The opiate antitussives are medicines which treat coughs. They are given as syrups, drops, or tablets.
How do the opiate antitussives work?
The opiate antitussives such as codeine, pholcodine, and dextromethorphan act by inhibiting the nerve centres in the brain. They are used for dry coughs without expectoration.
Do they have any contraindications or precautions?
There are several contraindications to taking opiate antitussives. These include a loose cough producing mucus, liver, or respiratory impairment, as well as asthma and hypertension. Note also that pregnant or breast-feeding women must not take an antitussive. Pholcodine is only dispensed to patients on medical prescription. There is some information to suggest a link between pholcodine and allergic reactions to curares, which are rare but serious during anaesthesia. These have led to the benefit/risk balance of these medicines being reassessed. Finally, they also carry a risk of dependency.
- Merck Manuel, 4th edition
- Afssaps, 4 May 2011
- Pharmacorama, website accessed on 3 August 2011
The central antitussives act on the nerve centres in the brain to treat cough. © Phovoir
Opiate antitussive - 1 Photo