Crohn's and Pain Medications: A Dangerous Mix

Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that causes intestinal swelling. It can result in abdominal pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding and weight loss, among other problems. Although incurable, there are many effective treatments to tamp down the symptoms of the disorder and reduce the number of recurrences, including anti-inflammation medications, steroids, immune system suppressors, antibiotics, and anti-diarrheals.

To combat mild abdominal pain, your doctor may recommend that you take an over-the-counter acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, to reduce the amount of inflammation during acute flare-ups. But you should avoid taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve), because they are likely to make your symptoms worse.

If your pain is chronic and interrupts your work and lifestyle, your doctor may prescribe a prescription pain medication such as Vicodin or Tylenol with Codeine. However, these drugs can become highly addictive over time and carry many side effects, so caution should be used if you're contemplating taking these drugs.

Vicodin is a combination of two pain relievers: Tylenol and hydrocodone, a synthetic codeine; and carries a high degree of physical and emotional dependence. Tylenol with Codeine combines two common over-the-counter medications, acetaminophen and a narcotic painkiller. Tylenol with Codeine comes in two doses, Tylenol 3 (300 mg acetaminophen/30 mg codeine) and Tylenol 4 (300 mg acetaminophen/60 mg codeine).

The Risks of Addiction

Both Vicodin and Tylenol with Codeine can become addictive. Here are some warning signs of Vicodin addition:

  • You become physically ill, including muscle and bone pain, night sweats, insomnia, etc., when you stop taking Vicodin
  • You need more pills to get the same effect
  • You take Vicodin more often or in larger quantities than prescribed

Prolonged use of Vicodin also carries dangerous physical consequences, including liver disease.

Codeine, a derivative of morphine, is the most frequently used painkiller in the world and can be found in myriad products, including prescription cough syrups. Addiction can occur in just two to three weeks of use. The signs of addiction to codeine include:

  • Loss of pleasure in favorite activities
  • Indifference toward family and friends
  • Decreased interest in sex
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Loss of appetite

Long-term use of codeine also carries other health risks, including liver damage, respiratory depression and internal bleeding.

If you're experiencing pain from Crohn's, talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes you can make to help ease your symptoms.