Dihydrocodeine for pain relief

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  • Dihydrocodeine is used to ease pain.
  • The most common side-effects are feeling sleepy and feeling sick.
  • Do not take more than your doctor has recommended.
Type of medicine Opioid analgesic
Used for Pain relief
Also called DF 118 Forte®
DHC Continus®
Available as Tablets, prolonged-release tablets, oral liquid, and injection

Dihydrocodeine is used to control moderate types of pain. It works by binding to certain receptors (called opioid receptors) in your brain, which reduces the pain that you feel.

Dihydrocodeine is also an ingredient in a combination painkiller called co-dydramol. There is a separate medicine leaflet called 'Co-dydramol for pain relief' that explains about this.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking dihydrocodeine, it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • If you have any breathing problems, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • If you have liver or kidney problems.
  • If you have prostate or thyroid problems.
  • If you have epilepsy or low blood pressure.
  • If you have a problem with your bile duct or pancreas.
  • If you have been constipated for more than a week or have an inflammatory bowel problem.
  • If you have ever been dependent on drugs or alcohol.
  • If you have recently had a severe head injury.
  • If you have myasthenia gravis (a condition causing muscle weakness).
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to this or to any other medicine.
  • If you are taking any other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal and complementary medicines.
  • Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about the specific brand of dihydrocodeine you have been given, and a full list of possible side-effects from taking it.
  • Take dihydrocodeine exactly as your doctor has told you. The usual dose for an adult is 30 mg every four hours, although your doctor or pharmacist will tell you what dose is right for you. Your dose will also be on the label of your pack. If you have been given dihydrocodeine for your child, check the label carefully to make sure you are giving the correct dose.
  • Take your doses of dihydrocodeine after food where possible as this will help to reduce side-effects such as feeling sick.
  • If you have been given prolonged-release tablets (DHC Continus®) these are specially formulated to release dihydrocodeine slowly to give you a more even painkilling effect. You should swallow these tablets whole - do not chew or crush them.
  • If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember and then continue as before. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
  • If you drink alcohol, ask your doctor for advice before taking dihydrocodeine and alcohol. Your doctor may recommend you do not drink alcohol while you are on this medicine, as it increases the possibility of side-effects such as dizziness and feeling sleepy.
  • Do not take dihydrocodeine for longer than you have been advised by your doctor. This is because repeated use of dihydrocodeine over a period of time may lead to your body becoming dependent on it. If you then stop taking it suddenly, it can cause withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness and irritability.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common dihydrocodeine side-effects - these affect less than 1 in 10 people who take this medicine What can I do if I experience this?
Feeling or being sick, abdominal pain Stick to simple meals - avoid rich or spicy foods
Constipation Eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water each day
Feeling dizzy or sleepy If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines. Do not drink alcohol
Dry mouth Try chewing sugar-free gum or sucking sugar-free sweets

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
  • If you buy any medicines check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with your other medicines.
  • Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that someone has taken an overdose of this medicine go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital at once. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
  • If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.
  • This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
  • Never keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
  • If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Adrian Bonsall
Document ID:
3593 (v23)
Last Checked:
18/04/2012
Next Review:
18/04/2015
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