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What is Codeine?

Codeine is an opioid that helps treat mild to moderate pain. It belongs to the opioid (narcotic) analgesics class of drugs. 

Important Information

Never use codeine if you have severe breathing problems, a blockage in your stomach or intestines, or frequent asthma attacks or hyperventilation.

Codeine may be habit-forming and can slow or stop your breathing. Misuse of codeine may lead to addiction, overdose, or death, especially in a child or other person using the medicine without a prescription.

Anyone who is below 18 should not use codeine.

Codeine use during pregnancy can result in life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in the baby.

Fatal side effects are more likely to occur if you take codeine with alcohol or with other medicines that cause drowsiness or slow your breathing.

What to know before taking codeine?

Do not use codeine if you are allergic to it or if you have any of the following conditions:

  • An obstruction in your stomach or intestines
  • Severe asthma or breathing problems
  • Frequent asthma attacks or hyperventilation

To make sure codeine is suitable for you, tell your doctor if you have ever had:

  • Breathing problems, sleep apnea
  • Liver disease
  • COPD, asthma, sleep apnea, or other breathing problems
  • Abnormal spine curvature that may affect breathing
  • A head injury or brain tumor
  • A gallbladder or pancreas disorder
  • Kidney disease
  • Low blood pressure
  • Enlarged prostate, urination problems
  • A blockage in your stomach or intestines
  • Underactive thyroid
  • Addison’s disease or other adrenal gland disorder
  • Mental illness, drug or alcohol addiction

Codeine can break down quickly in the liver in some people and reaches higher than normal levels in the body. This can result in dangerously slow breathing and may cause death, especially in a child.

Anyone under the age of 18 should not use codeine.

Some drugs can interact with codeine and cause serotonin syndrome, which is a serious condition. If you take stimulant medicine, herbal products, or medicine for depression, mental illness, Parkinson’s disease, migraine headaches, serious infections, or nausea and vomiting prevention, tell your doctor. Before making any alterations in how or when you take your medications, consult your doctor.

If you take this medication while pregnant, your baby may become dependent on it, causing fatal withdrawal symptoms after birth. Babies who are born dependent on a habit-forming drug may require medical attention for several weeks. You should inform your doctor if you become pregnant during treatment with this medicine. 

If you are taking codeine, do not breastfeed. This medication may pass into breast milk, causing drowsiness, breathing problems, or death in a nursing infant.

How to take codeine?

Take codeine as prescribed by your doctor. Codeine can slow down or stop your breathing. Never take more than the recommended dose or take it for longer than the recommended time. Tell your doctor if your pain medicine is not working effectively.

Codeine may be habit-forming, even at low doses. Never give codeine to anyone else, especially if they have a history of drug abuse or addiction. It is illegal to sell or distribute codeine. However, you can order codeine online with a prescription.

Take codeine with food or milk if this drug upsets your stomach.

To help prevent constipation while taking this medication, drink 6 to 8 full glasses of water per day. Use a stool softener (laxative) only after consulting with your doctor.

If you stop using codeine suddenly after using it for a long period, you may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Consult with your doctor about how to discontinue this medication safely.

Codeine dosage

Adult Dose for Pain

Initial dose: 15 to 60 mg taken orally every 4 hours as needed. The maximum dose is 360 mg in 24 hours.


Codeine may be habit-forming. Overdose of codeine can be fatal, especially in children or others who use the medication without a prescription. An overdose can result in severe muscle weakness, cold and clammy skin, pinpoint pupils, very slow breathing, extreme drowsiness, or coma.

What to avoid while using codeine?

Do not drink alcohol while using codeine. Dangerous side effects may occur.

Codeine may impair your ability to think or react. Avoid driving or operating heavy machinery until you know how codeine will affect you. Falls or accidents can occur as a result of dizziness or severe drowsiness.

Codeine side effects

Common side effects of codeine include:

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

Serious side effects

  • Shallow breathing, noisy breathing, sighing or breathing that stops during sleep
  • A slow heart rate or weak pulse
  • A light-headed feeling
  • Hallucinations, confusion, agitation, unusual thoughts, or behavior
  • Feelings of extreme happiness or sadness
  • Seizure or convulsions
  • Problems with urination
  • Low cortisol levels, symptoms can include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, worsening tiredness, or weakness

Get medical assistance immediately if you have symptoms of serotonin syndrome, such as hallucinations, agitation, sweating, fever, shivering, fast heart rate, muscle stiffness, twitching, nausea, loss of coordination, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Serious side effects can occur in older adults, as well as those who are overweight, malnourished, or disabled.

Long-term opioid medication use may impair fertility (the ability to have children) in both men and women. It is unknown whether the effects of opioid medicines on fertility are permanent.

Codeine, like other narcotic medications, can cause breathing problems. If breathing becomes too difficult, death may occur.

What drugs can interact with codeine?

If you begin or stop taking some other medications, you may experience breathing problems or withdrawal symptoms. Make sure to inform your doctor if you are also taking antifungals, antibiotics, heart or blood pressure medicines, seizure medicines, or HIV or hepatitis C medicines. You should check all the drug interactions before you buy codeine online.

Opioid drugs can interact with many other medications and cause dangerous side effects or even death. Tell your doctor if you also use the following medicines:

  • Medications for irritable bowel syndrome, motion sickness, or overactive bladder
  • Other narcotic drugs, including opioid pain medicines or prescription cough medicines
  • Cold or allergy drugs, bronchodilator asthma or COPD medication, or a diuretic 
  • Medicines that may make you sleepy or slow down your breathing, such as muscle relaxants, sleeping pills, drugs to treat mood disorders or mental illness
  • A sedative like Valium, including diazepam, alprazolam, lorazepam, Xanax, Klonopin, Versed, and others
  • Medicines that can affect serotonin levels in your body- a stimulant or medicine for depression, migraine headaches, serious infections, Parkinson’s disease, or nausea and vomiting.