Other Names

Codein, codeina, codeine, codeinum, 4,5u-epoxy3-

methoxy-17-methyl-7-morphinen-6u-ol, kodein

Substance type: opium alkaloid

In 1832, codeine was isolated from opium, which

has a codeine content of 2 to 30/0 (see Papaver

somniferum). Codeine is also biosynthesized in the

roots of Papaver somniferum 1. cv. Marianne (Tam

et al. 1980). It is possible that trace amounts of

codeine can also be found in other Papaver species

(Papaver bracteatum, Papaver decaisnei; cf. Papaver

spp.) (Theuns et al. 1986). Codeine is also an endogenous

neurotransmitter in humans (cf. morphine).

A dosage of 20 to 50 mg produces "general

mental stimulation, warmth in the head, and an

increase in the pulse rate, as also appear after the

consumption of alcohol" (Rompp 1950*). Codeine

does not appear to be metabolized in the body and

is excreted unchanged.

Because codeine suppresses the urge to cough,

its most important pharmaceutical use is in cough

syrups. The dosage when codeine is used as a

cough suppressant is 50 mg three times a day. A

dosage of 100 to 200 mg results in sleep and

sedation. Higher dosages elicit effects comparable

to those of morphine. The medical literature

contains repeated mentions of "codeine addiction."

Codeine "addicts" are said to ingest up to 2 g

of codeine daily (Rompp 1950, 115*). Today,

codeine is gaining increasing medicinal importance

as a substitution therapy for heroin addicts

(Gerlach and Schneider 1994). The pharmaceutical

industry synthesizes codeine primarily

from thebaine, the main active constituent in Papaver bracteatum Lindl. (cf. Papaver spp.)

(Morton 1977, 125*; Theuns et al. 1986).

Codeine has acquired a certain significance in

the music scene (jazz, rock, psychedelia), primarily

as a substitute for heroin or morphine. Buffy

Saint-Marie sang about the anguish of her codeine

dependence in the song "Cod'ine" (LP It's My Way!

Vanguard Records 1964). Quicksilver Messenger

Service later covered the song and made it famous.

In the 1990s, the wave band Codeine had several

albums out through Sub Pop. Cough syrups496

with a high codeine content were often consumed

as inebriants at concerts, festivals, et cetera

(usually in combination with alcohol and

cannabis) (Bangs 1978, 158).

Commercial Forms and Regulations

Codeine is available as a pure substance and as

codeine hydrochloride, codeine phosphate, and

codeine phosphate hemihydrate. Codeine is on

Schedule III in the United States. Preparations

containing codeine (tinctures, cough syrups, et

cetera) require a special prescription (i.e., with no

refills allowed and/or on special prescription

forms). But in other countries, including France,

Spain, Nepal, and India, a prescription is still

unnecessary and the medicine can be obtained

over the counter from any pharmacy.


See also the entries for Papaver somniferum,

morphine, and opium alkaloids.

Bangs, Lester. 1978. Ich sah Gott und/oder Tangerine

Dream. Rocksession 2:155-58. Reinbek: Rowohlt.

Esser, Barbara. 1998. Vom Regen in die Traufe: Das

Verbot des Ersatzstoffs Codein ... Focus 26 (6):


Gerlach, Ralf, and Wolfgang Schneider. 1994.

Methadon- und Codeinensubstitution:

Erfahrungen, Forschungsergebnisse,

Praxiskonsequenzen. Berlin: VWB.

Tam, W. H. John, Friedrich Constabel, and Wolfgang

G. W. Kurz. 1980. Codeine from cell suspension cultures of Papaver somniferum. Phytochemistry


Theuns, Hubert G., H. Leo Theuns, and Robert J. J.

Ch. Lousberg. 1986. Search for new natural

sources of morphinians. Economic Botany 40 (4):


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