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What is Dihydrocodeine and How Does it Work?

Dihydrocodeine Tartrate, usually referred to as Dihydrocodeine, is a pain relief medication that is part of the opioid analgesics group of medicines. It works by reducing the intensity of the pain signals that the body sends to the brain through the central nervous system, mimicking the endorphins produced by the body, to give a pain-relieving effect.

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Dihydrocodeine tablets are a prescription-only medication, which should only be taken in the short-term, and should be stepped down once the pain is under control. As a strong medication, with a risk of addiction, Dihydrocodeine is usually prescribed only when other types of pain relief medicine, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, have already been tried but have not been effective in managing the pain.

What is Dihydrocodeine Used For?

Dihydrocodeine is a medication for pain management, and can be used to treat conditions such as:

  • Sciatica
  • Arthritic pain
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Postoperative pain
  • Pain resulting from an injury
  • Cancer pain.

What’s in Dihydrocodeine?

Dihydrocodeine tablets can contain a number of different ingredients, including lactose. Therefore, this medication may not be suitable for anyone with a history of intolerance to medication that contains lactose sugars.

Dihydrocodeine may also be combined with other types of pain relief medicines, such as paracetamol or aspirin, forming a lower strength painkiller. If you have tried lower strength pain relief treatments but have found that they don’t effectively manage your pain, you may be prescribed stronger pain relief, such as Dihydrocodeine tablets, instead.

Always check the ingredients of any medication before you take it and speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.

Is Dihydrocodeine Stronger Than Other Painkillers?

Tablets with Dihydrocodeine as the main active ingredient are strong painkillers and therefore are usually prescribed for moderate to severe pain, when other medications with a lower strength have not been effective.

Dihydrocodeine is stronger than Codeine, which is another medication from the same group of pain relief medicines. However, the effect of any medication depends very much on the way that the individual patient’s body reacts to and metabolises the medicine, which can vary from person to person. Therefore, the effects of Dihydrocodeine may be slightly different for you than they would be for someone else.

Dihydrocodeine Side Effects

Not everyone experiences side effects when taking Dihydrocodeine, but some of the common side effects can include:

  • Feeling lethargic or drowsy
  • Sickness or nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • A dry mouth.

On rare occasions, more serious side effects could be experienced. You should stop taking Dihydrocodeine and consult your doctor straight away if you experience:

  • Difficulty with breathing
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Slow or slurred speech
  • Dizziness.

Can I Drive Whilst Taking Dihydrocodeine?

It is recommended that you don’t drive when taking Dihydrocodeine if you feel any drowsiness, experience vision problems, dizziness or confusion or any other side effects which could cause your ability to drive safely to be impaired. It is against the law to drive when impaired by your medication (Gov.uk) and you should avoid operating heavy machinery whilst under the effects of Dihydrocodeine.

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Is Dihydrocodeine Safe for Anyone to Take?

Dihydrocodeine isn’t a suitable medication for everyone to take. You should consult your doctor before taking this medicine if you:

  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Have low blood pressure
  • Have liver or kidney problems
  • Have a chronic lung or respiratory condition
  • Regularly drink more than the recommended maximum 14 units of alcohol per week (NHS.uk, 2018)
  • Regularly experience asthma attacks or have allergen hypersensitivity.

You should not take Dihydrocodeine if you:

  • Recently had a head injury
  • Have increased pressure in the head
  • Have epilepsy
  • Have liver damage, kidney disease or renal impairment
  • Have high blood pressure.

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References:

Gov.uk, Drugs and driving: The Law [Online] [Accessed 9 May 2019] Available at https://www.gov.uk/drug-driving-law

NHS.uk, 2018, Alcohol Support [Online] [Accessed 9 May 2019] Available at https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-support/calculating-alcohol-units/