What is codeine?


Generic Name: Codeine Brand Name(s): Generics only. No brands available.

Know the basics

What is codeine used for?

Codeine is used to treat mild to moderately severe pain.

Codeine is an opioid pain medication. An opioid is sometimes called a narcotic.

How should I take codeine?

Follow all directions on your prescription label. Codeine can slow or stop your breathing. Never use codeine in larger amounts, or for longer than prescribed. Tell your doctor if the medicine seems to stop working as well in relieving your pain.

Codeine may be habit-forming, even at regular doses. Never share this medicine with another person, especially someone with a history of drug abuse or addiction. MISUSE OF NARCOTIC MEDICINE CAN CAUSE ADDICTION, OVERDOSE, OR DEATH, especially in a child or other person using the medicine without a prescription. Selling or giving away codeine is against the law.

Take codeine with food or milk if it upsets your stomach.

Measure liquid medicine with a special dose-measuring spoon or medicine cup. If you do not have a dose-measuring device, ask your pharmacist for one.

Drink 6 to 8 full glasses of water daily to help prevent constipation while you are taking codeine. Do not use a stool softener (laxative) without first asking your doctor.

Do not stop using codeine suddenly after long-term use, or you could have unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Ask your doctor how to avoid withdrawal symptoms when you stop using this medicine.

Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

Keep track of the amount of medicine used from each new bottle. Codeine is a drug of abuse and you should be aware if anyone is using your medicine improperly or without a prescription.

After you have stopped using this medication, flush any unused pills down the toilet. Disposal of medicines by flushing is recommended to reduce the danger of accidental overdose causing death. This advice applies to a very small number of medicines only.

How do I store codeine?

Codeine is best stored at room temperature away from direct light and moisture. To prevent drug damage, you should not store codeine in the bathroom or the freezer. There may be different brands of codeine that may have different storage needs. It is important to always check the product package for instructions on storage, or ask your pharmacist. For safety, you should keep all medicines away from children and pets.

You should not flush codeine down the toilet or pour them into a drain unless instructed to do so. It is important to properly discard this product when it is expired or no longer needed. Consult your pharmacist for more details about how to safely discard your product.

Know the precautions & warnings

What should I know before using codeine?

In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For this medicine, the following should be considered:


Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to this medicine or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.


Appropriate studies have not been performed on the relationship of age to the effects of codeine in the pediatric population. Safety and efficacy have not been established.


Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated geriatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of codeine in the elderly. However, elderly patients are more likely to have confusion and drowsiness, and age-related liver, kidney, or heart problems, which may require caution and an adjustment in the dose for patients receiving codeine.

Is it safe to take codeine during pregnancy or breast-feeding?

There are no adequate studies in women for determining risk when using this medication during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Please always consult with your doctor to weigh the potential benefits and risks before taking this medication. This medication is pregnancy risk category C according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

FDA pregnancy risk category reference below:

  • A=No risk,
  • B=No risk in some studies,
  • C=There may be some risk,
  • D=Positive evidence of risk,
  • X=Contraindicated,
  • N=Unknown.

Know the side effects

What are the side effects of codeine?

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Seek emergency medical attention if a child taking this medication has any of the following life-threatening side effects: noisy breathing, sighing, slow breathing with long pauses between breaths; being unusually sleepy or hard to wake up; blue colored lips.

Call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effect such as:

  • Slow heart rate, weak pulse, fainting, shallow breathing;
  • Feeling like you might pass out;
  • Confusion, agitation, hallucinations, unusual thoughts or behavior;
  • Feelings of extreme happiness or sadness;
  • Seizure (convulsions);
  • Problems with urination.

Less serious side effects include:

  • Feeling dizzy or drowsy;
  • Nausea, vomiting, stomach pain;
  • Constipation;
  • Sweating;
  • Mild itching or rash.

Not everyone experiences these side effects. There may be some side effects not listed above. If you have any concerns about a side-effect, please consult your doctor or pharmacist.

Know the interactions

What drugs may interact with codeine?

Codeine may interact with other drugs that you are currently taking, which can change how your drug works or increase your risk for serious side effects. To avoid any potential drug interactions, you should keep a list of all the drugs you are using (including prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs and herbal products) and share it with your doctor and pharmacist. For your safety, do not start, stop, or change the dosage of any drugs without your doctor’s approval.

Using this medicine with any of the following medicines is not recommended. Your doctor may decide not to treat you with this medication or change some of the other medicines you take.

Using this medicine with any of the following medicines is usually not recommended, but may be required in some cases. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.

  • Alfentanil, Alprazolam, Anileridine, Baclofen, Bromazepam, Buprenorphine, Bupropion, Butalbital, Butorphanol, Carbinoxamine, Carisoprodol ,Chloral Hydrate, Chlordiazepoxide, Chlorzoxazone, Clobazam, Clonazepam, Clorazepate, Codeine, Dantrolene, Dezocine, Diazepam, Estazolam, Ethchlorvynol, Fentanyl, Flunitrazepam, Fluoxetine, Flurazepam, Halazepam, Hydrocodone, Hydromorphone, Ketazolam, Levorphanol, Lorazepam, Lormetazepam, Meclizine, Medazepam, Meperidine, Mephenesin, Mephobarbital, Meprobamate, Meptazinol, Metaxalone, Methadone, Methocarbamol ,Methohexital, Midazolam, Morphine, Morphine Sulfate , Liposome, Nalbuphine, Nitrazepam ,Opium, Orphenadrine, Oxazepam, Oxycodone, Oxymorphone, Pentazocine, Prazepam, Propoxyphene, Quazepam, Remifentanil, Sodium Oxybate, Sufentanil, Suvorexant, Tapentadol ,Temazepam, Tizanidine, Triazolam.

Using this medicine with any of the following medicines may cause an increased risk of certain side effects, but using both drugs may be the best treatment for you. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.

Does food or alcohol interact with codeine?

Codeine may interact with food or alcohol by altering the way the drug works or increase the risk for serious side effects. Please discuss with your doctor or pharmacist any potential food or alcohol interactions before using this drug.

What health conditions may interact with codeine?

Codeine may interact with your health condition. This interaction may worsen your health condition or alter the way the drug works. It is important to always let your doctor and pharmacist know all the health conditions you currently have, especially:

  • Addison’s disease (adrenal gland problem);
  • Alcohol abuse, history of;
  • Breathing or lung problems (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD], cor pulmonale, hypoxia);
  • CNS depression;
  • Drug dependence, especially narcotic abuse or dependence, or history of;
  • Enlarged prostate (BPH, prostatic hypertrophy);
  • Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid);
  • Kyphoscoliosis (curvature of spine that can cause breathing problems);
  • Mental illness;
  • Problems with passing urine—Use with caution. May increase risk for more serious side effects.
  • Brain tumor;
  • Head injuries;
  • Increased pressure in your head—Some of the side effects of codeine can cause serious problems in people who have these medical problems.
  • Breathing problems (e.g., asthma, hypercapnia), severe;
  • Paralytic ileus (intestinal blockage);
  • Respiratory depression (hypoventilation or slow breathing)—Should not be used in patients with these conditions.
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure);
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas);
  • Seizures, history of—Use with caution. May make these conditions worse.
  • Kidney disease;
  • Liver disease—Use with caution. The effects may be increased because of slower removal of the medicine from the body.
  • Stomach or digestion problems—This medicine may mask the diagnosis of these conditions.

Understand the Dosage

The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice. ALWAYS consult your doctor or pharmacist before using this medication.

What is the dose of Codeine for an adult?

Usual Adult Dose for Cough:

Initial dose: 15 mg orally every 6 hours as necessary.

May titrate up to 20 mg every 4 hours.

Maximum 120 mg/day.

Usual Adult Dose for Pain:

Initial dose: 30 mg orally, intravenous or intramuscular  subcutaneously, every 6 hours as necessary. May titrate dose to achieve desired analgesic effect. Doses up to 60 mg orally, intravenous or intramuscular subcutaneously, every 4 hours have been used.

Usual Geriatric Dose for Cough:

Initial dose: 10 mg orally every 6 hours as necessary.

May titrate cautiously up to 20 mg every 4 hours.

Maximum 120 mg/day.

Usual Geriatric Dose for Pain:

Initial dose: 15 mg orally, intravenous or intramuscular subcutaneously, every 6 hours as necessary. May titrate dose to achieve desired analgesic effect. Doses up to 60 mg orally, intravenous or intramuscular subcutaneously, every 4 hours have been used.

What is the dose of Codeine for a child?

Usual Pediatric Dose for Cough:

2 to 6 years: 2.5 to 5 mg orally every 4 to 6 hours

Maximum 30 mg/day

6 to 12 years: 5 to 10 mg orally every 4 to 6 hours

Maximum 60 mg/day

Usual Pediatric Dose for Pain:

1 year or greater: 0.5 mg/kg or 15 mg/m2 orally, intramuscular or subcutaneously every 4 to 6 hours as needed

How is codeine available?

Codeine is available in the following dosage forms and strengths:


Tablet 15mg; 30 mg; 60 mg

Injection 15mh/mL; 30 mg/mL; 60 mg/mL; 600-1200mg/ mL

Solution 3-15 mg/5 mL

What should I do in case of an emergency or overdose?

In case of an emergency or an overdose, call your local emergency services or go to your nearest emergency room.

Symptoms of overdose may include the following:

  • Difficulty breathing;
  • Excessive drowsiness;
  • Loss of consciousness;
  • Loss of muscle tone;
  • Cold and clammy skin;
  • Fainting;
  • Dizziness;
  • Slow heartbeat.

What should I do if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose of codeine, take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your regular dose as scheduled. Do not take a double dose.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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