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How long after taking Co-codamol can I drink alcohol?

14th August 2019

The safety of drinking alcohol while taking medications, especially painkillers, has been the concern of many people. It is a concern that has been the subject of many debates. 

It is usually safe to drink a moderate amount of alcohol while taking an over-the-counter painkiller such as ibuprofen or paracetamol as long as you get relevant advice on the matter. When you buy painkillers, they come with a patient information leaflet that advises you on the dose to take and whether it is safe to drink alcohol while on the medication. If the patient information leaflet advises you against drinking any amount of alcohol while taking the painkiller, it should be followed carefully.

On the other hand, when it comes to prescription-only painkillers such as codeine, co-codamol, tramadol, and others, drinking alcohol is not recommended. Combining alcohol and prescription-only painkillers such as Co-codamol could trigger the medication’s unpleasant and potentially serious side effects. Drinking alcohol while taking Co-codamol can make use more drowsy, in addition to the increasing the risks of other side effects.

How long after taking co-codamol can you drink alcohol?

Co-codamol should not be combined with alcohol. A person should not drink alcohol while co-codamol is still in the system. Codeine, the main component in co-codamol has a half-life of 3 to 4 hours. It means that codeine will remain in your system for up to 16 hours. You can buy cocodamol from UK Meds.

A person who has taken co-codamol should wait for at least 16 hours before it's okay to drink alcohol. To be safe, it will be a good idea to wait longer, at least 24 hours after taking your last dose of co-codamol.

What is co-codamol?

Co-codamol is a combination of two different painkillers - codeine and paracetamol. Another form of co codamol is Kapake, which consists of 30mg codeine and 500mg of paracetamol. Co-codamol is used for the treatment of pains and aches such as headaches, migraines, muscular pain, toothache, and other pains. It is usually prescribed when everyday painkillers, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and paracetamol alone, have not worked. 

Co-codamol comes in tablet and capsule forms. Co-codamol tablets and capsules are available in 3 strengths. The lowest strength co-codamol may be purchased from a pharmacy without a prescription but the higher strengths are available on prescription only. 

Co-codamol tablets and capsules are available in the following strengths:

  • 8 mg of codeine
  • 15 mg of codeine
  • 30 mg of codeine

All 3 strengths of co-codeine contain 500 mg of paracetamol.

You can tell the strength of the co-codamol tablet by checking the two numbers on the packet. If you see 8/500 written on the packet, it means that the tablet or capsule contains 8 mg of codeine and 500 mg of paracetamol.

How does it work?

Codeine is an opioid painkiller. Opioids work by imitating the natural painkillers in the body - endorphins. They control pain by blocking the pain messages to the brain. Opioid painkillers are classified as strong opioids and weak opioids. Codeine falls under the classification of weak opioid.

Paracetamol is the other component of co-codamol. It controls pain by interfering with the natural substances - prostaglandins - the body makes in response to injury. Prostaglandins make the nerves more sensitive, allowing you to feel pain. By reducing the number of prostaglandins in the body, you will feel less or no pain.

Co-codamol is not for everyone

Co-codamol should not be taken by children younger than the age of 12. Co-codamol for children may be administered to those between the ages of 12 and 16. 

This combination analgesic is not suitable for some people. Before you start taking co-codamol, tell your doctor if you:

  • Have had an injury in the head
  • Have problems with your lungs or you have breathing difficulties
  • Have problems with your adrenal gland
  • Have a fits-inducing illness
  • Regularly consuming more than the maximum recommended amount of alcohol, which is 14 units or drinks per week.
  • Are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or are breastfeeding.
  • Have liver problems
  • Are below the age of 18 and have had your adenoids or tonsils removed due to obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.

Usual dosage

The normal co-codamol dose for pain:

  • For teenagers between the ages of 16 to 18 - 1 or 2 tablets up to 4 times a day. Always leave a 6-hour gap between doses. Do not take more than 8 co-codamol tablets in a 24-hour period.
  • For adults over the age of 18 - 2 co-codamol tablets of any strengths up to 4 times in 24 hours. Always leave a 4-hour gap between doses. Do not take more than 8 co-codamol tablets in a 24-hour period.

It is necessary to leave a gap of 4 or 6 hours between doses of co-codamol. Too much co-codamol can be very dangerous to the body. Paracetamol, the other component of co-codamol can cause liver damage. People are not encouraged to increase or double the dose of co-codamol even if their pain is very bad.