Medically reviewed on June 7, 2018
Addiction, Abuse, and Misuse:Codeine sulfate exposes patients and other users to the risks of opioid addiction, abuse, and misuse, which can lead to overdose and death. Assess each patient's risk prior to prescribing codeine sulfate, and monitor all patients regularly for the development of these behaviors or conditions.Life-Threatening Respiratory Depression:Serious, life-threatening, or fatal respiratory depression may occur with use of codeine sulfate. Monitor for respiratory depression, especially during initiation of codeine sulfate or following a dose increase.Accidental Ingestion:Accidental ingestion of even one dose of codeine sulfate, especially by children, can result in a fatal overdose of codeine.Ultra-Rapid Metabolism of Codeine and Other Risk Factors for Life-Threatening Respiratory Depression in Children:Life-threatening respiratory depression and death have occurred in children who received codeine. Most of the reported cases occurred following tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy, and many of the children had evidence of being an ultra-rapid metabolizer of codeine due to a CYP2D6 polymorphism. Codeine sulfate tablets are contraindicated in children younger than 12 years of age and in children younger than 18 years of age following tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy. Avoid the use of codeine sulfate tablets in adolescents 12 to 18 years of age who have other risk factors that may increase their sensitivity to the respiratory depressant effects of codeineNeonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome:Prolonged use of codeine sulfate during pregnancy can result in neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome, which may be life-threatening if not recognized and treated, and requires management according to protocols developed by neonatology experts. If opioid use is required for a prolonged period in a pregnant woman, advise the patient of the risk of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome and ensure that appropriate treatment will be available.Interactions with Drug Affecting Cytochrome P450 Isoenzymes:The effects of concomitant use or discontinuation of CYP3A4 inducers, 3A4 inhibitors, or 2D6 inhibitors with codeine are complex. Use of CYP3A4 inducers, 3A4 inhibitors, or 2D6 inhibitors with codeine sulfate requires careful consideration of the effects on the parent drug, codeine, and the active metabolite, morphine.Risks from Concomitant Use with Benzodiazepines or Other CNS Depressants:Concomitant use of opioids with benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants, including alcohol, may result in profound sedation, respiratory depression, coma, and death. Reserve concomitant prescribing of codeine sulfate and benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants for use in patients for whom alternative treatment options are inadequate. Limit dosages and durations to the minimum required. Follow patients for signs and symptoms of respiratory depression and sedation .
Available Dosage Forms:
- Tablet, Extended Release
Therapeutic Class: Analgesic
Chemical Class: Opioid
Uses For This Medicine
Codeine is used to relieve mild to moderate pain. It belongs to the group of medicines called narcotic analgesics (pain medicines). Codeine acts on the central nervous system (CNS) to relieve pain.
When codeine is used for a long time, it may become habit-forming, causing mental or physical dependence. However, people who have continuing pain should not let the fear of dependence keep them from using narcotics to relieve their pain. Mental dependence (addiction) is not likely to occur when narcotics are used for this purpose. Physical dependence may lead to withdrawal side effects if treatment is stopped suddenly. However, severe withdrawal side effects can usually be prevented by gradually reducing the dose over a period of time before treatment is stopped completely.
Codeine is available only with your doctor's prescription.
Before Using This Medicine
In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For codeine, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to codeine or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.
Appropriate studies have not been performed on the relationship of age to the effects of codeine in the pediatric population. It should not be used in children younger than 12 years of age. Safety and efficacy have not been established.
Codeine sulfate tablets should not be used to relieve pain after surgery removal of tonsils or adenoids in any children 12 to 18 years of age. Severe breathing problems and deaths have been reported in some children who received codeine after tonsil or adenoid surgery.
Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated geriatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of codeine in the elderly. However, elderly patients are more likely to have confusion and drowsiness, and age-related lung, liver, kidney, or heart problems, which may require caution and an adjustment in the dose for patients receiving codeine in order to avoid potentially serious side effects.
|All Trimesters||C||Animal studies have shown an adverse effect and there are no adequate studies in pregnant women OR no animal studies have been conducted and there are no adequate studies in pregnant women.|
Studies in women breastfeeding have demonstrated harmful infant effects. An alternative to this medication should be prescribed or you should stop breastfeeding while using codeine.
Interactions with Medicines
Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. When you are taking codeine, it is especially important that your healthcare professional know if you are taking any of the medicines listed below. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using codeine with any of the following medicines is not recommended. Your doctor may decide not to treat you with this medication or change some of the other medicines you take.
- Methylene Blue
Using codeine with any of the following medicines is usually not recommended, but may be required in some cases. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
- Chloral Hydrate
- Eslicarbazepine Acetate
- Morphine Sulfate Liposome
- Nitrous Oxide
- Opium Alkaloids
- Sodium Oxybate
- St John's Wort
- Tolonium Chloride
Interactions with Food/Tobacco/Alcohol
Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using codeine with any of the following may cause an increased risk of certain side effects but may be unavoidable in some cases. If used together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use codeine, or give you special instructions about the use of food, alcohol, or tobacco.
Other Medical Problems
The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of codeine. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
- Addison's disease (adrenal gland problem) or
- Alcohol abuse, history of or
- Brain problems (eg, tumor, increased intracranial pressure) or
- Breathing or lung problems (eg, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD], cor pulmonale, hypoxia, sleep apnea) or
- Depression, history of or
- Drug dependence, especially narcotic abuse or dependence, or history of or
- Enlarged prostate (BPH, prostatic hypertrophy) or
- Head injuries or
- Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) or
- Kyphoscoliosis (curvature of spine that can cause breathing problems) or
- Mental health problems, history of or
- Obesity (overweight) or
- Problems with passing urine or
- Stomach or digestion problems—Use with caution. May increase risk for more serious side effects.
- Breathing problems (eg, asthma, hypercapnia), severe or
- Respiratory depression (hypoventilation or slow breathing) or
- Stomach or bowel blockage (including paralytic ileus)—Should not be used in patients with these conditions.
- Hypotension (low blood pressure) or
- Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) or
- Seizures, history of—Use with caution. May make these conditions worse.
- Kidney disease or
- Liver disease—Use with caution. The effects may be increased because of slower removal of the medicine from the body.
Proper Use of This Medicine
Take codeine only as directed by your doctor. Do not take more of it, do not take it more often, and do not take it for a longer time than your doctor ordered. This is especially important for elderly patients, who may be more sensitive to the effects of pain medicines. If too much of codeine is taken for a long time, it may become habit-forming (causing mental or physical dependence) or cause an overdose.
Codeine comes with a Medication Guide. Read and follow these instructions carefully. Ask your doctor if you have any questions.
Codeine is taken only when needed, so there are no special instructions for a missed dose.
The dose of codeine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of codeine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.
The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.
- For oral dosage form (tablets):
- For mild to moderate pain:
- Adults—At first, 15 to 60 milligrams (mg) every 4 hours as needed. Your doctor may increase your dose as needed. However, the dose is usually not more than 360 mg per day.
- Children 12 to 18 years of age—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
- Children younger than 12 years of age—Should not be used in these patients.
- For mild to moderate pain:
If you miss a dose of codeine, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular dosing schedule. Do not double doses.
Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Keep from freezing.
Keep out of the reach of children.
Do not keep outdated medicine or medicine no longer needed.
Ask your healthcare professional how you should dispose of any medicine you do not use.
Codeine can cause serious unwanted effects if taken by adults, children, or pets who are not use to strong narcotic pain medicines. Make sure you store the medicine in a safe and secure place to prevent others from getting it.
Precautions While Using This Medicine
It is very important that your doctor check your progress while you are using codeine, especially within the first 24 to 72 hours of treatment. This will allow your doctor to see if the medicine is working properly and to decide if you should continue to use it.
Do not use codeine if you are using or have used an MAO inhibitor (MAOI) such as isocarboxazid [Marplan®], linezolid [Zyvox®], phenelzine [Nardil®], selegiline [Eldepryl®], tranylcypromine [Parnate®]) within the past 14 days.
Check with your doctor before using codeine with alcohol or other medicines that affect the central nervous system (CNS). The use of alcohol or other medicines that affect the CNS with codeine may worsen the side effects of codeine, such as dizziness, poor concentration, drowsiness, unusual dreams, and trouble with sleeping. Some examples of CNS depressants are antihistamines or medicine for hay fever, allergies, or colds, sedatives, tranquilizers, or sleeping medicines, medicine for depression, medicine for anxiety, prescription pain medicine or narcotics, medicine for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, medicine for seizures or barbiturates, muscle relaxants, or anesthetics (numbing medicines), including some dental anesthetics. This effect may last for a few days after you stop taking codeine.
Codeine may be habit-forming. If you feel that the medicine is not working as well, do not use more than your prescribed dose. Call your doctor for instructions.
Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting may occur when you get up suddenly from a lying or sitting position. Getting up slowly may help. Also, lying down for a while may relieve dizziness or lightheadedness. If this problem continues or gets worse, check with your doctor right away.
Codeine may make you dizzy, drowsy, confused, or disoriented. Do not drive or do anything else that could be dangerous until you know how codeine affects you.
Using narcotics for a long time can cause severe constipation. To prevent this, your doctor may direct you to take laxatives, drink a lot of fluids, or increase the amount of fiber in your diet. Be sure to follow the directions carefully, because continuing constipation can lead to more serious problems.
Do not change your dose or suddenly stop using codeine without first checking with your doctor. Your doctor may want you to gradually reduce the amount you are using before stopping it completely. This may help prevent worsening of your condition and reduce the possibility of withdrawal symptoms, such as abdominal or stomach cramps, anxiety, fever, nausea, runny nose, sweating, tremors, or trouble with sleeping.
Using codeine while you are pregnant may cause neonatal withdrawal syndrome in your newborn baby. Using codeine while you are pregnant may cause serious unwanted effects in your newborn baby. Tell your doctor right away if you think you are pregnant or if you plan to become pregnant while using codeine.
Codeine is changed to morphine in the body. Some people change codeine to morphine more quickly than others. These individuals are called "ultra-rapid metabolizers of codeine". Contact your doctor immediately if you experience extreme sleepiness, confusion, or shallow breathing. These symptoms may indicate that you are an "ultra-rapid metabolizer of codeine". As a result, there is too much morphine in the body and more side effects of morphine than usual. Children may be especially sensitive to this effect. Do not give codeine to:
- Children younger than 12 years of age.
- Children younger than 18 years of age who have had surgery removal of tonsils or adenoids.
- Children 12 to 18 years of age who have a high risk for breathing problems (eg, obstructive sleep apnea, obesity, lung disease).
If a nursing mother is an ultra-rapid metabolizer of codeine, it could lead to a morphine overdose in the nursing baby and cause very serious side effects.
For nursing mothers taking codeine:
- Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about taking codeine or about how codeine may affect your baby.
- Call your doctor if you become extremely tired and have difficulty caring for your baby.
- Your baby should generally nurse every 2 to 3 hours and should not sleep more than 4 hours at a time.
- Check with your doctor, hospital emergency room, or local emergency services (eg, "call 9-1-1") immediately if your baby shows signs of increased sleepiness (more than usual), difficulty breastfeeding, difficulty breathing, or limpness. These may be symptoms of an overdose and need immediate medical attention.
Check with your doctor right away if you have anxiety, restlessness, a fast heartbeat, fever, sweating, muscle spasms, twitching, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or see or hear things that are not there. These may be symptoms of a serious condition called serotonin syndrome. Your risk may be higher if you also take certain other medicines that affect serotonin levels in your body.
Using too much of codeine may cause reduced infertility (unable to have children). Talk with your doctor before using codeine if you plan to have children.
Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal or vitamin supplements.
This Medicine Side Effects
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur:
Incidence not known
- blurred vision
- cold, clammy skin
- darkened urine
- difficult or troubled breathing
- dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness when getting up suddenly from a lying or sitting position
- fast, irregular, pounding, or racing heartbeat or pulse
- fast, weak pulse
- feeling of warmth
- irregular, fast or slow, or shallow breathing
- loss of appetite
- no blood pressure or pulse
- no breathing
- pains in the stomach, side, or abdomen, possibly radiating to the back
- pale or blue lips, fingernails, or skin
- redness of the face, neck, arms, and occasionally, upper chest
- stopping of the heart
- unusual tiredness or weakness
- yellow eyes or skin
Get emergency help immediately if any of the following symptoms of overdose occur:
Symptoms of overdose
- Bluish lips or skin
- chest pain or discomfort
- constricted, pinpoint, or small pupils (black part of the eye)
- decreased awareness or responsiveness
- extreme sleepiness or unusual drowsiness
- slow or irregular heartbeat
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:
- relaxed and calm feeling
Incidence not known
- disturbed color perception
- double vision
- dry mouth
- false or unusual sense of well-being
- fear or nervousness
- feeling of constant movement of self or surroundings
- halos around lights
- hives or welts, itching, or skin rash
- night blindness
- overbright appearance of lights
- redness of the skin
- sensation of spinning
- stomach pain or cramps
- trouble sleeping
- tunnel vision
- weight loss
Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
See also: Side effects (in more detail)
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.
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