Updated 13 January 2017


Codeine is available on its own, or as part of combinations containing multiple ingredients.


Codeine is the active ingredient of Codeine Phosphate Syrup and Lennon-Codeine Phosphate.

Codeine is also one of multiple active ingredients found in Abflex, Actifed Dry Cough, Acurate, Adco-Dol, Adco-Kiddipayne, Adco-Payne, Adco-Sinal, Adco-Tussend, Antipyn, B-Dol, Ban Pain, Benylin Syrup with Codeine, Betapyn, Broncleer, Codef, Codoxol, Cofendyl, Colcaps, Corbar Linctus, Coughcod, Dentopain, Dequa-cof, Disprin Plus, Docsed, Doxsyn, Empacod, Expectalin, Famucaps, Fevapar, Flutex Cough Linctus, Genpayne, Go-Pain, Ibucod, Ilvico, Infapain, Kid-Eeze, Lenazine, Lentogesic, Linctifed, Medipyn , Megapyn, Meprogesic, Mepromol, Merck-Cough Linctus, Merck-Expectorant, Metaxol, Micro-Gesic, Mybucod, Mybulen, Myprodol, Napacod, Neofed, Nomopain, Nurofen Plus, Painagon, Painamol, Panado-Co, Paracetacod, Paxidal, Phensedyl, Propain, Propain Forte, Pynmed, Pynstop, Salterpyn, Sinumax Co, Sinustop with Codeine, Spectrapain, Spectrapain Forte, Stilpane, Stopayne, Suncodin, Supragesic, Synaleve, Syndol, Tensolve, Tensopyn, Tenston, Tenston SA, Trifen, Trinagesic, Tussilinct, Tussitot, Vacudol and Vacudol Forte.

General Information

Codeine is available on its own, or as part of combinations containing multiple ingredients. It is most often prescribed to treat mild to severe pain, but is also effective in treating irritating, dry coughs as well as diarrhoea.

Codeine is often combined with paracetamol, aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to enhance its pain-relieving effect.

Codeine should be used with caution in those patients with a history of alcohol or drug abuse, as a definite risk of dependency does exist.

How does codeine work?

Codeine exerts its effect by acting on parts of the central nervous system which process pain signals, or the cough reflex.

Fast facts

Drug schedule: schedule1, 2, 3, 5, 6

Available as: codeine is available as syrup, capsules, and tablets

What does it do? codeine relieves pain and suppresses coughs

Overdose risk: high

Dependence risk: medium

Is codeine available as a generic? yes (some)

Is codeine available on prescription only? yes (some)

User information

Onset of effect: within 1 hour

Duration of action: up to 6 hours

Dietary advice: Codeine may cause constipation; Ensure diet contains adequate amounts of fibre.

Stopping this medicine: This medication can be safely stopped when no longer needed.

Prolonged use: Codeine is generally only prescribed for short-term use; prolonged use may increase likelihood of side effects and cause dependence.

Special precautions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if:

  • you have asthma
  • you have kidney or liver disease
  • you have a history of alcohol or drug abuse
  • you have a head injury
  • you have epilepsy
  • you have difficulty urinating

Pregnancy: Avoid. Potential risk to the foetus has been reported. Consult your doctor before use, or if you are planning to fall pregnant.

Breastfeeding: Avoid. This medication is passed through breast milk and may affect your baby adversely. Consult your doctor before use.

Porphyria: This medication is safe use.

Infants and children: This medication is safe for use in children at the recommended dose. Adverse reactions may however be more severe.

The elderly: Caution is advised in the elderly as adverse reactions may be more severe

Driving and hazardous work: Caution is advised as use of this medication may lead to dizziness, light-headedness and/or drowsiness. Avoid such activities until you know how this medication affects you.

Alcohol: Avoid concomitant use of alcohol with this medication as alcohol may increase drowsiness.

Possible side effects

Side effect


Consult your doctor



Only if severe

In all cases




nausea/ vomiting



drowsiness/ dizziness/ light-headedness









change in mood



rash/ itchy skin



slurred speech



difficulty breathing







Drug interactions:

atropine and related drugs

increased risk of constipation, urinary retention, and so forth

drugs for diarrhoea

risk of severe constipation

blood pressure medication

increase risk of low blood pressure


increased risk of carbamazepine toxicity

drugs that may cause sedation

increased risk of sedation

monoamine oxidase inhibitors

increase risk of low blood pressure


increase painkilling effect

Disease interactions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if you have asthma, kidney or liver disease, a history of alcohol or drug abuse, a head injury, epilepsy, or if you have difficulty urinating.

Overdose action

A small overdose is no cause for concern. In case of an intentional large overdose seek emergency medical attention. Symptoms may include shallow breathing, drowsiness or loss of consciousness.

Recommended dosage


Pain: 15-60 mg every 4-6 hours if needed

Cough: 10-20 mg every 4-6 hours if needed

Children: 0.5 mg/kg (or 15 mg per square meter) every 4-6 hours if needed

This material is not intended to substitute medical advice, but is for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment and recommendations.


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Professor Keertan Dheda has received several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others. Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute.

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