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codeine
July 20, 2018

Signs of a Codeine Addiction


Opiate addiction is a plague in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 14 of every 100,000 U.S. residents died of opiate-related causes in 2016. A country of 350 million people quickly inflates those numbers to an epidemic. There are many types of opiates and while most are aware of the dangers and pains a heroin or morphine addiction can bring – other opiates play their part in the epidemic too, like codeine.

Codeine isn’t as powerful as Fentanyl or OxyContin, but it’s an opiate nonetheless and causes serious consequences if abused. Let’s learn about codeine addiction including an overview of the drug, signs of an addiction, questions to ask yourself, and what to do if you’re addicted.

What is Codeine?

Codeine is an opiate, meaning its derived from opium found in the poppy plant. While most opiates are prescribed to lessen pain, codeine is commonly found in cough medicines to help suppress a cough. Codeine is synthesized into morphine by the liver then travels through the body, providing cough suppression and minor pain relief.

For several decades codeine was available in several over-the-counter cough medicines and other medications but can now only be purchased in the United States with a doctor’s prescription. The drug was discovered in 1832 by Pierre Jean Robiquet and is considered an essential medicine by the World Health Organization.

What are Signs of a Codeine Addiction?

If you suspect someone has a codeine action, there are tell-tale signs you can look for. Since codeine is an opiate, those taking codeine will show symptoms of an opiate high including:

  • Itching and scratching
  • Erratic mood swings, high highs on the drug and low lows when they’re withdrawing
  • ‘Nodding Off.’ Opiate users will seem drowsy and may fade in and out of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Changes in behavior, routines, and patterns

There are many other signs and symptoms of opiate addiction but if many of these signs are popping up in you or a loved one’s life – there may be a problem.

Codeine Withdrawal

Opiates are one of the most addictive drugs on the market due to the highs and quickly-building tolerances. After only a few regular doses of codeine, your brain and body will expect it and may panic when you cut off its supply. Codeine withdrawal, also known as being ‘dopesick’ presents itself in several symptoms including fever, aches and pains, insomnia, restlessness, mood swings, and more.

Questions You Can Ask Yourself

If you’re unsure if you’re a codeine addict or not, ask yourself these following questions:

  • Have you ever taken codeine when not sick?
  • Have you ever bought codeine illegally?
  • Have you ever told yourself you’d stop, but then went right back to the drug?
  • Have you ever hidden your codeine use?
  • Have you ever suffered withdrawal symptoms including fever, aches, stomach and GI issues, mood swings, depression, anxiety, or trouble sleeping?

If you answered yes to just one of those questions, you may have a problem. It’s easy to think of codeine as harmless since overdoses from the drug are rarer than their more powerful cousins like fentanyl or morphine, but it still creates issues.

cough syrup

How Harmful is a Codeine Addiction?

Codeine isn’t as powerful and deadly as other opiates like heroin, methadone, or fentanyl, but it brings many harmful effects with it regardless. Like any other opiate, codeine is a depressant, which means it depresses the stimulation in your central nervous system. Consuming large amounts of codeine or taking codeine without a prescription can cause lethargy, shallow breathing, dangerously low blood pressure, coma, and even death. Make no mistake, a codeine overdose can kill you.

Is Codeine a Gateway Drug?

There are many myths surrounding gateway drugs but codeine as a gateway drug is plausible for one reason – tolerance. Opiate tolerance builds up quickly and before long, those handfuls of codeine pills or glasses of special syrup won’t do anything for you. In fact, you’ll begin to need codeine just to feel normal. Codeine addicts seeking to get back to the high they once felt might turn to more powerful opiates and continue the dangerous path down addiction.

There aren’t many dedicated studies that explore the path from codeine to stronger opiates but anyone in the treatment community can tell you codeine as a gateway drug is not a far-flung theory. 

What does a Codeine Addict ‘Look’ Like?

Codeine addiction can affect anyone regardless of their status or station. It’s easy to think of codeine addiction as confined to teenagers looking for a cheap high, but everyone from your garbage man to your insurance agent can become a codeine addict.

Codeine addiction is, however, more prominent in young people, due to the ease of attaining codeine compared to more powerful opiates. Lean, also known as Purple Drank, is a party drink filled with codeine-based cough syrup and has become popular in middle school and high-school age groups.

Though codeine is often abused by the younger generation, codeine is an opiate, and all opiates set a risk for addiction. Regardless of your age, if you think you have a codeine addiction – it’s time to fix it.

Turning the Addiction Around

If you or a loved one is addicted to codeine and if you’ve tried but failed to kick the habit, you may need professional help. Codeine addiction is tough to beat by itself due to the pain of withdrawal and a lack of support, but you can find both at a reputable treatment center.

The modern treatment center or detox facility uses a combination of pharmaceuticals, diet, exercise, counseling, and other methods to slowly wean you off codeine or other opiates in a comfortable, safe environment. Modern treatment centers also offer post-treatment plans and further resources to help you continue down your path to recovery once you’ve left them.

There are both concrete and vague signs of codeine addiction, but no opiate addiction can hide forever. If you or a loved one has been experiencing the signs of codeine addiction found above, it’s time to change things with the help of treatment.