Co-codamol contains paracetamol and codeine, which are two different types of painkillers. This combined product is one of the strongest painkillers (or analgesics) available over-the-counter and can be used for the short-term treatment of pain in a range of conditions, including headache, migraine, toothache, period pain and muscle aches. You should try other painkillers like ibuprofen, aspirin and paracetamol, and only turn to co-codamol if these have been ineffective.
Co-codamol is suitable for adults and children aged 12 and over, and dosing is age-dependent. It comes as tablets, capsules and effervescent tablets (dissolve them in water before swallowing), and you can take 1 to 2 doses every 6 hours, but no more than 4 times a day.
Higher strengths of co-codamol are available on prescription, and you see your doctor if your pain is persistent or concerning you.
Paracetamol and codeine can be dangerous if you take too much of them, so make sure you do not take any other paracetamol or codeine-containing products at the same time as taking co-codamol.
Yes, it’s possible to become addicted to co-codamol if you take it for too long. Codeine belongs to a family of drugs called opioids. Opioids activate receptors in the brain and spinal cord give us feelings of pain and pleasure. They block pain signals and release large amounts of dopamine, which can give us a good feeling, and we seek to repeat the experience. We also feel unwell without it. This is called dependency. It also carries the risk of tolerance with prolonged use, whereby you need to keep increasing the dose to have the same effect. Therefore, if you are taking codeine over the counter, you must not take it for more than three consecutive days. If you follow this guidance you are unlikely to experience any problems, so this shouldn’t cause undue concern.
Do not take co-codamol if you have previously had an allergic reaction to paracetamol, codeine or another ingredient listed in the medication, or an allergic reaction to any other opioid in the past. It is not suitable for children under 12. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist before taking co-codamol if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or have any medical conditions, especially liver disease.
Co-codamol can interact with other medicines such as warfarin, lomitapide, colestyramine, sleeping tablets and other medicines that can cause drowsiness. If you take any prescription, over-the-counter or herbal medicines, ask your doctor or pharmacist to check they are safe to take alongside co-codamol.
Common side effects can include constipation, drowsiness, headache, feeling sick, vomiting, a dry mouth and sweating. If you experience drowsiness, it is best to avoid driving and drinking alcohol.
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