Tylenol 3 for an effective pain management

Tylenol 3 is a combination of acetaminophen with codeine indicated for mild to moderate pain management. The drug is of prescription status, manufactured by Ortho-McNeil Janssen Pharmaceutical Company.

Pain is a subjective feeling, produced by the sensory organization of our nervous system. Pain is a symptom that acts as an alert, signaling for some kind of intervention to remove the underlying cause. Where pain is a blessing in disguise, it can adversely affect the quality and functioning of an individual. This is evident by the fact that pain is most prevalent of all reasons that result in one ending up in a physician’s office.

Pain management has been tackled in miscellaneous ways at different time era. The conventional medicine makes use of medicines and psychological therapies whereas the alternate medicine takes many routes to counteract this nuisance. No matter what the case, pain management is the focus of research all over the globe. Tylenol 3 is the outcome of the same ongoing exploration, particularly for chronic pain management.

According to a recent Institute of Medicine Report on pain, about 100 million Americans suffer from pain and the cost of pain management therapies amount to about more than half a trillion dollars per year. Despite all these facts, patients frequently get the most ineffective and inappropriate treatments for their pain. The present review will analyze the effectiveness of Tylenol 3 in the backdrop of all these details.

What is Tylenol 3?

Tylenol 3 is an analgesic drug with two main preparations combined together,

  • Acetaminophen
  • Codeine

Due to the presence of codeine in Tylenol 3, the drug comes under the heading of an opiate or simply a narcotic preparation. The opiate pain analgesics are usually recommended for severe of pains either acute or chronic.  Tylenol 3 is indicated for many medical conditions associated with moderate to severe pain as

  • Back pain
  • Arthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Toothache
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Bladder pain
  • Musculoskeletal pain

The drug starts working within few hours of consumption and continues to work for days and weeks with continued medication.

Mode of action of Tylenol 3

Codeine is an opiate that is used for

  • Pain relief
  • Cough aid
  • For the relief of diarrhea

Morphine is the active metabolite of codeine and it exerts its therapeutic effects by binding to u-opioid receptors present in the brain where they modify the brain’s perception of pain signals.

The pain relief efficacy of codeine is greatly enhanced by combining it with other analgesics as acetaminophen (paracetamol) and NSAIDS as aspirin. Codeine is the natural ingredient of opium and it is one of the most effective and safe drugs in medicine, being on the WHO’s list of essential medicines. Patients on codeine preparations often develop tolerance over prolonged use and it causes withdrawal symptoms with other side effects. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend its use in children owing to its side effects.

Acetaminophen is a non-opiate analgesic with fever reducing properties. It relieves pain by blocking the production of prostaglandins, chemical messengers that induce pain and fever in response to any insult to our body. Acetaminophen is also quite safe in its function but can cause serious side effects to the liver if taken beyond the prescription dose.

Tylenol 3 makes use of the powerful combination of codeine and acetaminophen. It is an effective and safe drug as long as used with caution.

Precautions and contraindications for Tylenol 3

As with any other drug, some of the contraindications to the use of Tylenol 3 are

  • Allergies to either codeine or acetaminophen
  • Recent use of narcotics, tranquilizers, alcohol, or drugs with sedative element
  • Recent use of MAO inhibitors
  • Children underwent tonsillectomy
  • Any kind of liver disease
  • History of alcohol abuse
  • History of drug abuse or addiction
  • Any kind of kidney disease
  • Conditions like severe constipation, diarrhea, IBD
  • Any case of brain tumor, head injury or stroke
  • Any kind of breathing disorders
  • Pregnant and nursing mothers should avoid Tylenol 3 at all costs

Side effects of Tylenol 3

Tylenol 3 does not come without its side effects, some of which are

  • Drowsiness and sleepiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Upset stomach
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Physical dependence

The common side effects as drowsiness and upset stomach occur within the first few hours of taking the drug and subside within few hours to days.

Constipation may also develop over a period of few hours and may take some months to ease away. Physical dependence may follow a use of about few weeks and takes months to be relieved.

Respiratory side effects as shallow and fast breathing, difficulty in breathing are less common but if encountered, call for immediate emergency relief. Elderly and physically debilitated individuals are more prone to respiratory complications so cautious use is advised in these groups.

Drug interactions                 

The combination of codeine and acetaminophen in Tylenol 3 may interact with many drugs. Tylenol 3 is always prescribed by a physician, however, to give and take a detailed drug history is a responsibility of both the patient and the doctor respectively.

Dosage instructions

Being a prescription drug, Tylenol 3 should always be taken in accordance with one’s physician advice. The dose is adjusted according to individual cases.

Never take up, delay, overdose or stop taking a prescription drug without doctor’s prescription and advice.


 Never introduce or share information about Tylenol 3, with people who have a drug abuse history and report drug abuse whenever observed.

Consult your doctor

  • If the drug no longer serves its function
  • If the pain is manageable enough to reduce the dose

Tylenol 3 is a pregnancy, category C drug, it means that the safety of drug has not been recorded in human pregnancy and animal studies have shown adverse effects on the fetus.

Tylenol 3 has definite physical dependence issues so care about the dose and duration of treatment is advised.

Consumer opinion about Tylenol 3

Based on a poll of about 558 reviews, 70% of the consumers find Tylenol 3 effective for mild to moderate pain, 15% reviewed otherwise and 15% were not sure about it (iodine.com).

Final pronounce on Tylenol 3

Tylenol 3 fights pain via two mechanisms

  • Blocking the pain messengers
  • Altering the brain perception of pain signals

A double line therapy that works for most of the patients. It provides a quick relief that stays up to 6 hours. The drug improves functionality and aids sleep too with a low margin of drug dependency as compared to other opiate preparations. The side effects can be minimized by religiously following the doctor’s advice.

According to CDC guidelines for prescribing opiate analgesics for chronic pain management, Tylenol 3 is recommended

  • For acute mild to moderate pain

Tylenol 3 should be taken after consulting your physician on need-requirement basis

  • For chronic pain

Tylenol 3 should be taken

When other conventional methods of pain management are ineffective

When all the other non-opiate medications for pain relief are rendered ineffective and inadequate

If taken up, the opiate drug should be used in conjunction with a non-opiate preparation, as in Tylenol 3

Prescription should be started with lowest possible dose and gradually built up if required

Use of immediate-release preparation should be encouraged as Tylenol 3 (as compared to extended-release version)

Regular monitoring of the symptom relief should be carried.

 It is the responsibility of the consumer to impart knowledge to the doctor about the prognosis and the doctor’s responsibility lies with carefully balancing the side effects and benefits of the drug with tapering off and discontinuation of the drug as and when required.  


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