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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

July 8, 2022

Table of Contents

Solpadol is a combination medication containing acetaminophen (Tylenol) and codeine phosphate.

Also known as acetaminophen codeine or co-codamol, Solpadol is a branded medication prescribed to relieve pain when weaker painkillers prove ineffective.

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What is Solpadol?

Solpadol is a prescription only acetaminophen and codeine combination used to alleviate mild to moderate pain. Each white effervescent tablet is scored on one side. Tablets contain:

  • 500mg of acetaminophen
  • 30mg codeine

This medication is available over-the-counter in generic form. These weaker forms of the painkiller container less codeine.

The two numbers you see on the label of this medication express the acetaminophen/codeine content in milligrams.

Acetaminophen is safe and effective as a painkiller and can also reduce fever. Even long-term use of this medication is not habit-forming. Taken in large doses, though, acetaminophen can cause adverse effects, including serious liver damage. Cases of fatal overdose or liver damage so extreme that liver transportation is required are rare. This typically happens is someone takes unusually high doses of multiple products containing acetaminophen.

Codeine, on the other hand, is a narcotic analgesic. This substance acts on the CNS (central nervous system) to soothe pain.

Unlike acetaminophen, codeine can be habit-forming if taken long-term, leading to both physical and psychological dependence. This high potential for abuse means that codeine is classified under Schedule II of the Controlled Substance Act. The medication is available under the Opioid Analgesic Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy program due to the risks associated with opioid analgesics.

That said, you should let the fear of drug dependence put you off prescribed narcotic painkillers if your physician feels they are necessary. Using narcotic painkillers for their intended purpose is unlikely to trigger psychological dependence. If you develop physical dependence on opioid analgesics like Solpadol, this can prompt uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms in the absence of the substance. Tapering the dose before discontinuing use can mitigate most of those withdrawal symptoms, though.

How Much Solpadol Do You Take?

Adults and over-16s can take either 1 or 2 Solpadol tablets up to 4 times daily. Doses should be spaced by at least 4 hours. This prevents the acetaminophen content from causing liver damage.

You should not take more than 8 co-codamol tablets in a 24-hour period.

Resist the temptation to increase your dose of Solpadol if you experience more intense pain. Do not take a double dose of Solpadol either. If your pain is becoming more unmanageable, consult your healthcare provider.

How Does Solpadol Work?

Acetaminophen and codeine phosphate are different types of painkillers that work in different ways to alleviate pain.

Used to relieve mild or moderate pain, acetaminophen is believed to decrease the production of prostaglandins (compounds with hormone-like effects) in your brain spinal cord. These compounds sensitize your nerve endings to signal pain. When production of prostaglandins is reduced, this can change the way you perceive pain. The cause of the pain is not addressed, but you will not feel the pain as much.

Codeine, by contrast, is a stronger opioid painkiller. Like all opioids, codeine works by imitating the action of endorphins in the brain and spinal cord. Endorphins are chemicals produced naturally by the CNS to act as a pain-reliever. These chemicals are also associated with positive mood, informally labeled feel-good chemicals.

By targeting the same opioid receptors in the body as natural endorphins, codeine disrupts the transmission of pain signals between the nerves and the brain. As well as altering your perception of pain, codeine’s action of blocking pain receptors can cause other unwanted side effects – shallow breathing and slowed digestion, for instance. In combination form like Solpadol, you could encounter a variety of adverse outcomes.

Solpadol Side Effects

Like all medications, Solpadol can cause an array of unwanted side effects. Avoid taking painkillers in response to headaches too often or for extended periods, as this can inflame the issue. If you take codeine long-term, this can prompt abuse and possibly even addiction.

If you experience any of the following side effects after taking Solpadol, seek emergency medical assistance:

  • Dizziness
  • Difficulties breathing
  • Swelling of lips, throat, face, ankles, hands, or feet
  • Itchy rash
  • Urticaria (hives)
  • Any other serious skin reaction
  • Severe stomach pain

Consult your physician if you encounter any of these Solpadol side effects and they persist for more than a few days:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Bruising
  • Infections
  • Redness of the skin
  • Developing codeine dependence

Consult this complete list of Solpadol side effects if you are concerned about taking this medication.

Additionally, tell your healthcare provider about any other medications you have taken or recently taken. This includes OTC medications and herbal medicines. Solpadol can interfere with the action of some medications, and some medications impact the way in which Solpadol works. Avoid all medications containing acetaminophen and MAOI antidepressants.

Is It Possible to Overdose on Solpadol?

It is possible for life-threatening overdose and fatal respiratory depression to occur after the use of acetaminophen and codeine products like Solpadol.

You should always check closely for respiratory depression, both when initiating treatment and when increasing the dose of Solpadol.

Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect you or a loved one is experiencing an opioid overdose. Symptoms include:

  • Pinprick pupils
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Slow breathing
  • No breathing

Taking any product containing codeine phosphate exposes you to the risks associated with all opioids – misuse, abuse, and addiction in the form of opioid use disorder.

If your doctor prescribes Solpadol, they may suggest you get some naloxone. A caregiver can use this medication to reverse an opioid overdose while waiting for medical assistance.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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