Is Codeine an Opioid?

Table of Contents

For those wondering, โ€œIs codeine an opioid?โ€, the answer is yes, codeine is made from an opioid that occurs naturally in the seed pods of certain opium poppies.

In the United States, codeine is available in the following forms:

  1. Single-ingredient painkillers with codeine.
  2. In combination products that also contain acetaminophen.
  3. As an ingredient in some cough and cold medicines.

If abused, codeine has the potential to become addictive like any other opioid and often requires opioid addiction treatment for sustained sobriety. 

What is Codeine?

Codeine is an opioid that is used for the treatment of mild to moderate pain. Codeine can also be used in combination with other medications to reduce coughing.

Opiates are natural opioids like codeine, morphine, and heroin. Codeine is both an opiate and an opioid โ€“ opioids is an umbrella term that describes all of these substances:

  • Natural opioids (opiates)
  • Semi-synthetic opioids (prescription painkillers)
  • Synthetic opioids (fentanyl and its analogs)

Codeine is classified as a Schedule II narcotic under the CSA (Controlled Substances Act) in the U.S.

You may have codeine prescribed for:

  • Treating mild to moderate pain.
  • Relieving coughs, colds, or diarrhea.

Codeine is an agonist of opioid receptors that eases pain by changing into morphine in the body and attaching to mu-opioid receptors. This mechanism of action serves to block pain and increase feelings of euphoria and relaxation. While codeine can be a highly effective pain reliever when used as directed, it also carries a strong risk of addiction and dependence, especially when used over a prolonged period or at higher doses than recommended.

A man looks out at a valley to represent the question: "is codeine an opioid?".

Codeine Facts

If you want to know what is in codeine, here are some facts about codeine:

  • Codeine pain pills and cough suppressants are available only by prescription in the United States.
  • It is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 due to its potential for abuse and addiction.
  • Codeine is often combined with other pain relievers like acetaminophen to increase its effectiveness.
  • Codeine used as prescribed can be a safe and effective pain medication. However, misuse of codeine can lead to addiction, overdose, and other serious health problems.
  • Common side effects of codeine use include nausea, vomiting, constipation, dizziness, and drowsiness.
  • Codeine for pain during pregnancy can be harmful to the developing fetus and can lead to neonatal withdrawal syndrome in newborns.
  • Codeine pain medicine can interact with other medications, including other opioids, benzodiazepines, and certain antidepressants. Interactions can increase the risk of side effects and overdose.
  • Codeine meds are CNS (central nervous system) depressants that can cause respiratory depression, especially at high doses or when combined with other substances that depress the CNS – alcohol or other opioids, for instance.
  • The codeine opioid is often misused recreationally to produce a sense of euphoria or to self-medicate for pain or other symptoms. Codeine used for nonmedical purposes can quickly lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction.

You should only take codeine exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider and never share the medication with others or use it in ways other than directed.

Codeine Medications

Codeine is available through prescription in the U.S., either as a standalone medication or as a combination product with other medications. Some common medications that contain codeine include:

  • Tylenol #3: This medication combines codeine with acetaminophen and is commonly prescribed for the relief of moderate to severe pain.
  • Robitussin AC: This cough syrup combines codeine with the expectorant guaifenesin and is used to treat cough and chest congestion caused by the common cold or flu.
  • Fioricet with codeine: This medication combines codeine with caffeine, butalbital, and acetaminophen and is used to treat tension headaches.
  • Ultracod: This medication combines codeine with the non-opioid pain reliever ibuprofen and is used to treat moderate to severe pain.

Codeine can be habit-forming, even when taken as prescribed, and should be used only as directed by a healthcare provider. Misuse or abuse of codeine can lead to addiction, overdose, and other serious health consequences.

Codeine Addiction

Codeine addiction (opioid use disorder) can have devastating effects on an individual’s life, including physical, mental, and social consequences. While some signs of codeine addiction may be easily recognizable, others can be more subtle and challenging to detect. By understanding these signs, you can take the necessary steps to seek professional help and begin the journey to sustained recovery from opioid use disorder.


Codeine addiction can be a challenging condition to identify, especially in the early stages. Look out for these common early indicators of opioid use disorder:

  • Increased drug tolerance: If an individual requires more codeine than before to achieve the same effects, it could be a sign of addiction.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: Someone with a codeine addiction may experience physical and psychological symptoms when they stop using the drug. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, sweating, anxiety, and insomnia.
  • Social withdrawal: Codeine addiction can cause people to withdraw from social activities, hobbies, and responsibilities.
  • Neglecting obligations: A person addicted to codeine may neglect their work, school, or family responsibilities, causing significant problems in their personal and professional life.
  • Continued codeine use despite negative consequences: Despite experiencing negative consequences like financial or relationship problems, those with codeine addictions may continue to use the drug.
  • Mood swings: Codeine addiction can cause sudden mood swings and changes in behavior.
  • Disrupted sleep patterns: People battling codeine addiction often experience changes in their sleeping patterns, such as insomnia or oversleeping.

In addition to the behavioral signs, opioid use disorder is associated with the following physical complications:

  • Drowsiness: Codeine is a central nervous system depressant that can cause drowsiness or excessive sleepiness, especially at high doses.
  • Poor coordination: Opioids can impair motor coordination, leading to clumsy or uncoordinated movements.
  • Constipation: An opiate like codeine can slow down the digestive system, causing constipation and other gastrointestinal problems.
  • Nausea and vomiting: In large doses, codeine can cause nausea and vomiting.
  • Itching: Codeine can cause itching or skin rash, which may be a sign of an allergic reaction.
  • Changes in appetite: Addiction to codeine can cause changes in appetite, leading to weight gain or loss.

Some of the physical symptoms above can also be caused by other medical conditions, so consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis.

A man sits with his hand on his head to represent codeine addiction.


Opioid addiction, including codeine addiction, is a serious condition that affects millions of people worldwide. The DSM-5-TR diagnostic criteria for opioid use disorder can help identify the symptoms of codeine addiction. These criteria include:

  1. Taking codeine for longer than intended or in larger amounts.
  2. Failing to control or reduce codeine use despite multiple attempts.
  3. Spending excessive amounts of time and effort to obtain and use codeine or recover from its effects.
  4. Experiencing intense cravings for codeine.
  5. Neglecting important personal or professional obligations due to codeine use.
  6. Giving up or reducing previously enjoyable activities in favor of codeine use.
  7. Using codeine in dangerous situations, such as while driving or operating machinery.
  8. Continuing to use codeine despite being aware of the negative physical or psychological effects.
  9. Developing a tolerance to codeine and needing to take larger doses to achieve the desired effect.
  10. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when codeine use is reduced or stopped.
  11. Continuing to use codeine despite its negative impact on social and interpersonal relationships.

Although codeine addiction can have devastating consequences, it is a treatable condition. At Ohio Recovery Centers, we provide personalized treatment programs that combine evidence-based pharmacological, behavioral, and holistic therapies. Our compassionate and experienced team of professionals will work with you to develop a treatment plan that addresses your specific needs and helps you achieve lasting recovery. Discover how to connect with the help you need for any form of codeine abuse.

Get Treatment for Codeine Addiction at Ohio Recovery Centers

At Ohio Recovery Centers, we understand that opioid addiction, including addiction to codeine, can be a challenging and life-altering experience. That’s why we offer personalized treatment programs tailored to help you overcome this addiction and achieve lasting recovery.

Research shows that opioid addictions can be treated successfully with intensive outpatient treatment programs. Our outpatient treatment programs are flexible and affordable, and deliver the same standard of care as inpatient programs. You can choose from our PHPs (partial hospitalization programs), IOPs (intensive outpatient programs), or dual diagnosis treatment programs for co-occurring disorders.

Our compassionate and experienced team of professionals is dedicated to helping you overcome codeine addiction and achieve long-term recovery. We will provide you with the tools and support you need to manage relapse triggers and prevent future drug use.

Don’t let codeine addiction control your life any longer. Contact us today at 513-757-5000 or online to learn more about our treatment options and take the first step towards a healthier, happier life.

Table of Contents