Codeine is an opioid pain medication.

Pronunciation: KOE-deen

What are codeine’s uses?

Codeine is used to treat mild to moderate pain not responding to aspirin or paracetamol. Its other benefit is as a cough suppressant.

What dosage should you take?

For treating pain and for reducing a cough, the dose is 8mg to 10mg every four to six hours. For children, it’s 0.5mg per kilogram every 4 to 6 hours.

However, first check the correct dosages with your Clicks pharmacist.

What special precautions should you take?

  • Take care when driving or performing tasks that require you to be alert as codeine may impair your functioning.
  • In the elderly, low doses at longer intervals should be used.
  • During pregnancy, it is best to avoid the use of codeine as it could adversely impact your unborn child.
  • If you’re breastfeeding know that the amount of codeine excreted in your milk is considered too small to harm your infant.
  • Children who have undergone surgery to remove their tonsils or adenoids should not be given codeine as this will lead to adverse effects such as breathing problems.
  • Codeine belongs to a class of drugs called opiate analgesics – these so-called opioids or narcotics can be habit-forming and addictive. Codeine abuse is unfortunately a reality in South Africa. Read about the Codeine Care Initiative which aims to help South Africans responsibly manage the use of medicines containing codeine.
  • Do not drink alcohol when taking codeine.

Codeine should be avoided if you suffer from the following conditions:

  • A codeine allergy
  • Obstructive airway disease
  • Asthma
  • Acute alcoholism
  • Epilepsy
  • Head injuries
  • Comatose patients
  • Raised intracranial pressure

Codeine should be used with caution if you suffer from the following conditions:

  • Liver and kidney impairment
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Prostatic hyperplasia (enlargement of the prostate)
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Shock
  • Inflammatory or obstructive bowel disorders
  • Myasthenia gravis (an autoimmune neuromuscular disease)

What drug interactions could you experience?

As a rule, always inform your doctor or Clicks pharmacist what prescription and non-prescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements and herbal products you are taking or planning to take to ensure you don’t suffer the effects of adverse drug interactions.

What are codeine’s side effects?

Side effects could include:

This is not a complete list of side effects. It’s essential that you call your doctor should you notice any severe or odd side effects.

What are the overdose symptoms?

Call a doctor or an ambulance immediately if you notice the following symptoms:

  • Slow breathing and heart rate
  • Severe drowsiness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Fainting
The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by Clicks' pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman in April 2015