Side Effects of Codeine Medication

Codeine is a narcotic or opioid pain medicine. It is frequently used for treating pain of any sort, from mild to moderate to severe pain. Though this medicine is usually used as a pain-reliever, it is also used for curing cough and cold. Especially, when you have dry irritating cough, Codeine is prescribed. If you have flu, this drug is prescribed along with decongestants and antihistamines. This medicine is commonly prescribed for many. However, there are indeed some side effects of this medicine.

How Does Codeine Work?

Before discussing about the side effects of Codeine, it is important to know about the mechanism for this drug or how it works on the body for relieving off pain. However, the fact is, how Codeine works, is not clearly known. It is known that like some other opioids and pain-relievers, Codeine too binds to the receptors in the brain. The receptors transmit the pain sensation through the body and the brain. As this medicine binds these receptors, the body can no longer feel the pain in its original intensity.
This is how it decreases the discomfort and increases your tolerance for the pain, so that you feel that the pain has reduced.

Side Effects of Codeine Medication

Side Effects of Codeine Medications

Now that you have known how Codeine works on the body for relieving off or reducing the pain sensation, you need to know about its side effects. There are quite a number of side effects of this medicine. The most common side effects of codeine are –

Along with these, there are some more serious side effects that are associated with cognition. These are –

  • Hallucination
  • Feeling extremely happy or extremely sad
  • Unusual thoughts
  • Difficulty in concentration
  • Euphoria
  • Unusual behaviour
  • Fainting
  • Confusion.

The long term side effects of codeine that should not be ignored at all include –

  • Reduced sex drive
  • A need to use more codeine to get the effect
  • Dependency on codeine
  • Irregular period.

If you feel any of these side effects or signs and symptoms, it is very important that you see a doctor. Also, if you feel or if your family members notice any cognitive changes in you, the doctor must be called at once and you must be admitted to the hospital without delay.

Codeine Addiction and Dependency

Many research studies have shown that like other opioids, Codeine too can create dependency on long term users. When the dosage is more than usual, the high dosage can cause the dependency.

The average dose for Codeine for adults is 15-60 mg in every 4-6 hours, only if it is required. For treating cough, the dose is 10-20 mg in every 4-6 hours. A maximum dosage of Codeine under any circumstance is 120 mg in 24 hours. Anything higher than this is a high dosage and may lead to dependency and cause severe long term side effects.

If Codeine is consumed for a short term for treatment purposes, it is not addictive. However, if you take it for long term, it can be habit-forming. Also, if you take during pregnancy, the baby may experience life threatening withdrawal symptoms. In that case, it is very important to take care of those withdrawal symptoms in the baby.

What Should the Doctor Know?

Often, Codeine can cause severe damages to your body, when you are already taking some other medicines. Therefore, before you take this medicine or if your doctor prescribes this medicine, it is important that your doctor knows if you have or have a history of –

Also, tell your doctor if you have had a head injury very recently or if you have dependency on alcohol or other drugs or if you are allergic to anything. You should tell your doctor everything about your medical routine; including any medicine that is available without a prescription and that you might have been taking. This should also include the herbal medicines or the complementary medicines if there is any.

Preventing or Reducing the Side Effects of Codeine

If you are taking the Codeine medicine as per prescription, there are a few things that you should be doing to reduce or prevent your chances of getting side effects from codeine. These are –

  • Take the medicine always after having some meal, so that your stomach and liver is protected from the harsh impacts of the medicine.
  • Always eat light, non-spicy food. Avoid rich and spicy food. This will prevent nausea and vomiting.
  • Do not drink alcohol as it will help you to avoid the dizziness. If you still feel dizzy, make sure you don’t drive in that condition.
  • Drink plenty of water and have a well-balanced diet. This will reduce the chances of constipation as a side effect of Codeine. If constipation problems still persist, see a doctor.
  • Also, make sure that the children in the house do not have access to this medicine. Keep it out of reach of the children.


Since Codeine has so many side effects, it is always a good idea to keep the dosage low and not continue to take it for long. If you are dependent on it and want to stop its consumption, you will experience certain withdrawal symptoms, which are also similar to most of the side effects of this medicine. However, they usually go away once the body is accustomed to functioning without depending on it. Usually the withdrawal symptoms are the strongest after 48 to 72 hours of the last dose of Codeine. You can seek medical help or see a doctor to know more about how to withdraw from Codeine consumption.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 30, 2019

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