What is codeine?

Codeine is an opiate drug used to treat mild to moderate pain. It is available either from doctors as a prescription only medicine or, directly from a pharmacy combined in lower doses with aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetamol. It is used to treat pain that does not respond to simple painkillers.

Someone who takes the combination painkillers containing codeine at higher than recommended doses in order to get a stronger codeine effect, can easily consume doses of aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetamol that could be fatal.

The key effects and risks of codeine itself include:

  • Feelings of warmth and well-being, relaxation and sleepiness
  • Nausea, constipation, confusion, sweating, itching, mood swings and feelings of laziness.

See also: opiate/opioid painkillers

Codeine is available in tablet form, as a syrup (e.g. as a cough syrup) and as a solution for injection. It is normally swallowed. Some people misusing the medicine prefer to crush up the tablets and snort them, and some may try to inject them. Tablets of codeine can cost between £1 – £2.50 per tablet obtained from illicit sources.