Codeine Addiction – Abuse, Effects, Treatment & Recovery
What is codeine?
Codeine is an opiate used for mild to moderate pain relief. It is well known due to its presence in some cough syrups and its glorification in popular culture over the past two decades. Like other opiates, codeine is an addictive drug and should only be taken as prescribed by medical professionals.
While its inclusion in cough syrup is mostly for suppression of cough symptoms, there is a lack of evidence that supports that it has this ability. Codeine is actually a more effective medication for treating diarrhea and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Codeine works by reverting to morphine in the liver. Once broken down, the morphine triggers the brain’s reward center, alleviating pain symptoms and providing the user with feelings of pleasure and euphoria.
- Codeine is the most commonly used opiate.
- Codeine makes up about 2% of opium.
- It is estimated that 33 million people use codeine every year.
- Street names for codeine include Cody, Captain Cody, Little C, and Schoolboy.
- For Tylenol with codeine, street names include T1, T2, T3, T4, and ‘dors and fours’.
- Codeine syrup mixed with soda can have street names such as lean, purple drank, sizzurp, or Texas tea.
- Teen substance abuse and addiction to substances are high in the US. A 2018 study showed that almost 700,000 US teens misused opioid pain medication.
Codeine & opiate dependence, addiction & substance abuse
Codeine is an opiate and has the potential to become addictive. The addictive effects of codeine have meant that cough syrups containing the drug have been removed from drug-store shelves and are now only available over the counter.
Some countries are known to monitor customers’ purchases of medications that contain codeine to mitigate any health risks associated with physical dependence or substance abuse. In the US, the extent of legal restriction on medications containing codeine depends on how much of the drug it contains. Depending on how high of a concentration of codeine it has, cough syrups can be either Schedule III or V.
How does someone develop a dependence or addiction to codeine?
A dependence or addiction to opiates can occur before a person even realizes it, even without so-called ‘gateway drugs’. A person’s health level and body chemistry largely decide the extent of someone’s reaction to codeine and whether they will develop a physical dependence or addiction to codeine medication. Some people break down the drug faster than others, meaning that the morphine produced will overwhelm the brain’s reward system within a shorter period.
Opiate addiction and physical dependence is a historic health issue that has been present for many years. There has been a large amount of research into the medications and drugs themselves, as well as their effects on physical and mental health, their symptoms, and the treatment of addiction.
Symptoms and health effects of codeine use
Short-term health effects of codeine use
Codeine use usually starts with the intention of pain reduction or suppression of cough symptoms, with a legitimate prescription from a doctor or health care professional. However, because codeine is less intensely regulated than other, stronger opioids such as morphine and fentanyl, it can be relatively easy to acquire if a person develops a physical dependence or wants to abuse codeine medications—even without professional referrals.
Codeine use symptoms often include:
Common side effects and physical symptoms of codeine addiction include:
Serious side effects may include breathing difficulties, and after long-term use—addiction and dependency.
Long-term health effects and risk of codeine addiction
Because it is an opiate, there is a high risk of codeine users developing an addiction or tolerance to the drug, which can quickly lead to physical dependence or substance abuse. While many codeine users are using the drug legitimately, it is often abused by those who begin to develop a tolerance. Codeine is known for its physical effects and pain-killing benefits, but many turn to the drug to cope with emotional and psychological pain as well—this is often where dependence on the drug begins to take hold and negative health effects start to emerge.
Abuse or dependence on codeine can be extremely dangerous for the user’s health. Common symptoms of substance abuse or dependence on the drug include:
- Stomach pain
- Respiratory failure
- Fatality (if taken in high enough doses)
The health risks become even higher if the drug is combined with alcohol or other drugs.
Other potential effects or risks from codeine abuse
Unfortunately, many people combine their codeine use with other substances in an attempt to reach a greater high. Central nervous system (CNS) depressants such as alcohol and other opiates are common choices for those looking to add to their substance abuse, which can cause extreme health risks, including psychological symptoms like mental health disorders and/or respiratory failure. This can mean that victims of addiction may have to seek multiple types of drug abuse treatment—not just opioid addiction treatment (alcoholism treatment, for example)—to overcome their addiction.
Signs of codeine addiction – short and long-term use
People may develop an addiction to codeine after continued use and/or abuse of the drug. Codeine users often get a false sense of security because codeine is not considered as powerful or addictive as other opiate family members such as heroin.
Regardless of its potency, every opioid (including codeine) has the potential for causing dependency and addiction because they all affect the brain in the same way. The effect of opioids on the brain is called neuroadaptation.
Our body produces endorphins naturally as a response to various stimuli: pain, pleasure, stress, excitement, etc. Endorphins reduce pain and cause a feeling of relaxation. Opioids have the same effect—they affect endorphin receptors, causing the body to adapt over time and stop producing natural endorphins. As more opioids are introduced into the body, more endorphin receptors are created, which in turn demand more opioids. This creates a self-perpetuating cycle of demand and supply. A person’s need for more opioids creates a powerful neuro-biological craving, a constant demand for more opioids.
Some signs of codeine abuse, dependence, or addiction include:
- Slurred speech
- Short attention span
- Impaired judgment
- Dilated pupils
- Lack of coordination
- Apathetic behavior
Long term signs of codeine abuse, dependence, or addiction include:
- Impaired memory
- Liver damage
- Kidney damage
- Muscle spasms
- Codeine withdrawal symptoms
As with other opiates, prolonged use of codeine can cause dependence on the substance. If you, a loved one, or someone you know is exhibiting these signs, it is advised that codeine addiction treatment is sought so that addiction recovery can begin as soon as possible and the danger of opioid overdose can be avoided.
Codeine overdose in the United States
Although codeine isn’t as strong as some other opiates, overdose is still very much possible when the abuse or dependence occurs. Opiates work by depressing the central nervous system, which is essential to the proper function of the brain, respiratory system, and heart. An overdose of codeine can cause breathing to slow significantly—fatally reducing the supply of oxygen to the brain and causing a rapid degeneration or death of brain cells. Symptoms of this process can have fatal side effects such as coma, seizure, and brain damage.
In a 2016 report conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths due to opioid use disorders and overdose have increased by 200% since 2000. If someone is showing symptoms of overdose, contact emergency services immediately by calling 911.
Prescription pain medications & codeine
To make it more effective, codeine is often combined with paracetamol (Acetaminophen) or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
Because of its effectiveness in relieving symptoms of mild to moderate pain and cough, codeine can be found in a variety of pain medications and prescription drugs. Common medications that contain codeine include:
- Codeine sulfate
- Butalbital, Acetaminophen, Caffeine, and codeine phosphate
- Fiorinal with codeine
- Soma Compound with codeine
- Tylenol with codeine
- Promethazine with codeine
- Prometh VC with codeine
- Tuxarin ER
- Medications that contain Dihydrocodeine
A prescription opioid like codeine comes with a high risk for dependence. Patients can find themselves reliant on the drugs for pain relief or to avoid withdrawal symptoms. When they can’t get these painkillers legally, they often turn to illicit street drugs—despite the risk of overdose, adverse effects, or even death.
Contact ANR Clinic today to learn more about our revolutionary, evidence-based care methods that minimize unwanted effects of codeine addiction and withdrawal symptoms.
ANR treatment was invented by Dr. Andre Waismann. Dr. Waismann identified the biological roots of dependency. Since then, Dr. Waismann and his medical professionals have successfully treated more than 24,000 patients worldwide that are struggling with opioid addiction.
Throughout his career, he has lectured and educated health professionals in dozens of countries around the world to this day.
An addiction that concerns the use of drugs or alcohol is known as substance use disorder, but these are not the only types of addiction. The list of addictions is almost endless. Some of the most common include:
- Internet addiction
- Gambling addiction
- Alcohol addiction
- Cocaine addiction
- Heroin addiction
- Meth addiction
- Prescription drug addiction
- Opioid addiction
Because of the different levels of danger that these types of addiction cause, some may require different levels of care and addiction therapies. Thankfully, there are many addiction recovery and substance use disorder treatment programs available. While some are available free of charge, in other cases, you may need to pay for treatment.
Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) Clinic is a drug addiction treatment center that aims to bring the nervous system back to health and balance by decreasing receptor production in the brain while allowing the body to resume proper levels of endorphin production. ANR also allows the metabolizing and elimination of unnecessary exogenous opioids from the body. The ANR treatment is conducted at various ANR treatment and rehab centers across the country.