Dihydrocodeine

Quick Overview

Treatment information

  • Active Ingredient(s):Dihydrocodeine tartrate
  • Administration: Oral
  • Presentation: White uncoated tablets
  • Available Strength: 30 mg
  • Exemption: Subject to medical prescription
  • Age restriction: Men and women over 18
  • Dosage: 1 tablet – every four to six hourly
  • Description: Pain Relief
  • Drug class:Opioid (Analgesic)
  • Alcohol consumption: Do not drink alcohol while taking dihydrocodeine
  • When breastfeeding: Do not consume dihydrocodeine
  • When pregnant: Do not consume dihydrocodeine
  • Related drug: Co-dydramol

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Product Description

What is Dihydrocodeine?

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Dihydrocodeine (active ingredient dihydrocodeine tartrate) is part of the opioid family of medicines, which also includes codeine phosphate and morphine. It is a painkiller used for the treatment of pain classed as moderate to severe.


How does Dihydrocodeine work?

Dihydrocodeine mimics natural painkilling chemicals produced by the human body. These painkillers, called endorphins, work by attaching to opiate receptors in the brain and nervous system. Dihydrocodeine is able to attach to these receptors to produce its painkilling effect.

Dihydrocodeine tablets start to work approximately 20 minutes after ingestion, although this will vary from person to person. The full effect of the medication may not be felt for around an hour. At least four hours should elapse between doses of dihydrocodeine.


What is Dihydrocodeine used for?

Dihydrocodeine may be prescribed for the relief of pain caused by any illness or injury, so long as none of the exclusions apply. Common uses for dihydrocodeine include:

  • Headaches
  • Sciatica pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Nerve pain
  • Post-operative pain

What Dihydrocodeine dose is right for me?

Dosage varies from person to person. Your prescriber will determine the correct dose for you, based on your simple, confidential consultation. Standard dosage is one 30 mg tablet every four to six hours.

Dosage may need to be reduced for elderly patients. Dihydrocodeine is not recommended for children under the age of 12.

What should I do if I miss a dose or take too much?

  • If you miss a dose of Dihydrocodeine — Take the dose as soon as you remember, then wait at least four hours before the next dose. Do not take doses less than four hours apart to try to make up for the missed one
  • If you take too much dihydrocodeine — Seek immediate medical attention. Take the packet of dihydrocodeine with you. Tell the medical professional how much dihydrocodeine you took and when you took it.

Is Dihydrocodeine suitable for use during pregnancy?

Dihydrocodeine should not be used during the latter stages of pregnancy or while breastfeeding. If taken in the latter stages of pregnancy, dihydrocodeine may cause the baby to experience withdrawal symptoms after birth, and may have complications or breathing difficulties. Dihydrocodeine will be present in the milk of breastfeeding mothers and may cause breathing difficulties for the infant.


How Should I take Dihydrocodeine?

  • Dihydrocodeine should be taken with —or after — food, as this helps reduce the likelihood of side effects such as nausea and vomiting.
  • Always follow the dosage instructions set by your prescriber; never exceed the maximum stated dose.
  • Do not take dihydrocodeine for longer than directed, as this may lead to tolerance or addiction.
  • Keep medications in a cool, dry place; excessive heat or dampness may cause the medicine to degrade.
  • Do not use medication which has passed its expiry date; return expired items to your nearest pharmacy for disposal.
  • Keep all medications out of reach of children and animals.

Does Dihydrocodeine cause Side Effects?

All drugs can have side effects, but not everyone will experience them. Most people taking dihydrocodeine will not experience any side effects. It is, however, important to be aware of the potential side effects before taking any medication.

Common side effects

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Stomach cramps
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth.

These side effects are usually mild and should resolve on their own. If they become problematic, seek medical attention. Do not drive or attempt to use machinery if affected by drowsiness while taking dihydrocodeine.

Uncommon side effects

  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision or hallucinations
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Low blood pressure or altered heart rate
  • Skin itching — if this is accompanied by swelling, seek medical attention to rule out an allergic reaction (see below)
  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Altered mood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Reduced sex drive.

If you experience any of these side effects, contact a medical professional for advice on whether it is safe to continue with the medication.

It is also important to be aware of the signs of allergic reaction. Breathing issues, swelling of the lips or tongue, hives, or skin rashes are potential indicators of an allergic reaction. If any of these symptoms are present, seek medical attention immediately. Take the medication box with you so medical professionals know exactly what you have taken.


Is Dihydrocodeine suitable for everyone?

No. Dihydrocodeine may not be suitable in several circumstances. Extra care may be needed when using it. Make sure you tell your prescriber about any allergies or pre-existing medical conditions. Also inform the prescriber of any medications or supplements you are taking, to avoid potential interaction between drugs. Remember, even natural supplements may interact with medications.

Do not drink alcohol while taking dihydrocodeine tablets.

Dihydrocodeine should be used with caution if you have:

  • Decreased liver, kidney or thyroid function
  • Lung disease (especially if secondary heart failure is present)
  • Breathing issues such as asthma
  • Low blood pressure
  • Inflammatory bowel disorders e.g. Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Pancreatitis
  • A history of epilepsy or convulsions
  • Any history of drug or alcohol addiction
  • Problems with constipation
  • Bile duct disease of disorders
  • Myasthenia gravis (a muscle weakness disorder)
  • An enlarged prostate.
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Caution may also be exercised when prescribing dihydrocodeine to elderly patients, as the dose may need to be reduced.

Dihydrocodeine should not be used if you:

  • Have been drinking alcohol
  • Are in the third trimester of pregnancy
  • Are breastfeeding
  • Have been told you are allergic to lactose or any of the ingredients in the medication
  • Have had a recent head injury
  • Suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Are having, or have recently had, an asthma attack
  • Have, or have been told you are at risk of, intestinal blockage
  • Have been diagnosed with raised intracranial pressure (pressure in the skull).

Does Dihydrocodeine reduce inflammation?

Dihydrocodeine does not reduce inflammation. If your pain is accompanies by inflammation, it may be more suitable to take an anti-inflammatory.


Frequently asked questions

Can you take paracetamol or ibuprofen with dihydrocodeine?

Yes, it is safe to take dihydrocodeine with other painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.

If you are taking a painkiller which contains both codeine and paracetamol, it is advised not to take other medication which also contains codeine or parace

Can I drink alcohol while taking dihydrocodeine?

The consumption of alcohol while taking codeine painkillers, such as dihydrocodeine, can exacerbate side effects such as drowsiness, or limit the effectiveness of the medication.

There, you should avoid consuming alcohol while taking dihydrocodeine

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Is Dihydrocodeine addictive?

Any medication that falls into the opioid family such as codeine can be habit-forming, so yes Dihydrocodeine can be addictive, so should only be used for a short time. Prolonged use may first lead to the body becoming accustomed to the medication, which will make it less effective. This is called tolerance and often leads people to increase the dose of the drug. Do not do this. Continued use may also lead to dependence on the drug. If this happens, then withdrawal symptoms will be experienced when the medication is stopped. Always follow the instructions of your prescriber regarding the duration of your treatment. The correct spelling in the UK is Dihydrocodeine.

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