How and when to take codeine
Follow your doctor’s instructions about how to take this medicine. This is particularly important because codeine can be addictive.
Dosage and strength
Codeine comes as:
- tablets – these contain 15mg, 30mg or 60mg of codeine
- a liquid that you swallow – this contains 25mg of codeine in a 5ml spoonful
- cough syrup – this contains 15mg of codeine in a 5ml spoonful
- an injection (usually given in hospital)
The usual dose of codeine is 15mg to 60mg.
The usual dose for treating pain is:
- adults – one or two 30mg tablets, taken every 4 hours, up to a maximum of 8 tablets (240mg) in 24 hours
- children (aged 12 to 17 years) – one or two 30mg tablets (or one or two 5ml spoonfuls of liquid), taken every 6 hours
- older people or people with kidney or liver problems – one 15mg tablet, taken every 4 hours
The usual dose for treating diarrhoea is:
- adults – one or two 30mg tablets (or one or two 5ml spoonfuls of liquid)
- children (aged 12 to 17 years) – one or two 30mg tablets (or one or two 5ml spoonfuls of liquid)
- older people, or people with kidney or liver problems – one 15mg tablet
You can take this dose 3 or 4 times a day.
The usual dose for treating a cough is:
- adults and children – one or two 5ml spoonfuls of cough syrup, taken 3 or 4 times a day
It’s important not to take more than your prescribed dose. Do not take more than 4 doses of codeine in 24 hours if you’re:
- a child (aged 12 to 17 years)
- taking a 60mg dose
Changes to your dose
If you get side effects from taking codeine, your doctor may lower your dose.
If your symptoms do not go away, your doctor may increase your dose or prescribe a different medicine.
Talk to your doctor if your pain or diarrhoea is not relieved by the dose of codeine prescribed for you, or if side effects bother you or do not go away.
How to take it
Swallow your codeine tablet whole with a drink of water. Take it with, or just after, a meal or snack so it’s less likely to make you feel sick.
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.
If you’re taking codeine as a liquid, it will come with a plastic spoon or syringe to help you measure the correct amount. Ask your pharmacist for one if you do not have it. Do not measure the liquid with a kitchen teaspoon because it will not give the right amount.
How long to take it for
You might only need to take codeine for a few days. Sometimes, you may need to take it for longer. But usually, a different medicine will be prescribed for long-term pain or diarrhoea, especially if you have side effects like constipation.
If you forget to take it
If you forget to take a dose, check the information on the leaflet inside the packaging, or ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice on what to do.
Never take 2 doses at the same time to make up for a forgotten one.
If you often forget doses, it may help to set an alarm to remind you. You could also ask your pharmacist for advice on other ways to remember your medicine.
If you take too much
It’s important not to take more than your prescribed dose, even if you think it’s not enough to relieve your pain. Speak to your doctor first, if you think you need a different dose.
Taking too much codeine can be dangerous. It may make you feel very sleepy, sick or dizzy. You may also find it difficult to breathe. In serious cases, you can become unconscious and may need emergency treatment in hospital.
The amount of codeine that can lead to an overdose varies from person to person.