Prescription onlyLower-cost generic available


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Treats mild to moderate pain.

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Prescription onlyLower-cost generic available

Our pharmacists’ bottom line

Codeine works well for mild to moderate pain, but it may not be an great option for all people.

Prescription opioids are used to treat several kinds of pain - but they carry significant risks, including addition. Learn more about these drugs and be sure to discuss the risks with your doctor.
  • Effective option for relieving mild to moderate pain that wasn't controlled by non-opioid medications.
  • Available as a generic in both tablets and oral solution.
  • Can be used for the short-term relief of a dry cough.
  • Codeine is changed to an active form in the body by a liver enzyme. About 10% of people don't have this enzyme and don't get enough pain relief.
  • There are many drug interactions with Codeine, such as antidepressants. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before starting any new medicine or making any changes.
  • Other pain medications are more potent than Codeine.
  • It's possible to build a tolerance and become dependent on Codeine.
  • Can cause constipation, so you'll need to drink plenty of water or take a stool softener while on it.

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Side effects for Codeine

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These are side effects of Codeine reported to the FDA by people taking it, and by doctors and pharmacists.

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What to expect when you start Codeine

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Tips from our pharmacists
  • Takes about 30 to 60 minutes to start working and can last about 4 to 6 hours.
  • Can cause constipation, breathing problems, nausea, drowsiness, and dizziness. Don't drink alcohol with Codeine.
  • Take with food or milk to help prevent upset stomach.
  • It can cause drowsiness or sleepiness.
  • Codeine is activated in the body by enzymes in the liver. If you're taking other medications or have liver abnormalities, Codeine can be activated too fast and cause increased side effects.

Risks and Warnings for Codeine

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    • Higher risk if:
    • Age 17 years or younger

    Codeine can cause serious breathing problems and sometimes death when used in children after surgery to remove tonsils or adenoids. Talk to your child's doctor before starting any pain medicine after surgery.

    This is a black box warning. The FDA requires this warning when there is a significant risk of serious or life-threatening effects that anyone taking the drug should consider.

Means that some groups have a high risk of experiencing this side effect

Tips from pharmacists and people taking Codeine

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The FDA category for this medication is C. It is advised that you: Weigh risks vs. benefits
  • Tips from our pharmacists
  • Can cause constipation, breathing problems, nausea, drowsiness, and dizziness. Don't drink alcohol with Codeine.
  • Tips from our pharmacists
  • Take with food or milk to help prevent upset stomach.
  • Experienced sinus pressure, breathing problems, and low sleep quality
    Age: 17
    Gender: man
    Taken for: Pain (mild to moderate)