Codeine phosphate belongs to a group of medicines called opioid analgesics (painkillers) and is used to treat mild to moderately severe pain. It can be particularly useful when milder painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen have not been effective.
The 15mg tablets of codeine are suitable for treating mild to moderate pain such as back and neck ache, headaches, arthritis pain, sciatica and joint pain.
Codeine is an opioid pain killer that mimics the body’s naturally occurring endorphin and blocks pain messages going to the central nervous system.
In more severe pain, Codeine 15mg can be combined with paracetamol as well as the NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, naproxen and diclofenac.
The usual dose of Codeine 15mg is one or two tablets every four to six hours up to a maximum of 8 tablets per day. However, in more severe pain three or four tablets can be taken at the same time but the daily total must NEVER exceed 240mg.
Swallow the tablets whole with a drink of water.
You can take codeine either before or after food, but taking the tablets after food can help prevent feelings of sickness which can occur with the first few doses.
If you take more codeine than you should, immediate medical advice should be sought, even if you feel well, because of the risk of delayed, serious liver damage. Remember to take any remaining tablets and the pack with you. This is so the doctor knows what you have taken.
Tell your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side effects gets serious or lasts longer than a few days:
- Feeling sick (nausea), being sick (vomiting)
- Dizziness, light-headedness, drowsiness, confusion
- Difficulty in passing water
- Becoming dependent on codeine
- You get infections or bruise more easily than usual. This could be because of a blood problem (such as agranulocytosis, neutropenia or thrombocytopenia).
Taking a painkiller for headaches too often or for too long can make them worse.
Taking codeine regularly for a long time can lead to dependence, which might cause you to experience withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness and irritability when you stop the tablets.
Stop taking codeine and see a doctor or go to a hospital straight away if:
- You get swelling of the hands, feet, ankles, face, lips or throat which may cause difficulty in swallowing or breathing.
- You could also notice an itchy, lumpy rash (hives) or nettle rash (urticaria). This may mean you are having an allergic reaction to codeine.
Talk to your doctor straight away if you notice the following potentially dangerous problem:
- Severe stomach pain, which may reach through to your back. This could be a sign of inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). This is a very rare side effect, it affects less than 1 in 10,000 people.
Codeine should be used with caution in:
- Elderly people
- People with decreased kidney or liver function
- People with reduced lung function e.g. asthma
- People with a condition called bronchiectasis, in which there is persistent widening of the airways as a result of lung disease, e.g. infection, inflammation, tumours or cystic fibrosis.
- People with biliary tract disorders, e.g. gallstones or recent surgery on the biliary tract.
- People with acute abdominal conditions such as appendicitis.
- People who have recently had surgery on the stomach, intestines or urinary tract.
- People who are constipated.
- People with inflammatory bowel disorders such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.
- People who have difficulty passing urine, for example men with an enlarged prostate gland (prostatic hypertrophy).
- People with an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism).
- People with underactive adrenal glands, e.g. Addison's disease.
- People with low blood pressure (hypotension) or shock.
- A condition involving abnormal muscle weakness called myasthenia gravis.
- People with a history of convulsions or fits, e.g. epilepsy.
- People with an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).
- People with a history of drug abuse or dependence.
Codeine should NOT be used in:
- People who are known to have a genetic variation of a liver enzyme called CYP2D6, which metabolises codeine into morphine (CYP2D6 ultra-rapid metabolisers). These people are more likely to experience side effects after taking codeine, because they convert more codeine into morphine than other people.
- People with very slow, shallow breathing (respiratory depression).
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- People having an asthma attack.
- People who are intoxicated with alcohol.
- Liver failure.
- People who have or are at risk of getting a blockage in the gut (paralytic ileus).
- People with a head injury or raised pressure inside the skull (intracranial pressure).
Codeine should not be used if you are allergic to one or any of its ingredients. Please inform your doctor or pharmacist if you have previously experienced such an allergy. If you feel you have experienced an allergic reaction, stop using this medicine and inform your doctor or pharmacist immediately.
The patient information leaflet (PIL) is a leaflet containing specific information about medical conditions, doses and side effects. You can download a copy of the PIL here:
Patient Info Leaflet