Is Co-codamol Addictive? Everything You Need to Know

You’ve probably heard about Co-codamol, perhaps from a doctor or a friend who’s used it for pain relief. But like many prescription medications, there’s more to this drug than meets the eye. This article aims to give you an in-depth understanding of Co-codamol, its potential for codeine addiction, and what to do if you or someone close to you is struggling with misuse of this medication.

Don’t worry, we’re here to guide you through every step of the way. We’ll explain what Co-codamol is and examine its addictive properties, as well as identify codeine withdrawal symptoms and discuss possible treatments for addiction. It’s essential knowledge that could potentially help you or anyone in your circle who might be dealing with issues related to this drug. Remember, knowing and understanding is the first step towards prevention and treatment.

What is Co-codamol?

Co-codamol is a specific type of pain medication that combines two active ingredients: codeine and paracetamol. We’ll explore how taking this drug can potentially lead to codeine addiction, how this medication functions in your body, the usual time it takes for effects to manifest after ingestion, common side effects experienced by users, and how it differs from Codeine alone in terms of use and impact.

Types of Co-codamol That Can Lead To Addiction

Co-codamol comes in several different strengths, and all types carry a risk of addiction if misused or used over a long period. These various types are differentiated by the amount of two active ingredients they contain paracetamol and codeine.

  1. Co-codamol 8/500: This contains 8mg of codeine and 500mg of paracetamol. It is the lowest strength of Co-codamol and is available without a prescription, but it should still be used responsibly due to the risk of codeine addiction.
  2. Co-codamol 15/500: This formulation contains 15mg of codeine and 500mg of paracetamol. It is only available with a prescription due to its higher codeine content and associated risk of dependence.
  3. Co-codamol 30/500: This is the strongest form of Co-codamol, containing 30mg of codeine and 500mg of paracetamol. Given its high codeine content, this version carries the highest risk of dependence and is therefore prescription-only.

Understanding addiction prevention is an essential part of using Co-codamol responsibly. If you’re prescribed one of these medications, it’s crucial to follow all dosage guidelines strictly – taking more than advised can lead to tolerance and dependency over time.

Additionally, exploring alternatives with your healthcare provider could prove beneficial if there are concerns about codeine abuse and potential codeine addiction or if you experience any unpleasant symptoms. By staying informed about the different types of Co-codamol and engaging openly with your healthcare provider, you can ensure that pain management remains safe and effective without compromising your overall well-being.

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What Does Co-codamol Do?

Battling with pain can be a relentless, draining experience, but there’s relief in knowing that medications like Co-codamol exist – they’re designed to alleviate moderate to severe pain when over-the-counter options won’t work.

Co-codamol is a compound analgesic, that combines two effective painkillers – codeine and paracetamol. It works by blocking the pain signals from reaching your brain, which helps you feel less discomfort. The dosage guidelines depend on the severity of your condition and should always be followed as per the doctor’s prescription to avoid any potential risks or drug interactions.

Here Are Some Key Points About Using Co-codamol:

  • Co-codamol usage: It’s often used when other non-prescription treatments aren’t providing enough relief. Regular use might lead to dependency due to its codeine content, so it should be taken responsibly.
  • Dosage guidelines: Always follow the prescribed dose; usually one or two tablets every four to six hours. Do not exceed more than eight tablets in a day.
  • Drug interactions: Certain prescription medications (like antidepressants) may interact with this drug causing adverse effects.

Note: Always inform your healthcare provider about all medicines you are currently taking.

When looking at patient experiences, some find great relief in using co-codamol for managing their chronic or acute pains. However, others express concern over potential codeine addiction and side effects such as constipation or drowsiness. If you’re among those who are worried about these issues or if you’ve been using this for an extended period and have noticed an increased tolerance, it might be time to consider co-codamol alternatives.

  • How Long Does Co-codamol Take To Work?

    When it comes to relief, it’s crucial to understand that co-codamol doesn’t kick in immediately. The onset of effects is subject to individual variability and depends on factors such as your body weight, metabolism, whether you’ve eaten recently, and any medication interactions. Typically, Co-codamol absorption into your bloodstream takes about 30-60 minutes after oral ingestion. However, this can vary from person to person due to differences in metabolic rates. If taken on an empty stomach, the absorption might be quicker leading to faster pain relief.

    You should also know that consistent use of this medication could lead to building up a tolerance for the drug which means over time; you might need higher doses for the same level of pain relief – this is referred to as dose-dependent effects. It’s important not only because of potential side effects but also its addictive nature which we’ll delve into further later on. Remember though that increased consumption does not necessarily correlate with increased efficacy—there’s always a threshold beyond which more medicine won’t mean more relief but rather may increase risks associated with overdose or dependency.

  • What Are the Common Side Effects of Co-codamol?

    Generally, Co-codamol is a potent drug and it isn’t without its potential pitfalls. Some users may experience nausea or constipation, while others may report drowsiness or confusion. In some cases, you may even develop a tolerance to Co-codamol, meaning that over time you might need to take more of it to achieve the same relief from pain. Additionally, long-term use can lead to dependency or addiction due to its opioid component.

    It’s also important for us to discuss Co-codamol allergies and drug interactions. An allergic reaction could manifest as itching, rash, swelling or severe dizziness – immediate medical attention is required in such situations. Moreover, Co-codamol can interact with other drugs leading to increased side effects or reduced effectiveness of either medicine; so always consult your doctor before introducing any new medication into your regimen.
    For those who are pregnant or considering pregnancy, be mindful that there are risks associated with taking Co-codamol during pregnancy which includes potential harm to the unborn baby – again consultation with healthcare providers is crucial here.

    Remember everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another; our aim here is not only about fitting in but recognizing our own unique health needs too.

  • What Is the Difference Between Co-codamol and Codeine?

    In the world of painkillers, it’s like comparing apples to oranges when we talk about co-codamol and codeine. Co-codamol is a compound analgesic that combines two active ingredients: paracetamol and codeine phosphate. This dual-action medicine provides relief from mild to moderate pain by working in tandem – paracetamol blocks the transmission of pain signals before they reach your brain, while codeine, an opioid, numbs the central nervous system’s response to distress signals.

    Codeine metabolism varies significantly between individuals due to genetic differences affecting its enzymes called cytochrome P450 2D6 (CYP2D6). Therefore, some people might not get sufficient relief from codeine alone or could suffer more side effects.
    Unlike Co-codamol, which is usually available only with a prescription due to its potential for abuse and dependency, many over-the-counter medicines can effectively manage minor pain without raising concerns about codeine addiction. These are what you may call ‘codeine alternatives.’ If you’re looking for options with less risk of developing dependency issues such as tolerance or codeine withdrawal symptoms associated with prolonged use of opioids like codeine, consider non-prescription NSAIDs or topical analgesics instead.

    However, if your doctor prescribes co-codamol because other treatments aren’t providing adequate relief or are unsuitable for you, this medication must be used responsibly under their guidance to minimize any risk of developing a codeine dependency.

Can You Get Addicted to Co-codamol?

This is a valid concern given that this medication contains codeine, a substance with known addictive properties. Not only is addiction a risk but overdosing on Co-codamol is also possible, particularly if you exceed the recommended dosage or misuse it in any way.

Data from the MHRA also shows reports of serious and fatal side effects have skyrocketed in recent years, with a record 35 fatalities in the UK in 2022, the most recent full year available.

Addiction to codeine-based medications such as cough syrup continues to rise in the UK. MHRA officials said that since 2018 they have received 116 reports of recreational drug abuse and addiction to codeine medicines, including cough syrups.

As a result, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has started a public consultation on making the syrups prescription only.

Can You Overdose on Co-codamol?

Overdosing on co-codamol is a dangerous possibility, with your body spiralling into a state of extreme drowsiness, nausea, confusion and even coma. Over time, you may develop Co-codamol tolerance where your body requires larger doses to achieve the same pain relief effect.

This increases the risk factors for an overdose as you might be tempted to consume more than the recommended dose. If not prevented carefully, this can lead to severe health risks that include liver damage or failure due to high levels of paracetamol present in Co-codamol.

Overdose prevention should be your top priority if you’re using Co-codamol regularly. Make sure you follow prescription guidelines strictly and avoid mixing it with alcohol or other drugs without medical consultation. In case of an emergency like an overdose, quick response is vital – seek immediate medical attention if symptoms such as loss of consciousness or slow breathing occur.

After survival from an overdose incident, long-term recovery measures are crucial which may involve detoxification programs or therapy sessions for codeine addiction treatment. Remember that being part of a supportive community can aid significantly in your healing journey towards overcoming dependency on Co-codamol.

Co-codamol Addiction Symptoms

If you’re concerned about your prescription drug addiction, it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms. These can be categorized into behavioural, psychological, and physical indicators. Understanding these symptoms will aid in identifying potential dependency issues early on, leading to more effective intervention strategies.

Behavioural Signs & Symptoms

Common behavioural signs and symptoms of an addiction to Co-codamol include:

  • Increased Consumption: Developing a tolerance to the medication, which requires higher doses to achieve the desired effect or to manage pain.
  • Compulsive Use: A noticeable pattern of using Co-codamol even when there is no legitimate need for pain relief.
  • Craving and Preoccupation: Strong desires or cravings for Co-codamol, leading to a preoccupation with obtaining and using the medication.
  • Doctor Shopping: Visiting multiple doctors to obtain prescriptions for Co-codamol, or obtaining the medication through other means such as online pharmacies.
  • Social Isolation: Withdrawing from social activities, hobbies, or relationships in favour of spending more time alone to use the medication.
  • Neglecting Responsibilities: Failing to fulfil obligations at work, school, or home due to the effects of Co-codamol use.
  • Loss of Interest: Losing interest in previously enjoyable activities or hobbies, as the focus shifts more towards using Co-codamol.
  • Lack of Control: Being unable to control or cut down on Co-codamol use, even when attempts are made to do so.
  • Secretive Behaviour: Hiding or concealing Co-codamol use from friends and family members, often due to a sense of shame or guilt.
  • Financial Issues: Experiencing financial difficulties due to spending money on obtaining co-codamol, potentially leading to borrowing or stealing to support the habit.

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Physical Signs & Symptoms

Physical signs are often more observable and can provide additional indications of someone struggling with addiction. Keep in mind that the presence of these signs does not definitively confirm a codeine addiction, but if multiple symptoms are present, it could be a cause for concern. Physical signs and symptoms of an addiction to the drug may include:

  1. Drowsiness and Sedation: Opioids like codeine in co-codamol can cause drowsiness, lethargy, and an overall lack of energy.
  2. Constricted Pupils: Opioid use can lead to pinpoint pupils, which are much smaller than usual.
  3. Nausea and Vomiting: Nausea and vomiting are common side effects of opioid use, including co-codamol.
  4. Constipation: Opioids can cause severe constipation due to their effects on the gastrointestinal system.
  5. Respiratory Suppression: Opioids can depress the respiratory system, leading to slowed breathing or shallow breaths.
  6. Itching or Scratching: Opioid use can cause itching or scratching of the skin, often referred to as “opioid itch.”
  7. Fluctuations in Blood Pressure: Opioids can lead to changes in blood pressure, which may manifest as high blood pressure (hypertension) or low blood pressure (hypotension).
  8. Sweating: Experiencing excessive sweating, especially without an apparent cause, can be a sign of opioid use.
  9. Weight Fluctuations: Individuals using Co-codamol might experience weight gain or loss due to changes in appetite and metabolism.
  10. Muscle Aches and Pains: Opioid withdrawal and changes in pain perception can result in muscle aches and discomfort.
  11. Tolerance: Over time, a person may require higher doses of Co-codamol to achieve the same effects they once experienced with lower doses.
  12. Withdrawal Symptoms: Attempting to reduce or stop Co-codamol use can lead to withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness, sweating, muscle aches, diarrhoea, and flu-like symptoms.
  13. Track Marks or Injection Sites: In cases where Co-codamol is misused intravenously, visible track marks or injection sites may be present on the skin.
  14. Deteriorating Physical Appearance: Long-term codeine addiction abuse might lead to a general decline in physical appearance, including weight loss, pale complexion, and signs of neglect.
  15. Sleep Disturbances: Co-codamol abuse can disrupt normal sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or fragmented sleep.

Remember that these physical signs and symptoms can vary in intensity and occurrence among individuals. If you suspect someone is abusing co-codamol based on physical signs, it’s crucial to encourage them to seek medical and professional help to address their condition.

Psychological Signs & Symptoms

  • Cravings
  • Continued use despite negative consequences

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What Causes Co-codamol Withdrawal Symptoms?

Yes, the withdrawal symptoms associated with Co-codamol abuse are primarily due to its codeine component. Codeine is an opioid analgesic, and like other opioids, it interacts with specific receptors in the brain known as mu-opioid receptors. This interaction produces analgesic effects, meaning it relieves pain, but it can also cause feelings of euphoria or well-being.

When codeine binds to these opioid receptors, it inhibits the release of neurotransmitters that signal pain and discomfort. Over time, the body adapts to the presence of the drug, and neural adaptations occur that make the body less sensitive to both the drug itself and its endogenous opioids (like endorphins).

Withdrawal symptoms are essentially your body’s way of readjusting to the absence of the drug. This can be an uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous process, especially if not managed correctly. For this reason, it’s crucial to consult with healthcare professionals for diagnosis and treatment if you’re concerned about any of the codeine withdrawal symptoms listed below.

How Long Do Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

Co-codamol withdrawal symptoms are primarily caused by the body adjusting to the absence of codeine…

Co-codamol Withdrawal Symptoms

If you suddenly stop taking Co-codamol after a prolonged period of use, your body is left with an imbalance. It has adapted to a state where it expects the inhibitory effects of codeine to be present, and it can take time for your neurochemistry to readjust back to a normal state. This period of adjustment is what leads to the various withdrawal symptoms.

Physical Symptoms

  • Nausea and Vomiting: This can happen as the body tries to rid itself of the substance.
  • Sweating: As the body adjusts to the lack of the drug, it can cause increased perspiration.
  • Chills or Hot Flushes: Withdrawal can cause fluctuations in body temperature.
  • Increased Heart Rate: This can be a side effect of the body’s increased stress during withdrawal.
  • Muscle Aches and Pains: The body may hurt in places as it adjusts to the lack of co-codamol.
  • Diarrhoea: The body may experience this as it tries to eliminate the drug.

Psychological Symptoms

  • Anxiety: Withdrawal can lead to feelings of unease or fear.
  • Depression: As the body adjusts to the lack of the drug, it can cause feelings of extreme sadness or hopelessness.
  • Restlessness: An individual might find it difficult to relax or sleep.
  • Irritability: Withdrawal can lead to feelings of agitation or frustration.

Behavioural Symptoms

  • Insomnia: The inability to sleep can occur due to the physical discomfort and mental distress of withdrawal.
  • Changes in Appetite: An individual may experience increased or decreased appetite.
  • Drug Craving: The individual might have an intense desire to use the drug to alleviate the discomfort of withdrawal.

The Dangers of Co-codamol Abuse and Addiction

Addiction carries several severe risks that can profoundly impact one’s health, relationships, and overall quality of life.

  1. Physical Health Risks
  2. Mental Health Risks
  3. Withdrawal Symptoms
  4. Personal and Social Impact
  5. Increased Risk of Other Substance Use
  6. Risk of Accidental Overdose

Given these dangers, it’s imperative to seek help immediately if you or someone you know is abusing Co-codamol. It’s a complex issue that requires professional medical help, and recovery is entirely possible with the right treatment and support.

Treatment for Co-codamol Dependency

It’s never too late to turn the tables on a codeine addiction, with various treatment strategies available that can help regain control of your life. Addiction recovery is not a solitary journey; it often involves multiple components including the detoxification process, therapy approaches, and even family involvement. Detoxification is an essential first step in treating Co-codamol dependency as it helps flush out the drug from your system under medical supervision. This initial phase can be challenging due to withdrawal symptoms but remember you’re not alone – doctors and nursing staff are there to provide support and manage any discomfort.

In addition to detoxification, long-term rehabilitation programs play a significant role in sustaining sobriety and preventing relapses. These programs focus on therapeutic approaches like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which aids in altering detrimental thought patterns associated with drug use, thereby helping you develop healthier coping mechanisms. Moreover, having the support of loved ones through family involvement can significantly boost your motivation throughout this process. Recovery may seem daunting at first but bear in mind – you’re part of a community striving towards the same goal: reclaiming their lives from addiction’s grip.

Co-codamol Detoxification Process

Detoxification from Co-codamol or any opioid-based medication at a residential rehab centre involves a structured, supervised process aimed at safely eliminating the drug from your system while managing withdrawal symptoms. The specifics of the detox program can vary depending on the facility, the severity of the dependence, and any other medical considerations. However, common elements of a co-codamol detox at a residential rehab generally include:

Medical Assessment

Initial Evaluation: Medical professionals assess the patient’s physical and psychological health, substance use history, and any co-occurring medical conditions to create an individualized treatment plan.


Medically Supervised Withdrawal: Medical staff usually supervise the detox process 24/7 to ensure safety.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): Medications like buprenorphine or methadone may be administered to manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Some facilities may use non-opioid medications like clonidine to manage specific withdrawal symptoms.

Psychological Therapy

Counselling and Therapy: Emotional and psychological support often accompany the detox process, and may include individual counselling, group therapy, and even family therapy.

Symptomatic Treatment

Managing Symptoms: Treatments may include over-the-counter medications for symptoms like nausea, diarrhoea, or headache, as well as intravenous fluids for hydration if necessary.


Vital Sign Monitoring: Healthcare providers regularly monitor vital signs like heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature, adjusting treatment plans as needed.

Post-Detox Plan: After detox is complete, patients usually transition into further treatment, which may include inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient treatment, therapy, and support groups.


Ongoing Support: Long-term aftercare is crucial for maintaining sobriety and may include ongoing therapy, medication, and regular check-ups.

Co-codamol detox at Castle Craig aims to manage withdrawal symptoms while ensuring your safety. Because opioid withdrawal can be complex and uncomfortable, this process must be supervised by healthcare providers experienced in addiction medicine.

If you’re concerned about your co-codamol use or have noticed signs of withdrawal after cessation, call us today on 0808 271 7500 to find out how we can help you overcome addiction and get your life back on track.


  • Can I Drink Alcohol While Taking Co-codamol?

    Drinking alcohol while taking co-codamol is not advised. Both alcohol and co-codamol can cause drowsiness, and when taken together, this effect can be enhanced, leading to extreme drowsiness or sedation which can be dangerous. Co-codamol also contains paracetamol. Drinking alcohol while taking medications that contain paracetamol can increase the risk of liver damage. The liver metabolises both alcohol and paracetamol and combining the two can strain the liver or lead to harmful interactions.

  • Can You Buy Co-codamol Over the Counter in the UK?

    Yes, in the UK, you can buy a lower-strength version of co-codamol (8/500) over the counter. This formulation contains 8mg of codeine phosphate and 500mg of paracetamol per tablet. However, there are also stronger versions of co-codamol which contain higher doses of codeine. These stronger versions are only available with a prescription.

  • Can You Take Co-codamol With Ibuprofen?

    Yes, co-codamol (a combination of paracetamol and codeine) and ibuprofen are sometimes taken together to manage pain. However, you should always follow the recommended dosage and guidelines provided on the packaging or by a healthcare professional. Do not exceed the recommended dose for either medication.

  • Can You Take Co-codamol With Antibiotics?

    Co-codamol (a combination of paracetamol and codeine) can be taken with many antibiotics without known significant interactions. There are many different types of antibiotics, and the potential for interaction can vary depending on which antibiotic you are taking. Both co-codamol and antibiotics can also cause side effects. If taken together, it’s essential to monitor for any unusual or increased side effects.

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