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Codeine is a painkiller prescription medicine that is sometimes recommended when other painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen have not helped to cure moderate pain to severe pain that a person is experiencing. It can also be used following an injury or to relieve pain after an operation.

  • Increases tolerance to pain
  • Decreases discomfort
  • Effective treatment
  • Genuine medication
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Type of drugOpioid painkiller
Health conditions prescribed forPain relief, Diarrhoea
Active ingredientCodeine Phosphate
Brand nameThere are various branded multi-ingredient medications containing codeine
Available strengths15mg, 30mg, 60mg
Available asTablet, oral liquid, injection
Possible side effectsNausea, vomiting, sleepiness, constipation, confusion, headaches, dizziness and/or vertigo, dryness of the mouth
Patient Information LeafletFor more information on the medication please refer to the patient information leaflet for Codeine.

Codeine - Key Information

Codeine is a painkiller. It used for treating acute moderate pain to severe pain, coughing, and diarrhea to provide short term pain relief. It is not recommended as a treatment for long term / chronic pain (Bupa, 2022). It can be used to as a short term treatment pain from operations or injury. It is a prescription-only medication. It contains opioids that can be addictive. It can also be found as an ingredient of other prescription drugs, for example, co-codamol.

Codeine is typically indicated for patients 12 years of age and older to treat acute moderate pain that hasn't been relieved by other analgesics, such as ibuprofen / paracetamol (EMA, 2024).

Take a look at the video below to get a simple overview of Codeine, including what it is used for, dosages, side effects and precautions:

Google Web Story - A-Z Guide to Codeine

EU Meds have put together a Google Web Story explaining an a-z guide of terminology related to the painkiller Codeine:

Codeine Phosphate

Codeine belongs to a group of medications known as analgesics, which are used to inhibit pain (Mayo Clinic, 2024). This drug is an opioid analgesic, and it works by blocking pain signals and your eventual response to pain. Codeine is used in treating mild to moderate kinds of pain (NICE, 2024).

Codeine is a powerful opioid pain medication that has several uses. Health conditions for which codeine could be potentially prescribed for as a treatment by a healthcare professional include pain (e.g. after an operation suffering an injury) and the treatment of diarrhoea (NHS, 2022).

The primary reason Codeine is prescribed is to relieve pain. Codeine works to change how the brain and nervous system respond to pain (NHS, 2022). The combination of codeine with other medicines, such as paracetamol or acetaminophen may produce better pain relief. Codeine and paracetamol are combined to produce the codeine containing medicine co-codamol.

Every patient suffering from pain has a unique individual experience when taking Codeine as a pain relief treatment.

User Reviews for Codeine

To see what people have to say about their experiences with the medication, take a look at the Codeine user reviews. There a wide range of customer reviews and experiences with Codeine usage available at for pain relief, diarrhea treatment and cough treatment and on

You must speak to a doctor or your healthcare provider for medical advice before taking Codeine tablets. They will assess your suitability for the medication and whether your health condition requires Codeine or an alternative pain relief treatment.

For more information on the prescription medication please refer to the Codeine patient information leaflet.

Usage Advice

Codeine Tablets

Take Codeine with, or after a meal to reduce the chances of feeling sick (NHS, 2022).

It is crucial that you take Codeine as prescribed by your doctor or healthcare provider. You can typically take Codeine at any time of the day however, try to take it at the same time each day consistently and space your dose accordingly (NHS, 2022). Your doctor will advise you on the best way to take the medication for your individual needs.

For adult patients, take 1-2 tablets every 4-6 hours. Take the tablet as a whole with a glass full of water. Take Codeine continuously for as long as advised by your physician. If any of your symptoms persists, consult with your doctor, pharmacist or healthcare provider. 


Dose for Codeine

Your doctor, pharmacist or prescriber will discuss the appropriate dosage of codeine for your individual needs including how long the course of medication will be for, when treatment will stop and how to wean yourself from the medication to avoid potential withdrawal symptoms. Recommended dosages can be found on the patient information leaflet for codeine although it should be stressed that a doctor, pharmacist or healthcare professional should always be consulted prior to starting a course of codeine. They can assess your requirements and make an informed decision on whether a higher dose or lower dose of the medication is required.

Side Effects

Codeine Side Effects

The NHS (2022) state that the most common side effects of codeine include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sleepiness
  • Constipation
  • Confusion
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness and/or Vertigo
  • Dryness of the mouth
  • Breathing problems

More serious side effects are less common, affecting less than 1 in 100 people and can include symptoms of low blood pressure (such as tiredness and feeling dizzy) and/or stiff muscles / muscular pain.

Codeine FAQs

Yes. Codeine is a cough suppressant (antitussive) that reacts with the brain in a way that reduces the urge to cough. It can be prescribed for "dry cough", or an otherwise unproductive cough that does not produce phlegm. According to a 2007 study by Bolser & Davenport, Codeine is widely regarded as the "gold standard" in cough suppressants.

Yes. Codeine can be prescribed off label for treating diarrhoea (O'Brien et al, 1988), if a doctor of healthcare provider deem it to be a suitable treatment. Diarrhoea is best described as urgent stools that are passed watery and too often. Codeine is potentially addictive, making it unsuitable for chronic diarrhoea. Its side effects make it a second-hand choice after loperamide in the treatment of diarrhoea.

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No. Codeine Isn't appropriate for the treatment of menstrual / period pains (The Recovery Village, 2023)

OTC Codeine

OTC codeine (over the counter codeine) is available to purchase in low doses (Bupa, 2022), from many pharmacies and shops in the United Kingdom. The same applies for pain relief medications that contain low dose codeine.

There is a danger of developing an addiction to codeine and promethazine hydrochloride cough syrup (which can be commonly referred to as 'lean' and/or 'purple drank', as concluded by Wairagkar et al (1994), Peters el al (2007) and Garcin et al (2016).

Dihydrocodeine vs Codeine

No. codeine and dihydrocodeine (DHC) are not the same. A study by Leppert (2010) states that 'The analgesic effect of DHC is probably twice as potent as codeine for the parenteral and slightly stronger for an oral route'.

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Buying Codeine Online

Buy Codeine Online

You can safely buy codeine online here at EU Meds. Our purchase process will guide you through getting the necessary prescription and receiving your order online through an EU pharmacy. Please note, all requests for supply of prescription medications are subject to an online clinical consultation and the decision to prescribe will be made by a doctor.

Medical Reviewer

Medical Reviewer

Irfan Siddique

Deputy Medical Superintendent (DMS) • MBBS

Dr. Irfan Siddique is a Medical Doctor with a license to practice in the United Kingdom, awarded by the General Medical Council. He graduated in 2017 from the University of Health Sciences, Lahore.

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