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Codeine Dosage

Medically reviewed on January 15, 2018.

Applies to the following strengths: sulfate 30 mg; sulfate 60 mg; phosphate 30 mg; phosphate 60 mg; 30 mg/mL; 60 mg/mL; 15 mg/mL; sulfate 15 mg; 15 mg/5 mL; phosphate; sulfate 30 mg/5 mL

Usual Adult Dose for Pain

Initial dose: 15 to 60 mg orally up to every 4 hours as needed
Maximum dose: 360 mg in 24 hours

-Initial doses should be individualized taking into account severity of pain, response, prior analgesic treatment experience, and risk factors for addiction, abuse, and misuse.
-Doses higher than 60 mg have not been shown to improve pain relief and are associated with an increased incidence of adverse effects.
-Because of the risks of addiction, abuse and misuse, the lowest effective dose for the shortest duration consistent with individual patient treatment goals should be used.
-Monitor patients closely for respiratory depression within the first 24 to 72 hours of initiating therapy and following any increase in dose.

Use: For the management of mild to moderate pain where treatment with an opioid is appropriate and from which alternative treatments are inadequate.

Renal Dose Adjustments

Use with caution; start with lower doses or with longer dosing intervals and titrate slowly while carefully monitoring for side effects.

Liver Dose Adjustments

Use with caution; start with lower doses or with longer dosing intervals and titrate slowly while carefully monitoring for side effects.

Dose Adjustments

Elderly: Use caution, usually starting at the low end of the dosing range

CONVERSION from other Opioids:
-If it is necessary to switch from another opioid to codeine, a conservative approach is recommended as it is safest to underestimate the codeine dose than to overestimate and manage an adverse reaction due to overdose.

Discontinuation of Therapy in the Physically Dependent Patient:
-Taper dose gradually, by 25% to 50% every 2 to 4 days
-Monitor for signs and symptoms of withdrawal; if they occur, raise the dose to the previous level and taper more slowly
-Do not abruptly discontinue in the physically dependent patient


-Addiction, Abuse, and Misuse: This drug 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 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; monitor for respiratory depression, especially during initiation and following dose increases.
-Accidental Ingestion: Accidental ingestion of even 1 dose, 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 CYP450 2D6 polymorphism. This drug is 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 this drug in adolescents 12 to 18 years of age who have other risk factors that may increase their sensitivity to the respiratory depressant effects of codeine.
-Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome: Prolonged use 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 prolonged opioid use is required in a pregnant woman, the patient should be advised of the risk of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome and ensure appropriate treatment will be available.
-Interactions with Drugs Affecting CYP450 Isoenzymes: The effects of concomitant use or discontinuation of CYP450 3A4 inducers/inhibitors or CYP450 2D6 inhibitors are complex; concomitant use requires careful consideration of the effects on the parent drug, codeine, and the active metabolite, morphine.
-Concomitant Use with Benzodiazepines or Other CNS Depressants, including alcohol, may result in profound sedation, respiratory depression, coma, and death. Concomitant use should be reserved for use in patients for whom alternative treatment options are inadequate. If needed, limit dose and duration to the minimum required and follow patients for signs and symptoms of respiratory depression and sedation.

Safety and efficacy have not been established in patients younger than 18 years.

Consult WARNINGS section for additional precautions.

US Controlled Substance: Schedule II


Data not available

Other Comments

Administration advice:
-Take orally with or without food

Storage requirements:
-Protect from moisture and light

-Because of the risks of addiction, abuse and misuse, the lowest dose for the shortest duration consistent with individual patient treatment goals should be used.
-Frequent communication between members of the healthcare team, patients, and their caregiver/family is important during periods of changing analgesic requirements; if the level of pain increases after dose stabilization, an attempt should be made to identify the source of increased pain before increasing the dose of pain medication.
-Patients who are ultra-rapid metabolizers of codeine due to a CYP450 2D6 polymorphism, will convert codeine more rapidly and completely to morphine resulting in unexpectedly high morphine levels, which may be life-threatening.

-Monitor for respiratory depression, especially during initiation and following any increase in dose; close monitoring will be necessary in patients at increased risk and/or those receiving concomitant medications that increase the risk of respiratory depression
-Monitor for signs of hypotension
-Monitor for signs of constipation
-Monitor for the development of behaviors indicative of addiction, abuse, or misuse

Patient advice:
-Patients should understand that this drug, even when taken as recommended can result in addiction, abuse, and misuse; instruct patients not to share their drug with others and protect their drug from theft or misuse.
-Patients should understand the risks of life-threatening respiratory depression and when this risk is greatest, patients should be aware that a genetic mutation may result in greater toxicity in some patients; patients and caregivers should be instructed to get emergency help right away if too much drug is taken or if breathing problems occur.
-Patients should understand this drug has potentially serious side effects including adrenal insufficiency, severe constipation, and hypotension, as well as potentially significant drug interactions, especially with other CNS depressants, including alcohol; patients should be instructed to speak with a healthcare professional if any new symptoms or side effects occur.
-Breastfeeding is not recommended while taking this drug; nursing mothers should be instructed to seek immediate medical attention for infants experiencing increased sleepiness, difficulty breastfeeding, breathing difficulties, or limpness.
-Women of child bearing potential should understand that prolonged use during pregnancy can result in neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome and that prompt recognition and treatment will be necessary.
-This drug may cause drowsiness, dizziness, or impair thinking or motor skills; patients should avoid driving or operating machinery until adverse effects are determined.
-Advise patients to store this drug safely out of the sight and reach of children; accidental use by a child is a medical emergency and can result in death.
-Patients should be instructed in proper disposal.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.