Can You Buy Codeine Over the Counter?

Codeine is a narcotic medication that is used to treat mild to moderate pain. It is also used to treat cough when combined with other medications. Codeine will help relieve symptoms but will not treat the cause of the symptoms or speed recovery. It is considered an opiate analgesic and can be classified as an antitussive. When Codeine is prescribed to treat pain, it works by changing the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain. It tells your brain that you are not in pain, whereas a medication such as ibuprofen goes to the site of injury and reduces pain by reducing inflammation. When Codeine is used to treat cough, it works by decreasing the activity in the part of the brain that causes coughing.

Codeine can have some serious side effects including life-threatening breathing problems, especially during the first 24 to 48 hours of treatment and/or any time the dose is increased. If you have asthma or have ever had slowed breathing, it is advised that you not take Codeine. Also, if you have or have ever had any lung disease such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), or a head injury or any condition that increases the amount of pressure on the brain, the risk for developing breathing problems is significantly higher.

Can You Buy Codeine Over the Counter?

Is Codeine Over the Counter (OTC)?

In the United States, drugs with codeine in them are available only by prescription because codeine is a controlled substance and very addictive. The regulations in the United States have gotten strict on medication that contains Codeine, due to the increase in addiction. However, in the United Kingdom and some other parts of Europe, Codeine can be purchased in low doses over the counter from a pharmacy. The codeine comes mixed with Paracetamol (Co-Codamol), with aspirin (Co-Codaprin), or with ibuprofen (Nurofen Plus). You can also buy Codeine from a pharmacy as a syrup (linctus) to treat dry cough.

Warning labels will tell you that Codeine is habit-forming. From our experience, Codeine is highly addictive and individuals dependent on the drug have a hard time putting it away for good on their own. If you or anyone in your family have ever had issues with alcohol or addiction, have used street drugs, have ever overused any prescription medications, or if you have ever suffered from depression or any other mental illness, especially untreated mental illness, there is a greater risk that you will misuse codeine.

Codeine Abuse WILL Cause Withdrawal Symptoms

If you are in the United Kingdom or anywhere that you can purchase Codeine over the counter, we highly advise that you speak with a pharmacist about the symptoms you are experiencing before purchasing Codeine or any related products.

If you have been prescribed or have purchased Codeine or any related products over the counter for pain or a cough, and you believe you may be dependent or addicted to it, you may experience some withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms may come in two phases. The early phase occurs within a few hours of your last dose and other symptoms may occur later as your body readjusts to working without codeine.

Early Symptoms of Codeine Withdrawal

  • Feeling irritable or anxious
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Teary eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Muscle aches
  • Faster heartbeat

Late Symptoms of Codeine Withdrawal

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Chills or goosebumps

Treatment for Codeine Addiction

Withdrawal symptoms can last for a week or may persist for up to months  (as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) after you stop taking Codeine recreationally. If you or someone you love is addicted to Codeine, please contact one of our Recreate Life Counseling addiction specialists. Someone is available to talk to you confidentially, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Let Recreate Life Counseling get you the help you deserve today for a full recovery from Codeine dependency.


  • Can You Buy Codeine Over the Counter?