Co-codamol tablets and capsules come in 3 strengths. You can buy the lowest strength co-codamol from pharmacies but the higher strengths are only available on prescription.
The most common side effects of co-codamol are constipation, feeling sick and sleepiness.
Taking too much co-codamol can be harmful. Don't be tempted to increase the dose or take a double dose if your pain is very bad.
It's possible to become addicted to the codeine in co-codamol, but this is rare if you're taking it as a painkiller under medical supervision.
Co-codamol is also known by many different brand names. Talk to your pharmacist if you have any questions about different brands.
Who can and can't take co-codamol
Co-codamol can be taken by anyone aged 12 years or over, but for under-16s, read our information on co-codamol for children. Under-18 year-olds should only take it if other painkillers haven't worked.
Co-codamol isn't suitable for some people. Tell your doctor before starting the medicine if you:
have lung problems or breathing difficulties
have a head injury
have adrenal gland problems
have an illness which causes fits
regularly drink more than the maximum recommended amount of alcohol (14 units a week)
are trying to become pregnant, are already pregnant or are breastfeeding - co-codamol is not usually recommended in pregnancy or while breastfeeding
have liver problems
are less than 18 years old and have had your tonsils or adenoids removed because of a sleep problem called obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome
4. How and when to take it
Co-codamol comes as tablets and capsules. Swallow them whole with a drink of water, with or without food.
Co-codamol also comes as soluble tablets that dissolve in water to make a drink.
Different co-codamol strengths
Co-codamol tablets and capsules come in 3 different strengths.
They contain 8mg, 15mg or 30mg of codeine.
All 3 strengths contain 500mg of paracetamol - the same as in a standard paracetamol tablet or capsule.
The strength of co-codamol appears as 2 numbers on the packet. For example, the strength may be written as 8/500. This means it contains 8mg of codeine and 500mg of paracetamol.
You can buy the lowest strength of co-codamol (8/500) without a prescription, but only from a pharmacy. The higher strengths (15/500 and 30/500) are only available on prescription from a doctor.
How much to take
The normal dose for pain in:
teenagers aged 16 years to 18 years is 1 or 2 tablets (of any strength) up to 4 times in 24 hours. Always leave at least 6 hours between doses. The maximum dose is 8 co-codamol tablets in 24 hours.
adults over the age of 18 is 2 co-codamol tablets (of any strength) up to 4 times in 24 hours. Always leave at least 4 hours between doses. The maximum dose is 8 co-codamol tablets in 24 hours.
It's important to leave a gap between doses of co-codamol. Taking too much co-codamol can be very dangerous. That's because the paracetamol in it can cause liver damage. Don't increase the dose of co-codamol or take a double dose if your pain is very bad.