What Is Dihydrocodeine? Identification, Street Names, & Addictive Properties
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Dihydrocodeine is an opioid pain reliever that was originally used to treat coughs. Discover how the drug is used today and how its use can be deadly.
Dihydrocodeine was first synthesized in Germany in 1908 and was marketed in 1911 as a means to prevent coughing caused by the airborne diseases of the time (e.g., tuberculosis). Dihydrocodeine is still prescribed today, though it is lesser-known than its pain-relieving counterpart, codeine.
What Is Dihydrocodeine?
Dihydrocodeine is a partially synthetic opioid. It is commonly prescribed for its analgesic properties, particularly after surgeries and minor operations. Like all opioids, individuals should exercise caution when taking dihydrocodeine to avoid developing dependence because it is possible to develop a dependence on dihydrocodeine after using high doses or using it regularly.
Dihydrocodeine works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, central nervous system and digestive system.
What Is Dihydrocodeine Used For?
What is dihydrocodeine used for? Dihydrocodeine has numerous uses. It can be used to treat postoperative pain, severe pain or to suppress coughing. In some cases, dihydrocodeine is used in combination with drugs, such as aspirin and caffeine, to treat severe pain if other pain relief methods fail. Dihydrocodeine may also be prescribed as an alternative or additional pain-reliever to codeine.
There are additional dihydrocodeine uses. It can function similarly to methadone — namely as addiction treatment for individuals struggling with heroin use. To treat heroin addiction, dihydrocodeine can be administered at doses up to 2,500 mg per day, if necessary.
Administration and Dosage
Prescription doses of dihydrocodeine differ for everyone based on their condition and pain intensity. If individuals do not follow their dihydrocodeine prescriptions correctly, they may run the risk of overdosing. For example, taking someone else’s dihydrocodeine prescription may be fatal. Alternatively, abusing the medication by taking higher doses than what was prescribed is dangerous.
What Does Dihydrocodeine Look Like?
Doses of dihydrocodeine vary. Typically, for mild or moderate pain, oral tablets are prescribed at doses between 15 and 30 mg. Dihydrocodeine tablets also come in extended-release tablets ranging from 60 to 120 mg.
Besides tablets, dihydrocodeine may come in capsule form, particularly when mixed with other preparations such as aspirin and caffeine. When used as a cough medicine, dihydrocodeine will come in liquid or syrup preparations mixed with other drugs.
Dihydrocodeine Street Names
Unfortunately, individuals may illegally obtain dihydrocodeine on the street. Though technically different from codeine, dihydrocodeine may have similar street names. Examples of what dihydrocodeine may be called when sold illicitly include:
- Purple drank
Dihydrocodeine will likely be referred by these nicknames if it is in the form of cough medicine (liquid).
In other cases, dihydrocodeine may be referred to as one of its brand names. Some brand names of dihydrocodeine include:
- Coldcough PD
- Dihydro CP
- EndaCof CH
- Poly-tussin EX
Dihydrocodeine Side Effects
There are many different side effects of dihydrocodeine. Some dihydrocodeine effects are physical, while others can alter a person’s mental state. Additionally, some side effects are more serious than others. Even at lower doses, necessary precautions should be taken when using the drug.
Physical side effects of dihydrocodeine use are generally dose-dependent and may become more severe with higher doses. Typical physical side effects include:
- Upset stomach
- Difficulty urinating
- Difficulty breathing
- Decreased breathing
- Skin rash
- Itchy skin
As far as psychological effects or effects that impact a person’s mental state, there are not nearly as many reported side effects of dihydrocodeine. One of the most common psychological effects of taking dihydrocodeine is the feeling of mild euphoria.
How Long Does Dihydrocodeine Stay in Your System?
How long does dihydrocodeine stay in your system? Generally speaking, it will take over an hour for dihydrocodeine to start working (with a typical dose ranging from 30 to 60 milligrams). The half-life of dihydrocodeine is four hours, meaning that after four hours, half of the drug has been eliminated through the urine. After another four hours, only a quarter of the drug is still in a person’s system. Thus, unless large recreational quantities of dihydrocodeine are continually ingested, most of this drug will be eliminated from a person’s system after one day.
Is Dihydrocodeine Addictive?
Is dihydrocodeine addictive? If taken for a long period of time or large doses are taken, there is potential for addiction to dihydrocodeine. Additionally, improper or recreational use of this drug can easily lead to addiction, especially if large quantities are ingested all at once.
An individual that suddenly stops taking this drug may also experience dihydrocodeine withdrawal symptoms such as an upset stomach, chills, sweating, irritability, anxiety, lightheadedness, cravings, shaking and the inability to sleep.
Drug Bank Database “Dihydrocodeine.” Accessed July 24, 2019.
Edwards, JE; McQuay, HJ; Moore, RA. “Single dose dihydrocodeine for acute postoperative pain.” Cochrane Database Syst Rev., 2000. Accessed July 24, 2019.
National Institutes of Health. “Street & Commercial Names.” July 2017. Accessed July 24, 2019.
National Institutes of Health. “Dihydrocodeine.” Accessed July 24, 2019.