Codeine Addiction: Risks, Symptoms and Treatment

Codeine Addiction: Risks, Symptoms and Treatment

Codeine is a narcotic and an opiate in the same family as Morphine, Heroin, Hydrocodone, and Oxycodone. Because it is thought to be less addictive and dangerous than other opiates, codeine is subject to fewer regulations. Thus, it appears in a wide range of medications, including Tylenol 3 with Codeine. Therefore, it is much easier to acquire and potentially misuse codeine than it is to find Morphine or Hydrocodone in large amounts. Despite codeine’s reputation for being less dangerous, however, Codeine addiction is a real problem for people who begin using the drug for pain management and then become hooked.

Who is Most at Risk for Developing an Addiction to Codeine?

Most people are first exposed to codeine through a doctor-prescribed medication. It works similarly to Morphine, with effects that include pain relief, sleepiness, relaxation, and even feelings of euphoria. Some people find these effects very pleasant and want to continue using it to reach the same level of euphoria and relaxation. On the other hand, some people realize they need larger and larger doses to achieve adequate pain relief for chronic conditions. When this happens, they may stop using codeine and seek alternative substances to provide pain relief.

Because codeine addresses all sorts of physical pain, even pain unrelated to the original condition for which it was prescribed, many people use it to dull the aches and pains of daily life. Due to the cognitive and emotional side effects, some people continue using codeine to dull their emotional pain or relax when things get stressful.

Perhaps most disturbingly, partygoers, young adults, and even underage users sometimes combine Codeine cough syrup with soft drinks in a “Purple Drank” mixture to attain a recreational high. These users often consume codeine in high, unregulated doses and are at a particularly elevated risk for overdose.

Is Codeine Dangerous?

Addiction aside, it’s typical to think codeine isn’t harmful since it is a common prescription medication. Many people put it in the same category as safe medications like Tylenol. In fact, codeine carries similar risks to other opiates and can lead to comas, respiratory failure, and death at high doses. Risk of overdose and death is high when someone combines codeine with substances that depress the central nervous system. These could include opioids, alcohol or other depressants.

What are the Symptoms of Codeine Addiction?

Because Codeine use often begins with a legitimate need for pain relief, it can be tough to tell when a patient crosses the line from everyday use into abuse. Some signs that spell trouble include:

  • Increasing doses over time to get the same effects as before
  • Feeling tempted to or mixing codeine with other drugs, especially opioids
  • Taking a dose to numb emotional pain
  • Continuing to take codeine for other pain not associated with the original injury

Do you Need Help Getting Off Codeine or Another Addictive Drug?

Opiates are notoriously challenging to discontinue without help. Starting with opioid detox is essential, but so too is an addiction treatment program afterward. Joining a treatment program, such as the one offered by Clear Life Recovery, gives patients the tools to detox safely, build healthy habits and coping mechanisms, and live a life clear from addiction.

Clear Life Recovery’s opiate addiction program uses nutrition science, physical exercise, proven therapies, and opportunities for various treatment paths to help each patient recover on their terms. If you’re struggling with codeine or another addictive drug, give us a call or use our online contact form.

About Benjamin Hogan

Over the years, Benjamin has held positions in many different areas of alcohol and drug addiction services all over the country. He made a name for himself as an interventionist and has held certification as a Certified National Drug and Alcohol Interventionist (CNDAI-II). Benjamin specializes in helping support families of people struggling with addiction by focusing on education and instilling healthy boundaries to ensure lasting changes. Addiction is a progressive disease, but using an evidence-based approach, an intervention, when done correctly, can help to increase the willingness of a loved one to seek sobriety faster.

"In my experience, by helping families make necessary changes, they not only get their lives back, but they also help change the mind of their loved one more quickly. In an intervention, family and other loved ones take a proactive approach, instead of waiting and being stuck between fear and (false) hope. I realized in my own recovery, that when my family changed, I had to change in response. That is where I found sobriety. This is why I believe in what I do!"