist in the analgesic effect experienced between individuals due to genetic variations in the way codeine is metabolized to morphine (the active component).
  • Rarely, serious, life-threatening, breathing problems may occur (attributable to the codeine component. Risk is increased with higher dosages). Children are more at risk of breathing problems associated with Tylenol With Codeine.
  • Rarely, liver failure especially at dosages greater than 4000mg/day (acetaminophen component). Avoid taking extra acetaminophen while taking Tylenol With Codeine.
  • People who are ultra fast metabolizers of codeine through CYP2D6 may be at risk of morphine toxicity. Babies exposed to breast milk of rapid codeine metabolizers who are taking Tylenol With Codeine are also at risk of morphine toxicity which may be fatal or life-threatening; symptoms include increased sleepiness, difficulty breastfeeding, breathing difficulties or floppiness - seek urgent medical help if you notice these signs. Avoid taking Tylenol With Codeine if you are breastfeeding or pregnant.
  • Keep out of reach of children because accidental ingestion may result in a fatal overdose of Tylenol With Codeine. Babies who have been exposed to Tylenol With Codeine in the womb may experience neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome when born. Monitor and treat accordingly.
  • Tylenol With Codeine may interact with a number of drugs that are metabolized through the same liver enzymes CYP3A4 or CYP2D6. Profound sedation, breathing difficulties, and other adverse effects may result if benzodiazepines or similar drugs are given at the same time as codeine.

Notes: In general, seniors or children, people with certain medical conditions (such as liver or kidney problems, heart disease, diabetes, seizures) or people who take other medications are more at risk of developing a wider range of side effects. For a complete list of all side effects, click here.

4. Bottom Line

Tylenol With Codeine is an effective combination analgesic for the relief of mild-to-moderately severe pain. However, the codeine component can be addictive and may also cause constipation and/or drowsiness.

5. Tips

  • May be taken with or without food.
  • Short-term use only (typically three days unless your doctor has told you to take for longer). Not recommended for long-term use.
  • May cause drowsiness which may impair reaction skills and affect your ability to drive or operate machinery (codeine component). Avoid alcohol.
  • Different strengths of Tylenol With Codeine are available. These are usually designated numbers (such as #2 or #3). Make sure you take the correct tablet and do not exceed the recommended dosage.
  • Seek urgent medical advice if you experience any breathing difficulties, wheezing, itching, or facial swelling.
  • Keep up your fluid and fiber intake to reduce the risk of developing constipation. Tell your doctor if you experience constipation and consider taking a laxative.
  • Tell your doctor if you think you have become addicted to this combination drug or the usual dosage does not appear to be working.
  • Do not double up on other medications containing either acetaminophen or codeine while taking this combination product. Check product labels thoroughly to ensure these ingredients are not "hidden" in other products.

6. Response and Effectiveness

  • Peak concentrations of codeine are reached within two hours and the analgesic activity of codeine lasts between four to six hours. Peak effects of acetaminophen (Tylenol) are reached within 30-60 minutes of administration and the analgesic effects of acetaminophen last between three and four hours.

References

Tylenol with Codeine. Revised 09/2018. Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. https://www.drugs.com/pro/tylenol-with-codeine.html

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use Tylenol With Codeine only for the indication prescribed.

Copyright 1996-2019 Drugs.com. Revision date: November 12, 2018.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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