Codeine and dihydrocodeine: minimising the risk of addiction

01 Sept 2009

Codeine and dihydrocodeine are analgesics (painkillers) contained in many over-the-counter medicines. There is a risk that people may overuse and become addicted to these medicines.  Therefore measures to minimise this risk were recommended by the Commission on Human Medicines in 2005.

In January 2009, based on a review of the evidence, further measures were recommended to help minimise the risk of overuse and addiction. These included a warning that these medicines can cause addiction and are to be used for up to 3 days only without healthcare professional review.

This safety concern has also been highlighted in a press release from the MHRA and in the September 2009 issue of Drug Safety Update (page 6)PDF file (opens in new window) (156Kb).

More information on medicines containing codeine and dihydrocodeine can be found in the safety warnings and messages for medicines section of our website.

This report presents the evidence that was available when the regulatory decision was made, showing a ‘snapshot’ of the clinical landscape at the time. However, any advice in this report remains current unless it is superseded by a more recent report (where relevant, this is indicated).

Page last modified: 11 February 2016