Codeine Or Hydrocodone: Which Is The Safer Choice As Pain Medicine?

When we suffer from pain, we are prescribed medications from our health providers to cure it completely. The medications usually then alleviate our discomfort. However, in some cases, it can be seen that a new medication which is similar in composition as the previously used and does a better job at ameliorating the pain and also does not provide any unwanted effects in the body simultaneously is now launched in the market. Now, what to do? This situation now can baffle some people as what to use when treating injuries.

With that being said, we directly jump to our topic which is a common problem that people face when they have to choose between codeine and hydrocodone medications. Both of these medicines are used to treat the symptoms of pain but people often get confused between them and can not decide which will be better for them as both codeine and hydrocodone are opioid medications, both of them do a very effective job.

But since they are both opioids medications, if not used correctly can produce more side effects to your body than benefits. 

If you are also someone who has gone through the same problems, then do not worry more any more, we have got you covered. Continue reading the article to solve all your queries.

What are opioid medications?

Both codeine and hydrocodone are opioid medications and opioids are classification of drugs that have been derived from the opium poppy plant native to South Asian and few European countries. Opioids work by binding to the opioid receptors present throughout the body. These receptors directly influence the feeling and emotions of the body.

When we consume codeine and hydrocodone, the opioid receptors are overtaken by these drugs creating feelings of euphoria and pleasure coursing through the body and suppressing pains in the process. However, it only provides temporary relief and does not provide any benefits in the long run. 

Once you start consuming opioid medications unless it is prescribed, it can be very addictive as the body becomes used to the pleasure rush and breaking out of the cycle can be quite a difficult task. This destructive cycle is the reason for the opioid dependency and addiction and that is why the opioid epidemic is so destructive as millions of people died due to overdosing.

Codeine Or Hydrocodone

Why are codeine or hydrocodone prescribed?

Both codeine or hydrocodone are the common medications prescribed for reducing pain.

Codeine can relieve mild to moderate pain. When consumed, it changes the way our brain and nervous system respond to pain. It can also lessen bouts of coughing when used with other medications as it decreases the activity in the part of the brain that regulates coughing.

On the other hand, hydrocodone is used to relieve moderate to severe pain. Hydrocodone is prescribed only when the affected person needs to be relieved from pain for an extended period and other medications are unable to produce the desired results. It works in a similar process as that of codeine by changing the reaction stimulus of the brain and nervous system towards pain.

Side effects of codeine and hydrocodone 

As we all know, codeine and hydrocodone are commonly prescribed drugs for pain. They are also very effective in treating pain and it can be seen they are the last retorts when other medications have not been able to cure the suffering. However, with that being said, these narcotic medicines are also easily misused and if not taken proper precautions, it produces unwanted repercussions in the body.

Side effects of codeine are:

  1. Headache
  2. Stomach pain
  3. Difficulty in urinating

On the other hand, the side effects of hydrocodone are:

  1. Dry mouth
  2. Tiredness and muscle tightening
  3. Abdominal pain
  4. Ringing in the ears
  5. Swelling in the body and uncontrollable shaking in certain parts of the body.

Some of the common side effects that are produced by long term usage or overconsumption of both codeine and hydrocodone are:

  1. Agitations, palpitations and hallucinations
  2. Severe muscle stiffness and twitching 
  3. Nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite
  4. Severe allergic reactions
  5. Sweating and difficulty in breathing
  6. Irregular menstruation and lack of sexual desire.

Dosage and forms of codeine and hydrocodone

There are certain things that you should keep in mind while consuming opioid medications.


  • It is found in the form of oral capsules, tablets and solutions.
  • Dosage is generally in 15-mg, 30-mg and 60-mg strengths.
  • If you are using a solution of codeine, shake well before use, to mix all the contents thoroughly.
  • Do not use a household spoon to measure your dose and instead go for a measuring cup.
  • Should be taken after every 4-6 hours as required.
  • If you have been taking codeine for a long time, do not stop immediately. Try to decrease the dosages gradually as a sudden quit will lead to terrible withdrawal symptoms.


  1. Hydrocodone comes in the form of an extended-release capsule or an extended-release tablet. 
  2. The strengths of the tablets in which they are available are generally 2.5mg, 5mg, 7.5 mg and 10mg. 
  3. The capsules should be taken once in twelve hours and tablets should be taken one in a day.
  4. It should be taken at the same time every day.
  5. Swallow the tablets or the capsules with a lot of water and do not keep it on your tongue for a long time. Ingest it as soon as you have it in your tongue.
  6. Hydrocodone generally starts with a low dosage and then gradually keeps on rising as the body starts adjusting to the strength.

As we already discussed if you have been consuming codeine or hydrocodone for a long time, you tend to form a dependency upon it and quitting the cycle can be a very difficult task. Our body starts to generate withdrawal symptoms upon not getting the required dosage of these medications and the most common signs are:

  1. Restlessness, irritability and anxiety
  2. Extreme discomfort and uneasiness
  3. Widened pupils and teary eyes 
  4. Fast breathing and heartbeat
  5. Complete loss of appetite
  6. Stomach cramps and weakness


Now coming to the main question, whether to choose codeine or hydrocodone for treating pain? 

You have read the article and could effectively see all the benefits as well as the side effects of both the medications. They are both very effective in alleviating pain but misusing these drugs can create dire consequences for the body. We would like to advise to keep both of the medications out of the reach of children as they can be extremely fatal for them. 

Both of them are prescribed medications and it is always advisable to follow the doctor’s instructions and recommended dosage for obtaining the proper benefits out of these medicines. Opioids are drugs that affect the working of our central nervous system and therefore talking with a professional healthcare advisor is extremely important before starting the consumption. 

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