Plasma concentrations of codeine and its demethylated metabolite, morphine, were determined after single and repeated oral administration of codeine. Twelve healthy volunteers received two doses of codeine 60 mg, 2.8 h apart. In order to achieve steady-state conditions codeine 60 mg was then taken every 8 h for a further five doses. The plasma concentrations of codeine and morphine after the first, second and seventh doses were analyzed by GC-MS. The maximum plasma concentrations of codeine and morphine were reached about 1 h after administration and this time interval did not change on repeated administration. The peak plasma codeine was higher after the second dose of codeine than after the first and the concentration resembled that at steady-state. For morphine, the plasma concentration did not increase significantly after the second dose. Both after a single dose and during steady-state the plasma concentration of morphine was only 2-3% of that of codeine. It seems unlikely that morphine plays a significant role in the analgesic efficacy of single or repeated doses of codeine.