- Codeine works by stopping pain signals from travelling along the nerves to the brain.
- The most common side effects of codeine are constipation, feeling sick (nausea) and feeling sleepy.
- It’s possible to become addicted to codeine, but this is rare if you’re taking it to relieve pain and your doctor is reviewing your treatment regularly.
- It may be best not to drink alcohol while taking codeine as you’re more likely to get side effects like feeling sleepy.
- Do not give codeine to children under 12 years old.
How and when to take it
It’s important to take codeine as your doctor has asked you to. You can take codeine at any time of day but try to take it at the same times every day and space your doses evenly. Take codeine with, or just after, a meal or snack so it’s less likely to make you feel sick.
How long will I take it for?
Sometimes, you may need to take codeine for longer. But usually a different medicine will be prescribed for long term pain or diarrhoea, especially if you have side effects like constipation. You might only need to take codeine for a few days.
What if I take too much?
You may also find it difficult to breathe. In serious cases you can become unconscious and may need emergency treatment in hospital. If you’ve taken an accidental overdose you may feel very sleepy, sick or dizzy. The amount of codeine that can lead to an overdose varies from person to person. Taking too much codeine can be dangerous.