Dihydrocodeine belongs to a group of medicines called opiates. It works in the central nervous system and the brain to block pain signals.
As well as blocking pain signals, dihydrocodeine can have negative effects. Your breathing may become slow and shallow. It may also slow down your digestion, which is why dihydrocodeine can cause constipation.
Dihydrocodeine is an opiate painkiller. It’s used to treat moderate to severe pain, such as after an operation or a serious injury.
Dihydrocodeine is only available on prescription. It also comes mixed with paracetamol, this is called co-dydramol.
It comes as standard tablets, slow-release tablets and as a liquid that you swallow. It can also be given by an injection into the muscle or under the skin. This is usually done in hospital.
Dihydrocodeine is also known by the brand names DHC Continus and DF118 Forte.
2. Key facts
- Dihydrocodeine works by stopping pain signals travelling along the nerves to the brain.
- Standard dihydrocodeine tablets take 1.5 to 2 hours to work fully.
- It’s possible to become addicted to dihydrocodeine, but your doctor will explain how to reduce the risks of becoming addicted.
- If you need to take dihydrocodeine for more than a few weeks, your treatment plan may include details of how and when to stop taking this medicine.
- The most common side effects are feeling or being sick, feeling drowsy or constipation.
Who can and cannot take it
Adults and children aged 4 years and over can take dihydrocodeine.
Dihydrocodeine is not suitable for some people. Tell a doctor before taking the medicine if you:
- have ever had an allergic reaction to dihydrocodeine or any other medicine
- have any stomach problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or Crohn’s disease, or if you’re taking medicines for these conditions
- have lung problems, asthma or breathing difficulties
- have a head injury or a condition that causes seizures or fits
- have an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
- have an addiction to alcohol
- take any other painkillers (including those you buy from a pharmacy or supermarket)
- have liver or kidney problems
- have myasthenia gravis, a rare illness that causes muscle weakness
- are trying to become pregnant, are already pregnant or are breastfeeding
- are under 18 years and have had your tonsils or adenoids taken out to treat obstructive sleep apnoea
- have a rare condition causing problems with galactose intolerance