- Surprising Reasons You're in Pain Slideshow
- Take the Pain Quiz
- Joint-Friendly Exercises to Reduce RA Pain Slideshow
- What is codeine? How does it work (mechanism of action)?
- What are the uses for codeine?
- What are the side effects of codeine?
- Is codeine addictive? Is it a controlled substance?
- Can I drink alcohol with codeine? What other drugs interact with codeine?
- What is the dosage for codeine? How is it taken?
- Is it safe to take codeine if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
- What else should I know about codeine?
What is codeine? How does it work (mechanism of action)?
Codeine is a narcotic pain-reliever and cough suppressant similar to morphine and hydrocodone. Moreover, a small amount of codeine is converted to morphine in the body. The precise mechanism of action of codeine is not known; however, like morphine, codeine binds to receptors in the brain (opioid receptors) that are important for transmitting the sensation of pain throughout the body and brain. Codeine increases tolerance to pain, decreasing discomfort, but the pain still is apparent to the patient. In addition to reducing pain, codeine also causes sedation drowsiness and depresses breathing. Codeine frequently is combined with acetaminophen (Tylenol) or aspirin for more effective pain relief. The FDA approved codeine in 1950.
What are the side effects of codeine?
The most frequent side effects of codeine include:
- Shortness of breath
- Allergic reactions
- Abdominal pain
Serious side effects of codeine include:
- Life-threatening respiratory depression
- Severe low blood pressure
- Adrenal insufficiency
- Accidental ingestion of codeine can result in fatal overdose
Is codeine addictive? Is it a controlled substance?
Codeine is habit forming (addictive). Mental and physical dependence can occur but are unlikely when used for short-term pain relief. Using codeine during pregnancy can cause opioid withdrawal syndrome in the newborn, which may be life-threatening if not treated.
If codeine is suddenly withdrawn after prolonged use, symptoms of withdrawal may develop. The dose of codeine should be reduced gradually in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Can I drink alcohol with codeine? What other drugs interact with codeine?
- Codeine can impair thinking and physical abilities required for driving or operating machinery.
- Alcohol and other sedatives such as alprazolam (Xanax) can produce further brain impairment and even confusion when combined with codeine. Therefore, alcohol and other sedatives should not be used when taking codeine.
- Drugs that stimulate and also block opioid receptors (for example, pentazocine) reduce the effect of codeine. Such drugs should not be combined with codeine.
- Drugs that block the action of acetylcholine (anticholinergic drugs) increase the occurrence of urinary retention and constipation when combined with codeine.
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) class of antidepressants (for example, isocarboxazid [Marplan], phenelzine [Nardil], tranylcypromine [Parnate], selegiline [Eldepryl], and procarbazine [Matulane]) significantly increase the action of codeine. Codeine should not be used in patients taking MAOIs or within 14 days of stopping MAOIs.
Latest Chronic Pain News
What is the dosage for codeine? How is it taken?
- The usual adult dose of codeine for pain is 15-60 mg every 4-6 hours as needed.
- The dose for cough is 10 to 20 mg every 4-6 hours as needed.
- The maximum dose for treating cough is 120 mg every 24 hours.
Is it safe to take codeine if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
Small amounts of codeine are secreted in breast milk, but the risk of adverse events in the infant is small.
Codeine is a narcotic pain reliever (analgesic) used to treat mild to moderately severe pain. It is frequently combined with Tylenol or aspirin for more effective pain relief. Common side effects include itching, rash, stomach pain, constipation, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, and dizziness.
More serious adverse effects codeine are severe low blood pressure, adrenal insufficiency,
Codeine is a controlled narcotic and it has potential for abuse. People with current or previous drug addiction problems should be monitored closely for addiction. Dependence and addiction can occur with codeine, even at prescribed dosages when taken over long periods. Misuse of codeine can lead to serious cardiac events and sudden death.
It is important to be aware of drug interactions, effects on pregnancy and nursing mothers, as well as common side effects on the user.
Multimedia: Slideshows, Images & Quizzes
Back Pain Quiz: Test Your Back Pain IQ
There are numerous causes of chronic lower back pain and only one ailment gets more complaints. What is it? Quiz your knowledge...
Headaches Quiz: Learn About Headache Pain
If you're plagued with headaches, our Headaches Quiz may help you identify causes, triggers, symptoms, and treatments for...
Pain Quiz: Test Your IQ of Pain
Is pain all in the brain? Take the Pain Quiz to learn everything you've ever wanted to know about the unpleasant sensation we...
Picture of Fixed Drug Eruption
A large red-violet plaque on the arm of a child. See a picture of Fixed Drug Eruption and learn more about the health topic....
Common Causes of Foot Pain
Learn about common causes of foot pain such as bunions, corns, athlete's foot, plantar warts and more. Get the latest information...
Fibromyalgia Pain Relief With Stretching and Strength Exercises in Pictures
Living with fibromyalgia is painful. By making simple exercise modifications, you can boost your energy, decrease pain and...
Back Pain: Find Relief, Treat Your Back Pain
Back pain conditions are very common. Learn the truth and get the facts behind myths, remedies, causes and treatment for back...
Addicted to Pills: The Health Risks of Drug Abuse
What is drug abuse? Learn about prescription drug abuse and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, including depressants, pain relievers,...
Exercises for Knee Osteoarthritis and Joint Pain
Learn about osteoarthritis and exercises that relieve knee osteoarthritis pain, stiffness and strengthen the knee joint and...
Low Back Pain: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Relief
Do you suffer from low back pain? Watch this slideshow to see common triggers of lower back pain and what kind of treatments you...
Fibromyalgia Treatments and Tips to Ease Pain and Other Symptoms
What is fibromyalgia? Learn about fibromyalgia symptoms such as trigger points (also called tender points), learn what causes...
Pain-Relief Tips for Bumps, Bruises, Sprains, and Strains in Pictures
View this First Aid slideshow on Care and Pain Relief. See how to get pain relief if you've bumped your head, sprained your...
Cold and Flu: Finding Relief for Your Cough
Remedies for coughing to relieve symptoms, thin mucus, and clear phlegm include cough syrup and honey in hot water. Use...
Teen Drug Abuse: Warning Signs, Statistics, and Facts
Teen drug abuse is a growing concern today. Learn statistics, facts, warning signs, and effects related to teen substance abuse...
Prescription Drug Abuse: Know The Warning Signs
Learn about prescription drug abuse facts and statistics about the dangers and misconceptions of abusing common prescription...
Pain Management: 15 Easy Ways to Reduce Chronic Pain
Chronic pain can be a symptom of many conditions, including arthritis, headaches, and others. Comprehensive pain management...
Related Disease Conditions
Ankle pain is commonly due to a sprain or tendinitis. The severity of ankle sprains ranges from mild (which can resolve within...
Lower Back Pain
There are many causes of back pain. Pain in the low back can relate to the bony lumbar spine, discs between the vertebrae,...
Bone cancer is a rare type of cancer that occurs in cells that make up the bones. Primary bone cancer that arises in bone cells...
Elbow pain is most often the result of tendinitis, which can affect the inner or outer elbow. Treatment includes ice, rest, and...
Although a fever technically is any body temperature above the normal of 98.6 F (37 C), in practice, a person is usually not...
Acute injuries, medical conditions, and chronic use conditions are causes of knee pain. Symptoms and signs that accompany knee...
Pericarditis (Symptoms, ECG, Types, Causes, Treatment)
Pericarditis is the inflammation of the pericardial sac that surrounds the heart. The causes of pericarditis include injury from...
A toothache is a pain on or around a tooth. It may be caused by a variety of things from a cavity, abscess, or even sinusitis....
Cough (Chronic, Persistent Cough in Adults and Children)
Chronic cough is a cough that does not go away and is generally a symptom of another disorder such as asthma, allergic...
Neck Pain (Cervical Pain)
Neck pain (cervical pain) may be caused by any number of disorders and diseases. Tenderness is another symptom of neck pain....
Dengue fever is contracted from the bite of a striped Aedes aegypti mosquito. Symptoms and signs of dengue include headache,...
Cold, Flu, Allergy Treatments
Before treating a cold, the flu, or allergies with over-the-counter (OTC) medications, it's important to know what's causing the...
Chronic pain is pain (an unpleasant sense of discomfort) that persists or progresses over a long period of time. In contrast to...
Drug addiction is a chronic disease that causes drug-seeking behavior and drug use despite negative consequences to the user and...
Pain Management: Musculoskeletal Pain
Natural menopause is the permanent ending of menstruation that is not brought on by any type of medical treatment. For women...
Cancer pain results from the tumor pressing on nerves or invading bones or organs. Cancer treatments like chemotherapy,...
An abscessed tooth is an infection within a tooth that has spread to the root. Symptoms of an abscessed tooth may include pain,...
Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that people get in their late teens or early twenties. Impacted wisdom teeth that only...
Drug-Induced Liver Disease
Drug-induced liver diseases are diseases of the liver that are caused by: physician-prescribed medications, OTC...
Pain management and treatment can be simple or complex, according to its cause. There are two basic types of pain, nociceptive...
Teen Drug Abuse
Drugs commonly abused by teens include tobacco products, marijuana, cold medications, inhalants, depressants, stimulants,...
Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction (SI Joint Pain)
Sacroiliac joint (SI) dysfunction is a general term to reflect pain in the SI joints. Causes of SI joint pain include...
Foot pain may be caused by injuries (sprains, strains, bruises, and fractures), diseases (diabetes, Hansen disease, and gout),...
The shoulder is the most often dislocated joint in the body due to its mobility. Dislocation occurs when the head of the humerus...
Upper Respiratory Tract Infection (URTI)
An upper respiratory infection is a contagious infection of the structures of the upper respiratory tract, which includes the...
Liver Disease Symptoms, Signs, Treatment, and Life Expectancy
Liver disease can be cause by a variety of things including infection (hepatitis), diseases, for example, gallstones, high...
Torn ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear)
The anterior cruciate ligament helps to prevent the top and bottom of the knee from sliding back and forth. Symptoms and signs of...
Children's Cough Causes and Treatments
Children's cough causes include infection, acid reflux, asthma, allergies or sinus infection, whooping cough, and exposure to...
Shoulder and Neck Pain
Shoulder and neck pain may be caused by bursitis, a pinched nerve, whiplash, tendinitis, a herniated disc, or a rotator cuff...
Kidney Pain (Location, Symptoms, Relief)
Kidney pain has a variety of causes and symptoms. Infection, injury, trauma, bleeding disorders, kidney stones, and less common...
Arthritis, bursitis, IT band syndrome, fracture, and strain are just some of the causes of hip pain. Associated symptoms and...
19 Tips on How to Stop a Cough
Coughing is a reflex that helps a person clear their airways of irritants. There are many causes of an excessive or severe...
Treatment & Diagnosis
- Headaches FAQs
- Back Pain FAQs
- Pain FAQs
- Medication Disposal
- Dangers of Mixing Medications
- How To Reduce Your Medication Costs
- Pharmacy Visit, How To Get The Most Out of Your Visit
- Indications for Drugs: Approved vs. Non-approved
- Pain (Acute and Chronic)
- Drugs: Buying Prescription Drugs Online Safely
- Prescription Drug Abuse
- Drugs: The Most Common Medication Errors
- Generic Drugs, Are They as Good as Brand-Names?
Medications & Supplements
Prevention & Wellness
- Sixty People Charged in Massive Opioid Painkiller Investigation
- Insurers' Denials of Opioid Coverage Spurs CDC to Clarify Guidelines
- Opioid Rxs Decreasing, But Not for All Doctors
- Before Teen Is Prescribed Opioids, Look at Family's Drug Use
- Opioid Overdose Deaths Quadruple, Centered in 8 States
- Too Often, Opioid Abuse Runs in the Family, Study Shows
- Codeine: An Opioid Threat to Kids
- Prescription Opioids May Raise Pneumonia Risk
- Can Herbal Drug Kratom Kill?
- Health Tip: Manage Pain With Opioids
- Doctors Curbing First-Time Prescriptions for Opioids
- ER Docs Prescribe More Opioids Than They Realize
- Opioid ODs Have Cut Into U.S. Life Expectancy: CDC
- Addicts Try to Avoid Deadly Fentanyl, But Many Tragically Fail
- Opioid-Related Deaths Might Be Underestimated: CDC
- Rehab Services Lacking in States Hit Hard by Opioids
- Drug OD Deaths Have Nearly Tripled Since 1999: CDC
- Kids' OD Risk Rises When Opioids Left Out at Home
- Some Docs May Help Fuel Opioid Abuse Epidemic
- What You Need to Know When Prescribed an Opioid Painkiller
- What Is Kratom? Why Does the DEA Want to Ban It?
- Codeine Not Safe for Kids, Pediatricians Warn
- Does Medical Marijuana Reduce Need for Other Meds?
- Programs to Spot Painkiller Abuse Work, But Are Underused
- Painkillers Don't Ease Disability Due to Nerve Damage: Study
- Opioids: What Patients -- and Doctors -- Think
- Primary Care Docs the Leading Prescribers of Narcotic Painkillers: Study
- Abuse of Prescription Painkillers, Stimulants Ups Sexual Risks for Teens
- Prescription Meds: Too Common in Pregnancy?
- Who's Most Likely to Get Addicted to Their Narcotic Painkiller?
- Many Doctors Underestimate Risks of Prescription Painkillers: Survey
- It May Soon Be Possible to Easily 'Brew' Narcotics
- New Moms' Codeine Use Down Since Health Warnings
- Wider Use of Naloxone Could Cut Deaths From Drug Overdoses: CDC
- More U.S. Newborns Enduring Drug Withdrawal: Study
- Narcotic Painkillers in Pregnancy Common, Harmful to Baby: Study
- One-Quarter of Narcotic Painkillers Misused, Study Shows
- Big Increase Seen in Babies Born Addicted to Narcotics
- Morphine After Tonsillectomy Tied to Breathing Problems in Study
- Many Women of Childbearing Age Take Narcotic Painkillers: CDC
- Study Rates Migraine Medications
- Painkiller Tramadol Linked to Low Blood Sugar
- For a Child's Fracture, Use Ibuprofen, Not Morphine: Study
- Doctors' Group Issues Painkiller Guidelines
- U.S. to Tighten Access to Certain Narcotic Painkillers
- Many U.S. Workers on Disability Use Narcotic Painkillers, Study Finds
- Abuse of Prescription Painkillers on the Rise Among High School Athletes: Survey
- Too Much Codeine Still Prescribed to U.S. Kids: Study
- Reports of U.S. Cases of Flesh-Eating Drug Questioned
- After Tonsillectomy, Over-the-Counter Painkillers Suffice, Study Says
- 'Krokodil' Drug FAQ
- FDA Announces New Safety Measures for Narcotic Painkillers
- Some Painkillers Tied to Certain Birth Defects in Study
- Most Medications OK During Breast-Feeding, Report Says
- Vaccine to Fight Heroin Addiction Shows Promise in Rats
- Codeine Risky for Kids After Certain Surgeries, FDA Says
- Program to Spot Painkiller ODs Saves Lives: Study
- More Sleep May Help Some People Feel Less Pain
- Antibiotics Don't Ease Coughs in Kids With Common Cold: Study
- FDA: Codeine May Be Risky for Kids After Surgery
- Cough Medicine and Cough Syrups
- Codeine After Surgery Could Endanger Certain Kids: Study
- Seniors' Long-Term Use of Strong Painkillers a Concern
- More Newborns Suffering Drug Withdrawal at Birth
- Deaths From Drug Poisoning in the U.S Jump by Sixfold
- Opioid Painkillers Linked to Birth Defects
- FDA Warns of Acetaminophen in Prescription Pain Drugs
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.