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Can Codeine Be Taken With Ibuprofen?

7th September 2022

A common question about all medications is whether or not they can be taken in unison with other medications. Often, people will already be taking one medication and will be looking to take another to treat another condition or to further treat the condition they already have. This is exactly why people may be asking whether they can take codeine alongside ibuprofen. 

In this article, we will explain exactly what codeine and ibuprofen are, as well as the conditions that they treat. We will also answer the question of whether the two medications can be taken together, as well as shed light on the precautions you may have to take when you are using either medication. 

Someone about to take a pill

What are the two medications?

What is Codeine?

Codeine is an opiate, a group of medications that work by working with opioid receptors in the cells of the body. Opioids travel through the blood, attaching themselves to signals in the cells being sent to the brain, altering those signals to ease symptoms. Codeine is a mild painkiller, and can also be used as a way of treating diarrhoea. Codeine does its work in the central nervous system by blocking signals of pain from reaching the brain, this not only relieves the sensation of pain but also helps to treat the stress that severe pain can cause. Codeine is a prescription-only medication, meaning it can only be purchased with a valid prescription.

What is Ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen is also a pain killer, however, it is not as strong as codeine, and it works in a slightly different way. Ibuprofen works by reducing hormones in the body that cause mild to moderate pain and swelling in the body. Unlike codeine, ibuprofen can be purchased without a prescription and is often many people's first choice when they are suffering from mild to moderate pain. Ibuprofen is similar to paracetamol, in that it will provide someone suffering with relief quickly, and for a sustained period of time, however, neither medication will be as effective against moderate to severe pain as codeine. 

What conditions do Ibuprofen and Codeine tablets treat?

Both ibuprofen and codeine are pain-relieving medications. This means that they both work by easing symptoms of pain in the human body. They are not, in fact, used to treat the same types of pain. Ibuprofen is used to treat mild to moderate pain from conditions such as toothache, headaches, back pain, and more. Codeine, however, is used to treat pain that is not treatable via ibuprofen or paracetamol. Codeine is often prescribed for pain treatment after surgery, or as pain relief after bad injuries. 

Can you take ibuprofen with codeine?

So, is it safe for people to take ibuprofen with codeine? Simply put, yes, it is safe for people to take ibuprofen with codeine, however, they may not notice any massive benefits as codeine is already a stronger painkiller that will treat mild to moderate pain, as well as more severe pain. You should not however take ibuprofen and codeine with other similar painkillers such as naproxen and aspirin without first consulting your doctor. 

What is the maximum amount of time that codeine and ibuprofen tablets can be taken?

When you are taking a combination of codeine and ibuprofen it is important that you only take them in the short term. You should ensure that you do not take the combination of medications for more than three days at a time. Singularly, you should only take codeine as prescribed by your doctor or independent prescriber, and you should only take it for the amount of time it has been prescribed for. Ibuprofen on its own can be taken by a healthy adult every four to six hours. The maximum amount of ibuprofen an adult can take a day is 3200mg, which is around four doses of 800mg taken every six hours. 

Addiction

Can you get addicted to Codeine?

Opiate medications can become addictive if the person using them is not vigilant. Codeine is no exception. As codeine is a pain reliever, people can become addicted to that feeling, especially those that are long-term sufferers of moderate to severe pain. It is important that people using codeine only use the amount that they have been prescribed. If someone is concerned about coming off of codeine, they should contact their doctor for advice and help. 

When should you not take Ibuprofen and Codeine tablets?

There are times when you should not take either ibuprofen or codeine, or the combination of medications, below is a list of questions about when you can and cannot take the medications.

Can I take ibuprofen and codeine with other painkillers?

Other Painkillers

Can it be taken with ibuprofen and codeine?

Aspirin

NO

Naproxen

NO

Paracetamol

YES

 

Can you take Ibuprofen and Codeine tablets with alcohol?

When you take ibuprofen and codeine tablets in combination it is important that you do not drink alcohol as this can make you feel sleepy and drowsy, and can increase the risk of potentially serious side effects.

Can you take Ibuprofen and Codeine tablets if you're pregnant?

If you are already pregnant, or if you are trying to get pregnant then it is not recommended that you start or continue taking ibuprofen and codeine tablets. You may wish to consult with your doctor depending on the severity of the pain you are suffering from, and they may be able to help.

Can you take Ibuprofen and Codeine tablets if you're breastfeeding?

Again, if you are breastfeeding a baby then you should consult with your doctor regarding the use of ibuprofen and codeine. If your doctor feels that your baby is healthy, they may choose to allow you to take the combination of medications, but you should always seek their opinion first.

Do Ibuprofen and Codeine tablets affect fertility?

As long as you take codeine and ibuprofen combination tablets for a maximum of three days, there is no evidence that points towards it affecting your fertility at all. Despite this, taking high doses of ibuprofen for long periods of time can affect female ovulation, however, this does stop after you stop taking ibuprofen. Long-term codeine use can also affect male and female fertility by causing a problem called hypogonadism. Hypogonadism is when the body does not produce enough sex hormones, making it difficult for couples to conceive naturally.

Do Ibuprofen and Codeine tablets affect driving?

As ibuprofen and codeine in combination can lead to you feeling sleepy or drowsy, you should avoid driving. It is a criminal offence to drive a vehicle when you are not fit and able to, if you do not feel right to drive, don’t. The same goes for operating machinery or riding a bike, if you do not feel well enough to do so, don’t. 

Dosage

What should I do if I take more Ibuprofen and Codeine Tablets than I should?

If you find that you have taken more ibuprofen and codeine tablets than you should then you should ensure to contact a doctor to seek advice. This is the same for if you take too many ibuprofen or codeine alone, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible.

What should I do if I forget to take Ibuprofen and Codeine Tablets?

If you are prescribed a dosage of ibuprofen and codeine tablets and you miss the dosage, skip that day and continue as normal the day after. If you are concerned about missing a dosage and would like any further advice, contact your doctor or pharmacist.

Side Effects

What are the common side effects of taking Ibuprofen and Codeine Tablets?

As with other prescription medications, ibuprofen and codeine may cause some potential side effects. There are some that are more common than others. Below is a table of the most common side effects, as well as methods of coping with the said side effect.

Common Side Effects

Coping Method

Headaches

Drink plenty of water, sit in the dark

Dizziness

Drink plenty of water, only move slowly, lie down flat

Feeling sleepy

Drink plenty of water, get plenty of sleep at night

Constipation

Drink plenty of liquids, eat foods that are high in fibre

Feeling/being sick

Drink plenty of water, avoid overly fatty foods, eat if you can

Indigestion and heartburn

Only drink water, sit up in bed, exercise

Excess wind

Eat small meals slowly, drink plenty of water and peppermint tea

 

What are the serious side effects of taking Ibuprofen and Codeine Tablets?

There can also be some more serious side effects when taking ibuprofen and codeine tablets, they are much less common than other side effects, but can be more serious. If you begin to experience any of the side effects below, you may wish to consider contacting your doctor.

  • Black faeces
  • Blood in vomit
  • Swollen ankles
  • Blood in urine
  • Difficulty urinating

Some people may also experience some allergic reactions when taking ibuprofen and codeine, if these reactions are severe you should contact 999 as soon as possible.

Sources

https://www.ukmeds.co.uk/blog/can-you-take-ibuprofen-with-codeine-together

https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/ibuprofen-for-adults/taking-ibuprofen-with-other-medicines-and-herbal-supplements/

https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/ibuprofen-and-codeine-nurofen-plus/

https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/files/pil.4592.pdf