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FAQ: Co-codamol

What is co-codamol?

Co-codamol (sometimes mistakenly written co codamol or cocodamol) is an opioid painkiller. It is prescribed to relieve moderate pain symptoms. Co-codamol contains codeine phosphate and paracetamol. Co-codamol should only be used for the short term relief of pain as it is highly addictive. Co-codamol should only be taken if you have no had relief from other painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen on their own.

Is it safe to take co-codamol and paracetamol together?

No. Co-codamol contains paracetamol, so you must not taken any additional paracetamol. Taking too much paracetamol can have a serious adverse effect on your liver and kidneys and result in irreparable damage.

Can I take co-codamol for a headache?

Yes, but you should avoid taking co-codamol regularly as it is highly addictive. Co-codamol is only suitable for adults. Taking co-codamol too often to treat headaches can actually make them worse in the long run.

Can co-codamol kill me?

Yes. Taking an excessive amount of any medication will be detrimental to your health and can result in death. You must not take more than 8 co-codamol tablets in 24 hours, and you shouldn’t take this medication continuously or for long periods of time.

Is co-codamol addictive?

Yes. Co-codamol is highly addictive as it is an opioid painkiller. Because it is so addictive, it should only be taken in the short term to relieve pain. Follow your doctor’s instructions closely, particularly when it comes to reducing your dose of co-codamol and stopping taking it. If you stop taking this painkiller too suddenly, you may find that you experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

What are the withdrawal symptoms from co-codamol?

If you take co-codamol continuously for significantly more than three days, it is very likely that you will become addicted. This means that when you stop taking the medication you may get withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, sweating, increased heart rate, and increased blood pressure. If you think you are suffering from withdrawal symptoms you should see your doctor.

What are the side effects of co-codamol?

The side effects of co-codamol can vary from person to person, but everyone is at risk of addiction if they take this medication continuously.

Other side effects can include:

  • Stomach irritation, constipation, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, dry mouth, abdominal pain, inflammation of the liver or pancreas

  • Slow heart rate, palpitations, low blood pressure

  • Anaemia, changes in numbers and types of blood cells

  • Difficulty in passing urine, kidney problems

  • Confusion, drowsiness, dizziness, mood changes, depression, hallucinations, restlessness, excitation, fits, increased pressure in the skull, headache, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, reduced alertness, tolerance or dependence

  • Blurry or double vision

  • Trembling, tiredness, weakness, low body temperature

The co-codamol patient information leaflet lists all the side effects.

Can co-codamol make you itch?

Some people experience itching as a side effect of taking co-codamol. It’s possible that you may be allergic to this medication, especially if the itching is accompanied by a rash or difficulty swallowing or breathing. If you suspect you might be having an allergic reaction, stop taking co-codamol and seek immediate medical help.

Can co-codamol affect your heart?

Co-codamol has certain side effects that can affect the heart. They are just possible side effects and not everyone will experience them. They can include a slower heart rate than usual, palpitations and low blood pressure.  

How harmful could it be to take co-codamol and ibuprofen at the same time?

It’s perfectly fine to take co-codamol at the same time as ibuprofen (providing there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take ibuprofen). It’s important that you don’t take co-codamol with any extra paracetamol or other medications containing paracetamol, as co-codamol already contains codeine and paracetamol. Taking too much paracetamol is extremely bad for your liver.

Is it safe to take co-codamol while being pregnant?

You shouldn’t take co-codamol when you’re pregnant, if you’re trying to get pregnant or if you think you might be pregnant. Whilst the paracetamol in this medication is safe to take when you’re pregnant, the codeine isn’t. You also shouldn’t take co-codamol if you are breastfeeding.

Can you take co-codamol while breastfeeding?

You shouldn’t take co-codamol whilst breastfeeding. This is because the codeine from the co-codamol can be passed to the baby in your breastmilk and may cause breathing problems. You also shouldn’t take co-codamol if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

Can asthmatics take co-codamol?

People who have chronic breathing problems shouldn’t take co-codamol. This includes people who have severe asthma attacks.

Can co-codamol 30/500 help when you have a virus?

Co-codamol is not appropriate medication for treating a viral infection. Paracetamol is useful for bringing your temperature down if you have a fever as a result of a viral infection. Since codeine is not needed, paracetamol alone is a much more suitable option than co-codamol if you have a virus.

Does co-codamol make you constipated?

One of the side effects of taking co-codamol is that it can make you constipated. However, if your constipation becomes severe or long-lasting, you should tell your doctor.  

What happens when you mix co-codamol with alcohol?

You shouldn’t drink alcohol when taking co-codamol as the painkillers can change the way the alcohol affects you. It can make you feel drowsy and increase the likelihood of developing other side effects.

Which is stronger, co-codamol or co-dydramol?

Co-codamol contains codeine and paracetamol and co-dydramol contains dihydrocodeine and paracetamol. This makes co-dydramol the stronger of the two medications.

Can paracetamol be taken with co-codamol?

No, you shouldn’t take any extra paracetamol if you are taking co-codamol. This is because co-codamol contains codeine and paracetamol so taking extra paracetamol would be dangerous. Taking more than the recommended dosage of paracetamol can lead to irreparable damage of the liver or kidneys.

What’s the difference between co-codamol and co-proxamol?

Co-codamol is made up of the active ingredients paracetamol and codeine whereas co-proxamol is a combination of paracetamol and dextropropoxyphene. Both are opioid painkillers, but co-proxamol is no longer a licensed medication. This is because there is little evidence to suggest that co-proxamol is any more effective than paracetamol alone when it comes to relieving pain, but it has been involved in a high number of suicides in the past.  

Can you take co-codamol to help you sleep?

Drowsiness can be a side effect of taking co-codamol, but it shouldn’t be one of the primary reasons for taking this medication. Since there is the possibility of developing a dependence or addiction to co-codamol, it should only be taken for short-term relief of pain that standard painkillers don’t work for.

Can you buy co-codamol over the counter?

Co-codamol is available in three strengths, containing 8mg, 15mg or 30mg of codeine. The lowest strength is available to buy in pharmacies without a prescription, but the other two strengths are only available with a prescription.

Can you drink on co-codamol?

You shouldn’t drink alcohol when taking co-codamol as the painkiller and alcohol can interact with each other. You are more likely to experience the side effects of confusion, dizziness and drowsiness if you drink whilst taking co-codamol.  

Can you take co-codamol for period pain?

Paracetamol is the best painkiller for period pain. You may also find gentle movement helpful, or holding a hot water bottle to your abdomen. If you find yourself with severe period pain, it might make more sense to try taking mefenamic acid rather than co-codamol.

How many co-codamol can you take?

The standard dose for adults is to take 2 tablets every 4 hours. You can take a maximum of 8 co-codamol tablets in 24 hours. It is important that you don’t take more than this maximum dose as taking too much paracetamol is very bad for the liver and kidneys.

Does co-codamol make you sleepy?

Drowsiness can be a side effect of taking co-codamol. It’s important that you don’t drive until you know how this medication affects you. It’s actually an offence to drive when you’re experiencing drowsiness or dizziness caused by co-codamol or other strong pain relief. Be sure you know you aren’t going to have any adverse effects before driving.

You’re also more likely to feel sleepy when taking co-codamol if you’re drinking alcohol when you’re taking it.

Can co-codamol keep you awake?

Rather than finding that co-codamol keeps you awake, you are more likely to find that this medication makes you feel drowsy or sleepy. This is a well-known side effect of this painkiller and for this reason you shouldn’t drive until you’re sure you don’t experience this kind of side effect from this medication.

Can co-codamol cause headaches?

You can take co-codamol to treat severe headaches in the short-term. Taking a painkiller to treat headaches for too long can make them worse in the long run. It can stop working as efficiently and make the occur more frequently in the future.

Can co-codamol make you sick?

One of the side effects of taking co-codamol is nausea. Feelings of nausea are also possible when you first start taking co-codamol. These feelings can be minimised by taking the medication just after eating a meal.

Can co-codamol cause high blood pressure?

One of the possible side effects of taking co-codamol is low blood pressure. If you have been taking co-codamol for long enough to develop a dependence to it, you may experience a number of withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking it. This is particularly true if you don’t follow your doctor’s advice when it comes to reducing your dose of co-codamol. High blood pressure is one of the known withdrawal symptoms from suddenly stopping taking co-codamol.

Does co-codamol contain morphine?

Co-codamol doesn’t actually contain morphine. What happens when you take co-codamol is that an enzyme in the liver converts the codeine into morphine. This enzyme is present in varying amounts in the livers of different individuals. This is what controls the amount of morphine that is produced, so some people may produce a lot of morphine whilst others may produce very little.

If you produce very little morphine, it’s possible that you won’t feel much pain relief from co-codamol. If you have a lot of the enzyme and produce a lot of morphine, you could end up experiencing side effects such as confusion, nausea, constipation, slow or shallow breathing, and loss of appetite. If this happens, you should seek immediate medical advice.

Can co-codamol cause weight gain?

Although there are a number of side effects associated with taking co-codamol, there is no evidence to show that this medication will cause you to either gain or lose weight.

Does co-codamol help colds?

Co-codamol isn’t helpful medication to take when you have a cold. Although paracetamol can help to bring your temperature down if you have a fever, this medication contains codeine too which isn’t necessary. Paracetamol alone is a better option when you are suffering from a cold.

Is co-codamol an anti inflammatory?

Co-codamol is not an anti-inflammatory drug. It is an opioid painkiller, containing both codeine and paracetamol. Ibuprofen is an anti inflammatory. This can be taken at the same time as co-codamol if necessary, or if recommended by your doctor.

Is co-codamol an opiate?

Yes, co-codamol is known as an opiate or opioid painkiller. This means it includes an active ingredient derived from the flower of the opium poppy. This is what makes the painkiller potentially addictive if it’s taken for too long, so it’s important you only take co-codamol for the length of time prescribed by your doctor.

Is co-codamol prescription only?

There are three strengths of co-codamol available. Each contains 500mg of paracetamol and either 8mg, 15mg or 30mg of codeine. The co-codamol containing 15mg or 30mg codeine are only available on prescription but the lowest strength is available to buy over the counter in pharmacies.

Is co-codamol good for toothache?

Co-codamol is good for treating moderate pain that paracetamol and ibuprofen don’t relieve. Your doctor may recommend taking co-codamol for severe toothache if it hasn’t been relieved by regular painkillers. It should only be used in the short-term, as directed by your doctor.