Due to planned strike action on Friday 30th September and Saturday 1st October, there might be a slight delay in the delivery of your medication. We apologise on Royal Mail's behalf for any inconvenience.

What does Codeine do?

7th September 2022

Often, people will hear the names of medications thrown around by doctors, pharmacists, in magazines, on the radio, or even on TV. However, it can be difficult for people to understand what the medications they hear about actually do. Codeine is one of the most well-known prescription-only medications as it is used for a wide variety of different uses. In this article, we will answer the question of what codeine does, as well as many more questions people have regarding codeine.

man holding leg

What is Codeine?

Codeine is a medication that belongs to a group known as opiates or opioids. Codeine is predominantly used as a painkiller, specifically for targeting moderate to severe pain. Opioid medications work differently from other over-the-counter painkillers. Opioids do their work in the central nervous system, blocking pain receptor signals from being sent to the brain. Opioids will bind themselves to opiate receptors in the brain and the spinal cord in order to block signals of pain. 

Codeine is used, as mentioned, for moderate to severe pain caused by things such as surgery recovery or severe injuries. Codeine is also prescribed to people who have had longstanding pain that has not been relieved by over-the-counter alternatives such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. As well as this, codeine can also be provided on prescription to people suffering from chronic diarrhoea. Codeine comes in many different forms and in different combinations with other medications, there are also over-the-counter medications, such as co-codamol, that include codeine in them. 

How to take Codeine?

Codeine is available in many different forms. You can get codeine in a liquid, syrup, or as an injectable medication, however, the latter is only available when you are in hospital. The codeine that you can purchase online from EU Meds is in tablet or capsule form. When you take codeine tablets you should make sure not to crush, break, or chew the tablets as this can affect how the medicine is absorbed into your body. This will mean that you do not experience the full effect of codeine and your pain may not be relieved. 

When to take Codeine?

When you are prescribed with codeine your doctor will outline how often you should take it, as well as the strength of the tablets that you need to get. You should always take your medication when your doctor has advised. Usually, to treat pain you will take one or two tablets once every four to six hours in a 24-hour period. For treating diarrhoea however you will take one or two tablets when you are experiencing diarrhoea. The amount of codeine you take for your condition will vary based on the severity of your pain or diarrhoea or your age. For example, younger and older people will take fewer tablets than healthy adults. 

What are the common side effects of Codeine?

As with all other prescription medications you may experience some side effects when you take codeine. There are some more common side effects that do not pose a serious risk, and there are some more uncommon, more serious side effects. The following is a list of common side effects of codeine:

  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness and vertigo
  • A dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Confusion

You may experience these more common side effects for a short period of time, however, if they persist then you may wish to contact your doctor for further advice. 

What are the serious side effects of Codeine?

As mentioned you may experience some more serious side effects when you take codeine. If you experience any of the following side effects then you should get in touch with your doctor for further advice. The serious side effects of codeine include: 

  • Symptoms of low blood pressure
  • Muscle stiffness

These serious side effects are very uncommon and should not play a factor in your doctor's decision to prescribe the medication or not. 

Is Codeine addictive?

One of the most commonly asked questions regarding opioid medications and codeine in particular is whether or not they are addictive. Due to the effectiveness of opioid medications, you can become dependent on them, especially if they are relieving long-term chronic pain. When you find something that can ease this pain your body may become dependent on it. It is incredibly important that you only take codeine for the amount of time that has been prescribed. If you are concerned about stopping your treatment then you should contact your doctor for advice. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you take paracetamol or ibuprofen with Codeine?

You may be wondering whether you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol at the same time as you are taking prescribed codeine. Thankfully you can take either ibuprofen or paracetamol at the same time as codeine. The only time you should refrain from taking over-the-counter painkillers at the same time as prescribed codeine is when they contain codeine themselves. Medications such as nurofen plus which is a combination of ibuprofen and codeine should not be taken at the same time as prescribed codeine as this will increase the risk of you experiencing side effects and would likely constitute an overdose. 

Where can you buy Codeine in the UK?

In order to purchase Codeine from EU Meds you will either need to provide a valid prescription, or you will need to complete an online consultation with a doctor in order to attain a prescription. As a prescription-only medication, the only way that you can get the medication is by having a valid prescription.