Codeine Addiction Signs, Symptoms and Treatment
Codeine is a relatively weak opioid painkiller – similar in chemical structure to morphine, but with just a fraction of its potency. It is used in the treatment of mild to moderately severe pain and can be obtained in some countries without a prescription.
Often, codeine is combined with aspirin or acetaminophen to augment its effectiveness. Some prescription cough suppressant formulations may also contain codeine.
Identify the Signs of Codeine Addiction
Codeine is commonly prescribed as a painkiller because it is relatively mild when compared with many other opioid painkillers, and its side effects are less severe.
Risk of addiction to codeine increases with long-term usage. Anyone who has a loved one using codeine regularly should be aware of the signs and symptoms of codeine addiction. If you have been taking codeine for any reason, it is also helpful to monitor whether your codeine use has developed into an addiction.
The course of a codeine addiction may vary from person to person, but there are a few key characteristics that many addicted individuals will exhibit1:
Tolerance to the effects of codeine may occur relatively quickly after taking it, and can drive an individual to take ever-increasing doses to overcome it.
Preoccupation with getting more codeine.
If you struggle with codeine, you may fixate on how you can obtain more of the drug, even without having any medical need for it. You may even become angry or frustrated when you are unable to acquire the drug.
If you are addicted to codeine, you may continue to use codeine even when you no longer require the medication. You might even go to extreme lengths to acquire a prescription – including traveling to different doctors or using different pharmacies.
Withdrawal is a hallmark of physical dependence and addiction. If you are addicted to codeine, you will experience withdrawal symptoms when you are no longer able to use the drug anymore (i.e., when your prescription runs out).
Some additional signs of codeine addiction can include:
- Loss of appetite and weight loss.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Less interest in previously enjoyed activities.
- Cold sweats, clammy hands and feet.
- Poor physical coordination.
- Mood swings.
- Changes in sleeping patterns.2
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Long-Term Effects of Abuse
Chronic codeine abuse, over time, may give rise to many detrimental, potentially life-threatening side effects. These side effects vary from person to person and could be any combination of the following3-5:
- Sleep disorders (such as sleep apnea).
- Constipation and other bowel dysfunctions.
- If abused intravenously, increased risk of infectious diseases (HIV, hepatitis B and C).
- Irregular heart rhythms.
Any time you become dependent on a physically addictive substance, you are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using.
Withdrawal symptoms for codeine users can range anywhere from mild to severe.
While codeine withdrawal symptoms can feel extremely uncomfortable, they are usually not life-threatening. Long-time users of codeine or users with existing health problems will likely experience more dramatic withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms can include any of the following6:
- Mood swings.
- Restlessness, insomnia.
- Runny nose, watery eyes.
- Nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting.
- Loss of appetite and weight loss.
- Aches and pains.
Most Americans are unaware of the detrimental effect codeine abuse can take on their health and their lives. Codeine is easily accessible and in some countries can even be obtained without a prescription.
Stress is believed to be a driving factor for a large percentage of codeine addictions.
Abuse of codeine can be said to occur at the point that people begin to neglect the directives set forth by their doctor or pharmacist. As with any other prescription medication, addiction can be defined as continued, compulsive abuse of the substance despite the sometimes numerous adverse consequences that begin to mount.
What Is the Goal of Codeine Addiction Treatment?
The purpose of codeine addiction treatment is to assist with physical detox of the drug and to also treat the psychological aspect of patients’ addictions. In this way, addiction recovery facilities help patients understand why they abuse codeine and how to change behaviors.
Facilities also help patients build a strong support system for their recovery.
What Happens When You Start an Addiction Treatment Program?
When you enter a codeine addiction treatment facility, you can expect to undergo a multi-stepped treatment process. Some of the main phases you’ll encounter are:
- Intake assessment.
- Physical Detox.
- Rehabilitation through group and individual counseling.
- Aftercare planning and aftercare program participation.
First, you will meet with an intake counselor who helps assess the nature and extent of your addiction, your medical history and your insurance coverage to create a treatment program that is best suited for your needs.
Afterwards, you will proceed to physical detox, where you will be carefully supervised by medical professionals while your body gets rid of any remaining traces of the drug.
The next phase of treatment involves a combination of group and individual psychotherapy sessions.
At some point during the course of treatment, case workers and other members of your treatment team will begin to assist you with aftercare planning to continue your recovery efforts once the initial treatment duration has ended.
Types of Addiction Treatment Facilities
Most drug rehab facilities fall into one of three categories:
- Luxury treatment.
- Executive treatment.
- Standard treatment.
Luxury treatment facilities offer addiction treatment in a 24/7 residential care setting that also provides a number of plush, resort-like amenities. These extra amenities help make the duration of your recovery process more comfortable.
Executive treatment facilities offer a very similar treatment structure to that of luxury programs, but they additionally cater to busy professionals – providing the resources and treatment structure that lets these individuals maintain an active involvement at work during their treatment.
Standard treatment facilities provide the same quality addiction treatment as luxury and executive programs – only without all the extra amenities. As a result, these programs are often present more affordable options for those seeking addiction treatment.
Standard addiction rehabilitation may occur in either an inpatient or an outpatient setting. Both types of programs have their own advantages and disadvantages, and there are specialized options for treatment within each program type.
- Individuals suffering from more serious forms of addiction.
- Individuals who have been struggling with addiction for a long time.
- Individuals who have previously been in a rehab program and relapsed.
Get Help for Codeine Abuse
You don’t have to continue living with codeine abuse and addiction. Treatment is available that can help you turn your life around. Contact us today at 1-888-744-0789 Who Answers? to learn more about your options or to get started making the changes that are necessary to let go of codeine abuse and start a new life.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5). American Psychiatric Association: Arlington, VA.
- Drug addiction. Mayo Clinic.
- Risks of long term opioid use. University of Utah Health Care Pain Center.
- Prescription drug abuse: what are the possible consequences of opioid use and abuse? (2014). National Institute on Drug Abuse.
- Ali et al. (2015). The mental health consequences of nonmedical prescription drug use among adolescents. J Mental Health Policy Econ., 18(1), 3-15.
- Kosten, T. R., O’Connor, P. G. (2003). Management of drug and alcohol withdrawal. New England Journal of Medicine, 348: 1786-95.