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Codeine Phosphate

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Codeine is a pain relief medication. It works by reducing signals from the body to the brain through the central nervous system, meaning you feel less pain. It also mimics endorphins produced by the body, and is converted to morphine in the liver, delivering a pain relieving effect.
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Codeine Phosphate

What is Codeine Phosphate?

Codeine Phosphate tablets (also referred to as codeine throughout this information) are effective clinical drugs for pain management. The tablets come in packets of 15mg, 30mg and 60 mg doses.

Codeine can be used to treat mild to moderate pain from symptoms of back pain, headaches, injury and period pain. Codeine is also used to relieve symptoms diarrhoea.

The active ingredient of codeine is a clinical drug that belongs to a group of medications called opioid analgesics. Due to this, it is recommended to take the medication for only the prescribed period of time as it is possible to become addicted.

For further information on codeine, please see the Patient Information leaflet here.

How it works

Codeine, like other analgesic medicines to treat pain, works by reducing signals from the body to the brain through the central nervous system.

All analgesic opioids mimic endorphins produced by the human body. Codeine is converted into morphine by an enzyme in the liver, delivering a pain relieving effect.

Before you take it

Most healthy adults can take codeine; tablets are however not recommended for children under 12 years of age without direct medical advice from a healthcare professional.

While paracetamol can be used alongside codeine, It is important to take great caution if you’re using other codeine-containing painkillers. Make sure to talk to your doctor first before taking codeine.

Codeine is usually taken when regular medicines used to treat pain such as paracetamol, co-codamol, aspirin or ibuprofen alone have not worked.

It is important for your own health and safety that if you already suffer symptoms of an allergic reaction related to codeine or any other ingredient in this drug, you do not use codeine without first referring to your doctor or pharmacist.

It is also recommended that you do not take codeine if you have increased pressure in the head, have recently had a head injury, have epilepsy, liver damage, kidney disease or high blood pressure.

As codeine has the potential to incur sleepiness, it is unsuitable for people whom regularly drink more than the recommended maximum amount of 14 units of alcohol per week.

Codeine is unsuitable for some patients. You should speak to your doctor or healthcare professional if any of the following apply to you:

  • Have lung or breathing problems, like lung disease
  • You regularly have asthma attacks
  • Have low blood pressure
  • Have problems with your kidneys or liver
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Are taking other medications such as herbal remedies

Dosage Instructions

Dosage for codeine is one 30 to 60 mg tablet every 4 to 6 hours. No more than 240mg is to be taken in 24 hours. It is important not to exceed this.

The pill must be taken whole with water and not crushed; codeine can also be taken with or after food. Do not drink alcohol while taking codeine.

With persisting pain, resist the need to take multiple doses of codeine in one go. Do not continue use for longer than directed or for more than 3 days. If you do not start to feel better or symptoms do not subside within the prescribed time period, ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice for a more suitable pain relief.

Common Side Effects of Codeine

It is possible that you are allergic to some of the ingredients in this medication. Tell your doctor at once if you show signs of an allergic reaction such as:

  • Skin rash - itching, swelling, redness, blistering
  • Trouble breathing
  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat
  • Fast heart rate
  • Confusion or anxiety

In case of serious side effects, stop taking treatment and call a doctor for symptoms such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Slow or slurred speech

Possible but less serious side effects of Codeine are:

  • Loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting
  • Drowsiness and lethargy
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth

Codeine affects your ability to drive safely. The possible side effects of this medication may cause you to feel sleepy. It is advised against driving or operating heavy machinery while using codeine and for the duration of its effects.

Extra Support

Codeine is a short-term treatment of acute pain only. Taking this medicine for longer than prescribed is dangerous as codeine is a type of opioid. Using an opioid for a long time can lead to addiction and an increased risk of dependency. It is therefore not a suitable long-term solution for chronic pain.

Please see our Opioid Policy and Prescription Limit before ordering this medication. If you are struggling with addiction, please read our addiction support page.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Codeine safe for children?

Codeine is not recommended for children under 12 years of age without direct medical advice due to the severe risk of potential breathing problems. We do not prescribe any medication to under 18s.

Do I need a prescription?

It depends on the strength of dose. Lower-strength tablets are available over the counter from a pharmacy. Higher-strength tablets are only available via prescription.

I’m pregnant. Can I take Codeine?

Codeine isn’t generally recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women as codeine and morphine can pass into breast milk. Check with your doctor first before taking this treatment.

What happens if I miss a dose?

If you forget to take a dose, take your usual amount of codeine as soon as you remember. It is recommended to take only your prescribed quantity per dose as instructed with at least 4 hours in between doses. Do not double dose in compensation for forgotten treatment.

What happens if I take too much?

Vigilance with dosing is important. Taking more medication than directed could be detrimental to your health. Take codeine only according to the instructions given by your prescriber and do not share treatment. In a case of accidental overdose, symptoms may include lethargy and feeling sick or dizzy. If you suspect yourself or anyone else has ingested too much, do not take any more medication and contact your local hospital or A&E centre immediately. Take your prescription with you so is it clear what medication you’ve used.

More Information
Dosage Instructions Take ONE to TWO tablets every FOUR hours as directed by your doctor. Max EIGHT tablets in TWENTY-FOUR hours.