Codeine

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Treats mild to moderate pain.

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Prescription opioids are used to treat several kinds of pain - but they carry significant risks, including addiction. Learn more about these drugs and be sure to discuss the risks with your doctor.

Our bottom line

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

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Quick facts about Codeine
  • Drug class: Pain
  • Rx status: Prescription only
  • Generic status: Generic only

Upsides

  • 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.
Tried Codeine? Write a review!

Downsides

  • 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.
How it works

Codeine is an opiate agonist. It blocks pain receptors in the brain.

Quick facts about Codeine
  • Drug class: Pain
  • Rx status: Prescription only
  • Generic status: Generic only

Dosage forms

  • Pill
  • Liquid
Tried Codeine? Write a review!

Prices and coupons

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Side effect rates for Codeine

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

Common concerns from people taking Codeine

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Pregnancy

Research studies with animals found harmful effects on unborn babies. It hasn’t been properly studied in humans. The benefits might outweigh the risks even if you’re pregnant. Talk with your doctor.

Tip: Always talk with your doctor before you take any medication while pregnant.
FDA pregnancy category for Codeine
CWeigh risks vs. benefits
Interactions
  • 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.
Food
  • Take with food or milk to help prevent upset stomach.
Kidneys and liver
  • 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.
  • 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.
Pain
  • Other pain medications are more potent than Codeine.
Sleep
  • Can cause constipation, breathing problems, nausea, drowsiness, and dizziness. Don't drink alcohol with Codeine.
  • It can cause drowsiness or sleepiness.