Need help with codeine addiction throughout England and Wales? Help4Addiction are the UK’s leading resource for those who need rehab.
We have gathered everything you need to know about overcoming your codeine addiction, below.
What is Codeine?
Codeine is a prescription painkiller. It is a drug derived from opiates, meaning that it shares a family with heroin, morphine, and hydrocodone. It will only ever be prescribed to you when regular painkillers aren’t strong enough to do the job of numbing your pain.
The NHS are aware that codeine is an addictive painkiller, but it is also the most effective at treating pain. Here in the UK, it is available on prescription but will only be issued for a few weeks at a time. Since codeine blocks the pain signals your body sends to your brain, it is highly addictive. Your doctor may want to wean you off codeine if you form an addiction to prescription painkillers like this.
How is Codeine taken?
It is often prescribed in pill form, although it can be given orally or intravenously in hospital. Street variations include a drink called “Purple Drank” which is codeine mixed with cough syrup.
What are the Effects of Codeine Use?
When you use codeine, the first thing you will notice is that it treats your pain. It does not take your pain away, but it interrupts the communication between your pain centres and receptors in your brain.
When you first take codeine, it might make you dizzy or relaxed. It can cause you to be drowsy and the doctor will tell you to avoid physical exertion while you are taking it, since physical exertion can make you nauseous.
If taken continuously or in large doses, codeine use will make you feel and look like you are falling asleep. It will cause confusion, itchiness and even constipation. Continue using it and you will need more and more codeine to achieve the same painkilling effects. Codeine is known to cause life-threatening breathing and respiratory issues if you continue using it beyond the prescribed time period. Put simply: codeine addiction can kill you.
What’s Codeine Abuse?
The difference between taking a prescription medication and abusing a prescription medication lies in the prescription itself. If you are prescribed three painkillers per day and you take four, this constitutes substance abuse. Imagine you took that extra pill every day for a month, and you will start to see how an unhealthy habit can form.
Is Codeine Addiction the Same as Codeine Abuse?
Codeine addiction and codeine abuse are slightly different. You can abuse codeine without forming an addiction, but if you repeatedly abuse it, an addiction will surely follow, particularly if you are self-medicating.
An example of codeine abuse might be taking them at a party when your friend is passing them around. You might use codeine one night a month to help you relax or take a half dozen pills in one go to get ‘high’. This is abuse but not necessarily and addiction to prescription painkillers.
On the other hand, if you take codeine every day, you are probably on the addiction scale. If you struggle to get through situations without it, if you feel imaginary pains (visiting the doctor or dentist to be told there’s nothing wrong with you) then this might well mean your brain is causing psychosomatic pains so that you can get more codeine for it.
Usually, if you abuse a substance repeatedly enough it will become an addiction. In the world of opiates, that addiction can form after just one use.
Signs of Codeine Use
If you suspect someone you love is suffering from a codeine addiction, or that they are addicted to prescription medications, look out for the following signs:
- Secretive behaviour – they want more time on their own, they hide things from you, they act oddly when you walk into the room.
- Lack of Cash Flow – if your loved one has a great job and no money, but no obvious reason to have no money, then a codeine addiction could explain it.
- Multiple doctor surgery memberships – if you have a codeine addiction, you either buy it on the black market or you visit multiple doctor’s surgeries to have prescriptions filled.
- Less than reputable company – if your loved one suddenly starts hanging around with a bad crowd, it could mean addiction is brewing.
Taken individually, these behavioural clues don’t add up to much. Altogether, or one or more, and you should have a conversation about addiction. If needs be, you can stage an intervention to help them.
Symptoms of Being on Codeine
Just like you can look for the signs of a codeine addiction, you can spot the symptoms that someone has used it if you know them well. If you think your friend, husband, wife, son, daughter, or work colleague, is addicted to codeine, look for these symptoms of being an addict:
- Sleepiness – look out for sleepiness at odd times of the day, or even all day long.
- Nausea – again, nausea at odd times of the day or vomiting often can be a sign of codeine use.
- Confusion – the most common psychological sign of codeine use is the confusion.
- Slurred speech – if you are on codeine, talking becomes difficult.
- Irregular appetite is a sign of both codeine use and codeine withdrawal.
Opioid/Codeine Use Statistics in the UK
In recent studies, codeine was found to be the most commonly prescribed opiate in the UK. Between 2006 and 2017, one study found nearly 2 million new users of opioid medications. 57% of the participants were female and the use increased five-fold over the 11 year period. In 2020, Manchester University found that there had been a ‘dramatic’ escalation in the use of opioids over a similar decade long period.
It seems that the opioid crisis in the USA didn’t serve as the warning to British medical establishments that it should have. Ultimately opioid use will eventually lead to overdose. Just like with heroin, Naltrexone can be prescribed but it is damaging. The chances are that an untreated codeine addiction will eventually kill you if you keep it up.
Other Opiates in the Codeine Family
What is Purple Drank?
When you mix codeine with Promethazine cough syrup, then add sprite or alcohol, you get the street drug known as purple drank. This is a better tasting way to take your codeine, which is what makes it so dangerous. That, and the interaction with the alcohol, of course. Purple Drank is also called “Lean” in some circles.
How to Recover from Codeine Addiction?
If you want help to treat your own addiction, then you’ve come to the right place. Here are the stages of recovery, explained.
Detoxification from Codeine
The first stage, after deciding to quit using drugs, is to get the help you need to detox. You can’t recover from a drug addiction if you don’t get detox for that addiction. This stage involves cessation of codeine use and waiting for your body to be free of the chemicals so that you can begin rehab.
Rehab for Codeine Addiction
Rehab for codeine addiction uses all manner of therapies to get you off the drug and keep you from taking it again. These therapies will include psychotherapies, talking therapies, and one-on-one consultations as well as group work. Rehab blends these therapies with a healthy diet, a good exercise regime, and several education workshops designed to get you back to normal.
After you leave rehab but before you return to normal life, a good centre will give you the option of getting secondary treatment. This smooths that crucial transition period over, allowing you the best of both worlds in terms of support until you are ready to manage on your own.
Secondary treatment might mean attending group sessions, using telephone helplines, and attending educational classes to help you find work.
Codeine Withdrawal: What to Expect?
Codeine withdrawal is no easy thing to get through. It is best done in a medical setting with the support of doctors and nurses. Codeine withdrawal will start within 48 hours of your quitting and will worsen steadily for the first few weeks of sobriety. Eventually the symptoms will dissipate, and you will become a former addict.
Some codeine withdrawal symptoms are:
- Severe anxiety
- Sweating and shaking
- Yawning non-stop
- Intense cravings coupled with anxiety and anger
- Runny nose and tearing up eyes
Free Consultation on Codeine Addiction
If you suspect that you are suffering from a codeine addiction, you can get the help you need by calling our team. We offer free consultations with no-obligation, which allow you to get help to recover from your addiction in a rehab clinic near you. Call now, on 0203 955 7700 to get started.