Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Is Codeine Bad For You?

Also Known As: 3-methylmorphine



Short answer

Codeine can be safe when taken as directed by a doctor. There is a high potential for abuse, thus it should be used with caution.



Long answer

Codeine is a prescription narcotic of the opioid family. Codeine is used to treat pain, cough, and diarrhea. When being used to treat pain it is often combined with acetaminophen (Tylenol). Codeine was discovered in 1832 and since has become the most commonly prescribed opiates.

Codeine is derived from the opium poppy, a flowering plant. Codeine is derived from the unripe pads of the plant. It typically lasts between four and six hours, with a half-life of three to four hours. It is most effective approximately one hour after consumption.

Codeine affects everyone’s body differently. Some individuals can take the drug and feel no altered perception or ability; others are unable to function while on the medication and remain confined to their bed. In some individuals, it can also cause constipation, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, altered perception, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, dry mouth and itching can occur. Long-term use can cause decreased sex drive and memory loss. Allergic reaction to codeine is possible, which results in swelling of the skin, rashes, or discomfort.

Codeine, as an opiate drug, runs the risk of causing dependency. After continued use, users have the potential to become addicted to the drug and require larger quantities to achieve the same level of euphoria. Opiate drugs cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms including cravings, spasms, vomiting, nausea, cramps, anxiety, depression, irritability, tiredness, tremors, chills, weakness, and pain.  Codeine is converted to morphine by the metabolic process in the liver. In rare cases, some individuals are unable to properly metabolize the drug. It is metabolized into morphine too quickly, causing a toxic reaction. It is important to determine how codeine affects you, prior to taking it alone or in a moderate dosage.

Codeine has also been known to be used recreationally. Heroin addicts can use codeine to keep from experiencing physical withdrawals.

Codeine should never be combined with alcohol, prescription or over the counter Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants. It is also counter indicated with Prozac, Paxil, Wellbutrin, Benadryl, Dexamethasone, and other medications. Always inform your doctor of any medication you are taking prior to taking codeine.

Possible short-term side effects

  • drowsiness
  • constipation
  • allergic reaction
  • overdose
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea/vomiting
  • increased heart rate
  • altered perception
  • dry mouth
  • adverse reaction

Possible long-term side effects

  • dependency and withdrawal
  • overdose
  • reduced sex drive
  • memory loss

Possible withdrawal symptoms

  • muscle pain
  • nausea
  • insomnia
  • restless legs
  • headaches
  • sweating
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting


  • pain relief
  • cough suppressant

Healthier alternatives

  • over the counter, non-opioid pain relievers

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by DeeAnne Oldham
Published on: 05-11-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by DeeAnne Oldham
Published on: 05-11-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Random Page

Check These Out!