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Structural formula
Structural formula of codeine
Surname Codeine
other names
  • (5 R , 6 S , 9 R , 13 S , 14 R ) -3-methoxy-17-methyl-4,5-epoxymorphin-7-en-6-ol ( IUPAC )
  • Codeinum siccum ( Latin )
  • 3-methylmorphine
Molecular formula C 18 H 21 NO 3
External identifiers / databases
CAS number
  • 76-57-3 (codeine)
  • 6059-47-8 (codeine monohydrate)
  • 41444-62-6 (codeine phosphate hemihydrate)
EC number 200-969-1
ECHA InfoCard 100,000,882
PubChem 5284371
ChemSpider 4447447
DrugBank DB00318
Wikidata Q174723
Drug information
ATC code

R05 DA04

Drug class

Opiate , antitussive , analgesic

Molar mass 299.36 g · mol -1
Physical state



1.32 g cm −3

Melting point

154–156 ° C (codeine monohydrate)

pK s value

8.21 (25 ° C)

safety instructions
Please note the exemption from the labeling requirement for drugs, medical devices, cosmetics, food and animal feed
GHS labeling of hazardous substances
07 - Warning


H and P phrases H: 302
P: no P-phrases
Toxicological data
As far as possible and customary, SI units are used. Unless otherwise noted, the data given apply to standard conditions .

Codeine or codeine (Latin Codeinum ; from ancient Greek κώδεια kốdeia , German ' Mohnkopf , Köpfchen or capsule of the poppy plant' , Latin codia ) is a naturally occurring chemical compound from the group of opiates . Codeine is used as a medicinal substance in medicine . It is used as a pain reliever mostly in combination with paracetamol and as a cough suppressant .

Codeine was isolated from opium by Pierre Jean Robiquet in 1832 . The first German patent for the economic preparation of methylmorphine (codeine) was registered by Albert Knoll in 1886 and granted in 1887.


Opium poppy, Papaver somniferum , whose milk provides opium, from which codeine can be obtained.

The proportion of codeine in opium juice , the natural source of this substance, is 0.3–3%.

Chemical and physical properties

Codeine is the 3-monomethyl ether of morphine . The solubility in water for codeine monohydrate is 8 mg / ml at 20 ° C, 17 mg / ml at 80 ° C, for codeine hydrochloride 50 mg / ml at 20 ° C, 1000 mg / ml at 100 ° C, for codeine sulfate 35 mg / ml at 20 ° C, 150 mg / ml at 80 ° C and for codeine phosphate hemihydrate 400 mg / ml.


Reliable qualitative and quantitative detection in pharmaceutical preparations and various body fluids such as blood serum , urine , saliva and others is possible after suitable sample preparation by coupling gas chromatography or HPLC with mass spectrometry .

Pharmacological properties

Packaging of 28 codeine tablets of 60 mg each ( Teva Pharmaceutical Industries )

Codeine is a prodrug ; it develops its analgesic effect through the action of the active metabolite morphine , about 10% of which is produced in the liver by demethylation with the participation of the enzyme CYP2D6 . Codeine itself also has an effect by binding to opioid receptors (μ-receptors), but its affinity for the receptor is low. When 400 mg of codeine is taken, the maximum metabolism is reached, since the corresponding enzyme capacity of CYP2D6 is exhausted. As a result , the effect no longer increases , but only lasts longer. Regarding the antitussive effect, codeine is said to have the same effectiveness as morphine.

Due to a genetic CYP2D6 polymorphism , the effects of codeine can vary in strength : About 10% of Americans with white skin can only metabolize codeine slowly, so that the effect is less pronounced due to insufficient morphine formation. In contrast to this, rapid metabolisers, which make up an estimated 1–5.5% of the white US population, can experience elevated plasma morphine concentrations with the risk of morphine-related side effects, including intoxication.

Codeine has a pain relieving effect of four to six hours. About 10% of it is excreted unchanged and otherwise in the form of morphine and codeine conjugates via the kidneys (renally).

Clinical information

Like dihydrocodeine, codeine is approved for the symptomatic treatment of irritable cough (suppression of the cough stimulus in the case of an unproductive cough). The maximum daily dose is 184 mg for adults. The effectiveness of low prescription-free doses available in the US has not been proven. The analgesic potency of the single dose compared to morphine is around 0.1. The cough suppressant effectiveness of codeine in COPD is questionable.

In combination with paracetamol , acetylsalicylic acid, or diclofenac , codeine is used as a pain reliever (in doses of around 30 to 100 mg in adults) to treat moderate to severe pain.

Until 1999, codeine was a regular substitute for heroin addiction in Germany , which doctors preferred for reasons of compliance and the relative simplicity of initiating and overcoming withdrawal syndrome . It has been supplanted by substances with longer half-lives such as methadone .

Side effects

The most common adverse drug effects from codeine are fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and constipation . Codeine has a potential for dependence .

Codeine and its metabolite, morphine, are excreted in breast milk. In 2007, the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) therefore ordered a warning to be included in the product information texts, to watch out for side effects such as poor drinking, sleepiness ( somnolence ) and lethargy in infants and to interrupt breastfeeding when repeatedly taking codeine-containing preparations. This was preceded by a case report of the death of an infant who died of a breastfeeding-acquired morphine overdose after his mother took codeine-containing pain relievers.

In March 2013, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) issued a warning that codeine should not be given as a pain reliever in children after tonsillectomy or adenectomy . Serious and sometimes fatal cases of respiratory depression have been reported. In some affected children it could be proven that they were “ultra-fast metabolisers” due to a genetic variation of the enzyme cytochrome P450 2D6 , whereby the administered codeine was converted very quickly into the much more effective morphine. In 2017, the FDA further restricted the use of codeine so that the substance could no longer be given to children under the age of twelve in the United States. Breastfeeding mothers are cautioned against taking codeine.

Pharmaceutical information

In addition to codeine monohydrate, codeine phosphate hemihydrate is also used medicinally. Because of the flexible dosage, liquid presentations such as drops or juice are common for coughing, but tablets or capsules can also be used. Codeine has a plasma half-life of around 2 to 4 hours, while prolonged- release drugs offer a longer duration of action . The effect of codein is retarded in liquid dosage forms by binding to a cation exchanger (codeine poly (styrene, divinylbenzene) sulfonate).

Narcotics regulations


In Germany, the Narcotics Act classifies codeine as a marketable and prescribable narcotic, and handling it without a permit or prescription is generally a criminal offense. Low doses or quantities (ie "... without another substance from Annexes I to III up to 2.5 per cent or up to 100 mg of codeine per divided form, calculated as a base") are exempt from narcotics regulations as long as they are not applicable narcotics or alcohol addicts.


The use of codeine requires a prescription and is regulated by the Narcotics Ordinance. In concentrations of up to 2.5% in undivided formulations or up to 100 mg in divided formulations (based on the free base), no drug prescription is required.


In Switzerland too, codeine is a narcotic within the meaning of the Narcotics Act . However, preparations which do not contain more than 2.5% in the preparation or divided form 100 mg codeine are excluded.

Trade names


Bronchial lozenges VA (CH), Bronchicum mono (D), Capitole (CH), Codeinum phosphoricum (forte) Compren, Codicaps mono (D), Codicompren (D), Codipertussin (D, A), Iropect (CH), Longtussin (D ), Makatussin Codeine (D, A, CH), Optipect (D), Pharmacieplusd (CH), Rotpunkt Apotheke Bronchialpastillen with Codeine (CH), Tryasol (D), Tiamon (D), Tussoret (D), numerous generics (D , CH)

Combination preparations
  • with Paracetamol : Azur compositum SC (D), Contraneural Paracetamol / Codeine (D), Gelonida (D), Nedolon (D), Optipyrin (D), Talvosilen (D), Titretta (D)
  • with paracetamol and caffeine : Azur compositum (D)
  • with paracetamol and acetylsalicylic acid : Dolomo N (D)
  • with acetylsalicylic acid: Dolviran N (D)
  • with Diclofenac : Combaren (D), Voltaren plus (D)
  • with diphenhydramine : Benylin (CH)
  • with guaifenesin : resyl with codeine (A), resyl plus (A, CH)
  • with Drofenine and Propyphenazon : Spasmoplus (A)

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Codeine  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Codeine  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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  2. ^ The Merck Index: An Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs, and Biologicals. 9th edition. Merck & Co., Whitehouse Station, NJ, USA 1976, ISBN 0-911910-26-3 , p. 316.
  3. a b c d Entry on codeine in the ChemIDplus database of the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) .
  4. a b Codeine data sheet at Sigma-Aldrich , accessed on October 9, 2016 ( PDF ).
  5. ^ Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott: A Greek-English lexikon. 9th edition. Oxford 1940, p. 1016.
  6. Patent DE39887A : Process for the preparation of methylmorphine (codeine) and ethylmorphine. Registered August 7, 1886, published June 4, 1887, applicant: Dr. phil. A. Knoll.
  7. S. Chericoni, F. Stefanelli, V. Iannella, M. Giusiani: Simultaneous determination of morphine, codeine and 6-acetyl morphine in human urine and blood samples using direct aqueous derivatisation: validation and application to real cases. In: J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 949-950, Feb 15, 2014, pp. 127-132. PMID 24491926 .
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  10. KA Rees, PA McLaughlin, MD Osselton: Validation of a gas chromatography-ion trap-tandem mass spectrometry assay for the simultaneous quantification of cocaine, benzoylecgonine, cocaethylene, morphine, codeine, and 6-acetylmorphine in aqueous solution, blood, and skeletal muscle tissue. In: J Anal Toxicol. 36 (1), Jan-Feb 2012, pp. 1-11. PMID 22290746 .
  11. ^ Y. Caraco, T. Tateishi, FP Guengerich, AJJ Wood: Microsomal codeine N-demethylation: Cosegregation with cytochrome P4503A4 activity. In: Metab Dispos. 24 (7), 1996, pp. 761-764. PMID 8818573
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  19. Pharm. Ztg. 152, 2007, p. 125.
  20. Rheinisches Ärzteblatt. 11/2007.
  21. Safety review update of codeine use in children; new boxed warning and contraindication on use after tonsillectomy and / or adenoidectomy. (PDF; 118 kB) FDA, February 20, 2013, accessed on June 8, 2013 (English).
  22. FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA restricts use of prescription codeine pain and cough medicines and tramadol pain medicines in children; recommends against use in breastfeeding women. In: FDA. April 20, 2017. Retrieved April 25, 2017 .
  23. USA: Stricter restrictions on tramadol and codeine. In: Deutsche Apothekerzeitung online. April 24, 2017. Retrieved April 25, 2017 .
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  25. Annex III (to § 1 Paragraph 1) marketable and prescription narcotics to the Narcotics Act.
  26. Narcotics Ordinance, Section 20, Paragraph 4 1 .
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