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Compound analgesics

Compound analgesics are made from a combination of two different drugs – usually a standard painkiller such as paracetamolaspirin or ibuprofen plus a low dose of an opioid analgesic such as codeine or dihydrocodeine.

Compound analgesics containing low doses of codeine are available over the counter from pharmacists, but stronger ones are only available on prescription.

What are they used for?

You can use them:

What are the common types of compound analgesics?


Co-codamol
Co-codaprin Co-dydramol
What is it?
Codeine (8 mg) and paracetamol (500 mg) Codeine (8 mg) and aspirin (400 mg)
Dihydrocodeine (10 mg) and paracetamol (500 mg)
What dose can I take? Up to 2 tablets 4 times a day Up to 2 tablets 4 times a day with food Up to 2 tablets 4 times a day
Where do I get them? Buy them at supermarkets/pharmacies or on prescription On prescription On prescription
What are the most common side-effects? constipation
nausea
drowsiness
dizziness
See also side-effects of long-term use of paracetamol
constipation
nausea
drowsiness
dizziness
heartburn
indigestion
constipation
nausea
drowsiness
dizziness
See also side-effects of long-term use of paracetamol
What else should I know? For more severe pain, combinations of 15 mg/500 mg and 30 mg/500 mg are available on prescription. For more severe pain, combinations of 20 mg/500 mg and 30 mg/500 mg are available.

What are the possible risks and side-effects?

Normally you'll be advised not to take medicines containing codeine for more than a few days at a time. This is because they are potentially addictive and hard to stop. 

Compounds made from codeine can cause:

  • constipation
  • nausea
  • difficulty concentrating.

Older people may be advised to take less than the maximum dose.

Ask your doctor’s advice if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

For more information, go to www.arthritisresearchuk.org.
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