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If a person is not breathing, or if they are unresponsive, seek help straight away. Call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

Key facts

  • Dihydrocodeine is an opioid-based cough medicine that can be prescribed by your doctor.
  • Dihydrocodeine is prescribed for temporary relief of persistent dry cough.
  • Dihydrocodeine is prescribed for short-term use only, and should not be used by children under 4 years of age.
  • Always take dihydrocodeine exactly as your doctor prescribed.
  • Cough is a symptom of COVID-19 infection, so if you have a cough and are feeling unwell, use the Healthdirect symptom checker tool for specific advice.

What is dihydrocodeine?

Dihydrocodeine is an opioid-based medicine available on prescription from your doctor. It is categorised as a 'weak' opioid.

LOOKING FOR A MEDICINE? — See this list of medicines that contain dihydrocodeine to find out more about a specific medication.

What is dihydrocodeine used for?

Dihydrocodeine is prescribed for the temporary relief of persistent dry cough. Unlike some other opioid medicines, dihydrocodeine is not prescribed for pain relief.

How does dihydrocodeine work?

Dihydrocodeine works directly on opioid receptors in the cough centre of the brain. It is available as an oral liquid.

Dihydrocodeine is prescribed for short-term use only. It should not be used by children under 4 years of age.

What are the possible side effects of taking dihydrocodeine?

All medicines, including dihydrocodeine, can have side effects.

The most common side effects of dihydrocodeine are:

People over the age of 65 years have an increased chance of experiencing side effects.

Dihydrocodeine affects everyone differently, so if you have any of these side effects while taking dihydrocodeine, or if you notice anything that is making you feel unwell, speak with your pharmacist or doctor.

Always take medicines exactly as your doctor prescribed, and as directed by your pharmacist.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

What are the risks associated with dihydrocodeine?

It is important that you take the correct dose of dihydrocodeine. Use a medicine measure (cup or syringe) to ensure that the dose is correct. These are available from your pharmacist.

Dihydrocodeine may make it difficult for you to drive or operate heavy machinery.

If you have asthma, emphysema (COPD) or other respiratory conditions, epilepsy or other convulsion disorders, liver or kidney problems, your doctor may decide that dihydrocodeine is not suitable for you.

There are other situations that may limit your use of dihydrocodeine, including if you drink alcohol excessively. Your doctor is the best person to guide you on whether dihydrocodeine is the right medicine for you, and how long you should take it for.

If a person is not breathing, or if they are unresponsive, seek help straight away. Call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

Are there any alternatives to dihydrocodeine?

Different cough relief medicines are used in different circumstances. If you have been prescribed dihydrocodeine and have concerns or are experiencing side effects, speak with your doctor about other ways you can treat your cough, or go here for more information on managing cough.

When should I see my doctor?

If your cough is not well-controlled on dihydrocodeine or you have any unexpected side effects, see your doctor.

It’s important to remember that cough is a symptom of COVID-19 infection, so if you are feeling unwell, stay home and seek medical advice via telehealth consultation.

Check your symptoms with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Symptom Checker.

Find information on accessing health services during coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

How do I dispose of medicines safely?

It is important you dispose of unwanted opioid medicines safely — unused medicines can be returned to any pharmacy. Don't keep unused dihydrocodeine 'just in case' since this can lead to inappropriate use.

Keep dihydrocodeine out of reach of children and pets. Never throw medicines into a garbage bin or flush them down the toilet — this is dangerous to others and harmful to the environment.

Resources and support

Asking about your treatment or medication is important to help you understand your options. Here's a guide to questions to ask your pharmacist or doctor before taking a medicine.

You can also see this list of medicines that contain dihydrocodeine to read the Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) leaflet for the brand prescribed, or you can:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: January 2021

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