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What are the Pros and Cons of Taking Phenergan with Codeine?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Promethazine or phenergan with codeine is a cough preparation that combines the pain-relieving and antitussive benefits of codeine with an antihistamine that promotes sleep. The pros of taking this medicine include that it may help with severe cough at night while creating better sleep; it may be superior to other codeine cough formulas because it is less likely to cause nausea, and most doctors will prescribe it freely. Some cons of phenergan with codeine are that it interacts with many other medications or certain health conditions, codeine is addictive and the cough mixture has potentially dangerous side effects.

Though doctors are not sure it is always beneficial, many will willingly prescribe phenergan with codeine for children or adults, if cough interferes with sleep. The drug is occasionally prescribed for patients with persistent allergies, due to the antihistamine effects of phenergan. In these instances, it’s not always clear the medication is appropriate, especially since long time use, as opposed to brief use for a bad cough, runs a greater risk of establishing a dependency.

The combination of codeine and phenergan is beneficial. Phenergan or promethazine is used alone to treat severe nausea and vomiting, or to prevent these symptoms in people who take other drugs that cause nausea like codeine and many other pain relievers. There are codeine cough syrup preparations, like ones that contain guaifenesin, but these don’t address codeine’s potential to cause nausea and may be used less often.

The cons of phenergan with codeine are extensive. Many medications can severely interact with this cough syrup. Any drugs that create sedation like tranquilizers, antidepressants, pain relievers, additional antihistamines, barbiturates, and several others pose a risk. The risk gets higher if several drugs are used together, such as an antidepressant, tranquilizer, opiate pain reliever and phenergan with codeine.

Most of these drugs cause some central nervous system depression, and when combined they can lead to massive sedation and cessation of breathing. Due to the risk, patients should be certain to review all medications they take with a physician prior to accepting a prescription for phenergan with codeine. At the same time, it’s also advised that people discuss with their doctors any current medical conditions, since use of promethazine and codeine may be contraindicated by them. For example, the medicine may be ill-advised in patients who have autoimmune diseases, hypothyroidism, prostate dysfunction, asthma, epilepsy, kidney or liver disease, any present injury to the brain, or who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or nursing.

Another concern is that codeine is addictive. To counter this, it should never be used for long periods of time, unless to treat chronic pain, or for conditions for which it was not prescribed. Patients should speak to their doctors if they find themselves using more of the medicine than prescribed or using it for longer than necessary.

Even when used as directed, phenergan with codeine can have potentially dangerous side effects, including life-threatening anaphylactic shock. Other serious side effects are decreased breathing, an abnormally slow heartbeat, hallucinations, and flulike symptoms that present with rapidly beating heart, fever, profuse perspiration, and stiffness in the muscles. Additionally, people may feel extremely faint, develop jaundice or have uncontrollable muscle movements. Any of these symptoms require immediate medical attention.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

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Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia...
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