Often prescribed for short-term pain management after major surgery or traumatic event, Tylenol 4 is an opioid analgesic only available via prescription. While it is commonly prescribed without refills and intended to be used for a short period of time, there are some circumstances where a prescription could be long-standing or individuals may purchase the drug illegally on the streets.
Tylenol 4 is a commonly abused prescription opioid, partially because of how frequently it is prescribed. Especially popular among young adults and the party scene, Tylenol 4 is often easily accessible and is sometimes dissolved into alcoholic drinks to create a potent concoction. This combination is dangerous and holds high potential for addiction and dependency, which can result in debilitating withdrawal symptoms.
What is Tylenol 4?
Tylenol 4 is actually a combination of two drugs: Tylenol and codeine. Independently, Tylenol is a brand name for acetaminophen, a pain reliever and fever reducer that is available over the counter and without a prescription. Tylenol does not have many severe side effects and it carries a low risk for dependency. However, it is possible to become tolerant of the drug rendering it less efficient for pain relief and fever reduction over an extended period of time.
Codeine is an analgesic opioid that is only available via prescription. Developed in the 1830s, codeine was originally marketed as a recreational drug, but taken off the open market after discovering how addictive it can be. Following this discovery, it was used primarily for medical uses and only available via prescription. Codeine is actually the most commonly prescribed opioid across the globe and is considered a schedule II narcotic in the United States.
Codeine has been mixed with different drugs to treat various medical conditions, most commonly acetaminophen. There are various strengths of this drug combination, indicated in the title of the drug as Tylenol 2, Tylenol 3, and Tylenol 4. Tylenol 4 is the most potent of these medications, containing 60mg of codeine and 325mg of acetaminophen.
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Codeine and Acetaminophen Dependency
As an opioid, codeine affects the body by binding to opioid receptors in the brain. When these opioid receptors are activated, they cause signals being sent through the central nervous system to become sluggish, or slow to react. This slowing of signals through the central nervous system is why opioids are effective at reducing pain, or more accurately, reducing our perception of pain. When pain signals becoming sluggish or temporarily blocked, we do not perceive pain as we normally would, resulting in a reduced pain level.
While this effect is helpful in the reduction of pain, it also changes chemical levels in the brain. Your body naturally produces some levels of endorphins that react with the opioid receptors in your brain, generally causing these levels to rise when you do something that brings you joy or pleasure. When opioids are introduced into your brain, however, these levels become artificially elevated which can cause your brain to stop producing these endorphins.
If this introduction of opioids to your brain is suddenly stopped or slowed, your body will crave more of the drug. Often times a tolerance is built over time, rendering each dose less effective than the previous. This tolerance is one of the first signs of opioid dependence or addiction, as more and more of the drug is required to reach the desired state of pain relief.
Side Effects And Withdrawal Symptoms of Tylenol 4
While reducing the amount and frequency of opioids if you have a substance abuse issue is important, quitting abruptly can be extremely dangerous. Because your brain has become accustomed to a certain level of opioids binding with your opioid receptors, your body considers this new chemical balance to be the norm. If you suddenly stop taking opioids, then this level will come down too rapidly, resulting in withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms generally occur when chemical levels in the brain change too rapidly. This causes chaos in your central nervous system and will present itself in physically painful and mentally draining ways. Common withdrawal symptoms associated with Tylenol 4 dependency include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Night sweats, insomnia
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss due to malnutrition
- Phantom muscle pains
- Excessive exhaustion and drowsiness
- The shakes
- Runny nose
- Teary eyes
The safest way to reduce consumption of Tylenol 4 and other opioids is to seek out a professional medical detox center. Medical detox facilities specialize in the detox of dangerous addictions like opioid and alcohol dependencies. Through these facilities, you will be supervised by a medical physician to ensure your own safety while going through these withdrawal symptoms. Often times, medical interventions may be used to help ease you through these symptoms and make you more comfortable.
Get Help and Addiction Treatment Today
The opioid epidemic is sweeping our nation, and codeine medications such as Tylenol 4 play a major role in this epidemic. By nature, opioids are highly addictive and very difficult to stop using without professional help. If you or a loved one suffers from dependency on opioids like Tylenol 4, you are not alone.
Reaching out to a professional is your first step on your road to codeine recovery. Our addiction treatment specialists are standing by to take your call and answer any questions you may have regarding medical detox, inpatient residential rehab, and outpatient programs. We have many programs that are tailored specifically to your needs, ensuring you the best possible chance of a full recovery. Your call is always confidential, and our addiction treatment specialists are available to talk around the clock. Give us a call today.