Codeine Mechanism Of Action: How Codeine Works
Before looking at Codeine mechanism of action, it is important that we first understand the drug. Codeine, also known as methylmorphine, is an alkaloid drug that falls under the opiates class and is used for its antidiarrheal, antitussive and analgesic properties. The drug was first isolated by Jean-Pierre Robiquet in 1832 and was first discovered as a naturally occurring constituent of opium, though in small concentrations that range between 0.3% and 3.0%. Of all opiates, Codeine is the most used in the world and is likely the most common of all opiate drugs.
The Chemical Structure Of Codeine
To fully understand how codeine works, it is important that you look at its chemical structure. The drugs chemical formula is C18H21NO3. Its chemical name is expoxy-3methoxy-17-methylmorphian-6-ol; its alternative names are morphine monomethyl ether and methylmorphine. The drug is freely soluble in alcohol and is slightly soluble in water. It has a melting point of 309.2-312.8 F (154-156 C) and a boiling point of 480F (250C) at 22mm.
How Codeine Works in The Body
As we have already established, this drug is one of the most commonly used opiates in the world. Because of its properties and effects, people tend to abuse the drug. To understand why, one needs to look at the Codeine mechanism of action. So here is how this drug works once it has been taken.
As a weak opiate agonist, codeine offers quick pain relief by blocking pain signals that are sent from the brain to an affected part of the body. The drug mainly affects the Central Nervous System and works at inhibiting pain signals. By impairing the transmission of the pain signals, the user is able to feel lesser pain, even if the primary source or reason of the pain still exists.
The drug mimics the effects endorphins – naturally-occurring chemicals produced by the body and which act as natural painkillers – produce. For the body to experience Codeine’s painkilling effects, it has to convert the drug into morphine.
Once consumed, the drug is absorbed by the body’s gastrointestinal tract, allowing it to be quickly transported to different tissues all over the body – especially affected tissues. However, the drug doesn’t accumulate in body tissues as it is metabolized by the liver. Its metabolic products are then expelled by the kidney in a process known as glucuronidation.
For the drug to be converted into morphine, it has to go through O-demethylation; to become a norcodeine, it has to go through N-demethylation. 30 mg of Codeine is metabolized in about an hour, and about 90 percent of the drug is excreted from the body within one day. The interesting thing is that only about 10% of the drug is transformed into morphine in most people.
Despite being an addictive drug, codeine is the first ever opiate derivative to be made an over-the-counter drug. But considering the Codeine mechanism of action offers relief fast, and the fact that it is a weak opiate, the drug stands out as one of the most prescribed pain relief drugs in the world.