1. About co-codamol for adults
Co-codamol is a mixture of 2 different painkillers – paracetamol and codeine. It’s used to treat aches and pains including headaches, muscular pain, migraines and toothache.
This medicine comes as tablets and capsules.
For children under 16 years of age, read our information on co-codamol for children.
2. Key facts
- Co-codamol tablets and capsules come in 3 strengths. You can buy the lowest strength co-codamol from pharmacies but the higher strengths are only available on prescription.
- The most common side effects of co-codamol are constipation and feeling sick (nausea) or sleepy.
- Taking too much co-codamol can be harmful. Do not be tempted to increase the dose or take a double dose if your pain is very bad.
- It’s possible to become addicted to the codeine in co-codamol, but your doctor will explain how to reduce the risks of becoming addicted.
- If you need to take co-codamol for more than a few weeks, your treatment plan may include details of how and when to stop taking this medicine.
3. Who can and cannot take co-codamol
Adults and children aged 12 years or over can take co-codamol. However, it is only recommended for under-18s if other painkillers have not worked.
Co-codamol is not suitable for some people. Tell your doctor before starting the medicine if you:
- have lung problems or breathing difficulties
- have a head injury
- have adrenal gland problems
- have a condition that causes fits or seizures
- regularly drink more than the maximum recommended amount of alcohol (14 units a week)
- are trying to get pregnant, are already pregnant or are breastfeeding
- have liver problems – you may need to take a lower dose
- are under 18 years old and have had your tonsils or adenoids removed because of a sleep problem called obstructive sleep apnoea
4. How and when to take co-codamol
It’s important to take co-codamol as your doctor has asked you to. This is particularly important because co-codamol can be addictive.
Co-codamol comes as tablets and capsules. Swallow them whole with a drink of water.
Co-codamol also comes as soluble tablets that dissolve in water to make a drink.
You can take co-codamol with or without food.
Different co-codamol strengths
Co-codamol tablets and capsules come in 3 different strengths.
They contain 8mg, 15mg or 30mg of codeine.
All 3 strengths contain 500mg of paracetamol – the same as in a standard paracetamol tablet or capsule.
The strength of co-codamol appears as 2 numbers on the packet. For example, 8/500 means each tablet or capsule contains 8mg of codeine and 500mg of paracetamol.
You can buy the lowest strength of co-codamol (8/500) without a prescription but only from a pharmacy. The higher strengths (15/500 and 30/500) are only available on prescription from a doctor.
Adults and young people aged 16 years and older can take 1 or 2 tablets (of any strength) up to 4 times in 24 hours. Always leave at least 4 to 6 hours between doses. The maximum dose is 8 co-codamol tablets in 24 hours.
It’s important to leave a gap between doses of co-codamol. Taking too much co-codamol can be very dangerous. That’s because the paracetamol in it can cause liver damage.
Do not increase the dose of co-codamol or take a double dose even if your pain is very bad.
The maximum dose of co-codamol for adults and young people aged 16 years and over is 8 tablets in 24 hours.
How long to take it for
If your doctor has prescribed co-codamol for you, take it as you’ve been advised.
If you’ve bought co-codamol from a pharmacy, do not use it for more than 3 days. If you still have pain, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.
If you have been taking co-codamol for more than a few weeks do not stop taking it without speaking to your doctor first.
What if I take too much?
If you take 1 or 2 extra tablets of co-codamol by accident on a single occasion, it’s unlikely to be harmful. If this happens, wait at least 24 hours before you take any more.