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Narcotic antitussives such as codeine reveal the antitussive effect primarily via the mu-opioid receptor in the central nervous system (CNS). The kappa-opioid receptor also seems to contribute partly to the production of the antitussive effect of the drugs. There is controversy as to whether delta-receptors are involved in promoting an antitussive effect. Peripheral opioid receptors seem to have certain limited roles. Although narcotic antitussives are the most potent antitussives at present, certain types of coughs, such as chronic cough, are particularly difficult to suppress even with codeine. In guinea pigs, coughs elicited by mechanical stimulation of the bifurcation of the trachea were not able to be suppressed by codeine. In gupigs with sub-acute bronchitis caused by SO2 gas exposure, coughing is difficult to inhibit with centrally acting antitussives such as codeine. Some studies suggest that neurokinins are involved in the development of codeine-resistant coughs. However, evidence supporting this claim is still insufficient. It is very important to characterize opiate-resistant coughs in experimental animals, and to determine which experimentally induced coughs correspond to which types of cough in humans. In this review, we describe the mechanisms of antitussive effects of narcotic antitussives, addressing codeine-sensitive and -resistant coughs, and including our own results.


Kazuo Takahama, Tetsuya Shirasaki. Central and peripheral mechanisms of narcotic antitussives: codeine-sensitive and -resistant coughs. Cough (London, England). 2007;3:8

PMID: 17620111

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