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Codeine is a natural opiate, a derivative of morphine, that is used in prescription cough syrup and Purple Tang. In recreational doses (60-400 mg), it induces mild euphoria. In therapeutic doses (10-60 mg), it prevents coughing.

Codeine is sold over-the-counter in preparations containing up to 15mg codeine and either 200mg ibuprofen or 500mg paracetamol per tablet in the UK and Australia, where it is known as Nurofen Plus, Panadeine, Mydol, etc. Since it is less powerful than morphine, it is less tightly regulated, and in some countries such as Canada and France certain codeine preparations are sold over the counter, without a doctor's prescription.

Large amounts of paracetamol and/or ibuprofen can be fatally toxic to the liver and kidneys respectively, hence users often dissolve the tablets in water and filter it to isolate the water-soluble codeine from the relatively insoluble paracetamol or ibuprofen.

Codeine is actually a "prodrug", i.e. a substance that converts to an active metabolite (in this case morphine) within the human body.

It is nevertheless a significant drug of abuse. Codeine is sometimes used by dependent individuals to stave off opioid withdrawal symptoms until they get their next fix of heroin. Codeine, like other opioids, can be potentiated with subtherapeutic doses of dissociatives such as dextromethorphan. This combination increases the analgesic and euphoriant effects of the drug and also slows down the development of physiological tolerance.


Chemical structure of codeine. Very similar to heroin and morphine.

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