Acetaminophen with codeine is a prescription pain medication. An overdose occurs when someone takes too much of this drug. An overdose is very dangerous and can be fatal. The Partnership for a Drug Free America says that these overdoses kill more than 400 people and hospitalize 42,000 in the U.S. every year (DrugFree.org, 2012).
If you think you or someone you know may have overdosed, call 911 or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately. Be ready to tell first-responders:
- the name of the medicine the person ingested
- the person’s weight and age
- how much medicine was taken
- when the medicine was taken
- if the medicine was prescribed to the person who took it
Acetaminophen with codeine has many names. Some of them include:
- Capital® & Codeine
- Combiflex® ES
- EZ III®
- Margesic® #3
- Tylenol® with Codeine (#2, #3, #4)
The prescribed dose of acetaminophen with codeine is based on your weight, age, and how much pain you are experiencing. If you take more than you are prescribed, you could overdose.
If you take too much of the medicine, the chemicals in the drug can cause you to not think clearly. You can help remember when to take your medicines and how much to take by:
- making notes on a calendar
- keeping medicines in a weekly pill organizer
- asking someone to remind you
Some people may take acetaminophen with codeine because it makes them feel high. This is not a safe use of this medicine. Only people who have been prescribed acetaminophen with codeine should take it, and it should always be taken exactly as prescribed.
Keep medicines out of reach of children. Ask your pharmacist for childproof packaging.
A breastfeeding baby can overdose on acetaminophen with codeine if his or her mother is taking the medicine. Nursing mothers taking acetaminophen with codeine should consider bottle-feeding their babies. If this is not possible, they should immediately call 911 or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 if their baby:
- is more drowsy than usual
- has difficulty breastfeeding
- has difficulty breathing
- has pale skin
Symptoms of acetaminophen with codeine overdose include:
- shrunken pupils
- shallow breathing
- slow breathing
- heavy sweating
- cold, clammy skin
- nausea and vomiting
- pale skin
Call 911 or Poison Control and listen carefully to their instructions. They may send emergency medical care. Someone who has overdosed on acetaminophen with codeine could be sent to the hospital.
Hospital treatments include:
- activated charcoal
- artificial respiration
- intravenous fluids
- a tube through the mouth into the stomach (“stomach pumping”)
People who have overdosed on acetaminophen with codeine may also receive two medicines to reverse the effect of the drugs:
- N-acetyl cysteine
The faster you get medical help, the sooner you will recover. Recovery can take a day or two.
If the liver is affected, recovery could take longer. Long-term liver damage is possible because toxins are released into your system when chemicals used with acetaminophen break down.
Codeine can be habit-forming. Taking too much codeine can cause:
- sexual dysfunction
Long term use can cause dependency and addiction to the drug. If you think you are addicted to codeine, you should see your doctor right away to discuss your treatment and rehabilitation options.
To avoid an overdose and protect others:
- only take medication prescribed for you
- follow your doctor’s orders and dosage instructions
- keep all medicines out of reach of children.