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Codeine addiction, like with any other drug addiction, can take over your life. Not only can addiction impact your well-being, but it can affect your physical health too.

If you are addicted to codeine, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible. However, the first step is learning about codeine addiction.

That’s what we’ll be covering on this page. Continue reading to learn more about codeine addiction, including what codeine is and what to expect from codeine withdrawal.

We’ll also be exploring what codeine addiction treatment involves, and how we can help you overcome your addiction.

What is Codeine?

Codeine is a prescription drug and belongs to the opiate group of medicines known as opiates. Like many prescription drugs, codeine affects the central nervous system.

Opioid drugs cause the brain to block certain signals to the rest of your body. Codeine binds to opioid receptors within your CNS (central nervous system). This helps to relieve pain and lower your reaction to pain.

Typically, codeine comes in a pill form – however, it can also come as a liquid that you swallow. In some cases, you may be given a codeine injection. However, these are only usually given in hospital settings.

As well as making you feel relaxed and relieving pain, codeine can also have negative effects – especially when you abuse codeine. Like all prescription drugs, codeine should be taken as per the doctor’s instructions.

You may experience side effects when taking codeine – for example, codeine can make you feel constipated. As you develop a tolerance to codeine, the side effects likely won’t resolve.

Likewise, you could also experience nausea or vomiting when taking codeine. However, this will likely cease after a few days of your body getting used to the codeine.

Doctors don’t usually recommend that you take codeine while pregnant. This is because it can increase the risk of heart defects and spina bifida in the baby. However, further research is required to support this. The majority of babies born to people who take codeine don’t experience long-term effects.

Some other common effects of codeine include blurred vision, cramps in the abdomen, weakness, tremors, fatigue, and general weakness. You might also experience sexual dysfunction or decreased libido, which could lead to marital issues or problems within your relationship. 

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When Would You Be Prescribed Codeine?

If you are experiencing moderate pain, medical professionals may prescribe codeine as a form of pain relief.

As codeine affects your central nervous system, it can leave you feeling relaxed and relieve pain. It can be used to treat mild to moderate pain and relieve the anxiety and stress associated with pain.

You can use codeine to treat pains that other painkillers (for example ibuprofen or paracetamol) fail to relieve. As well as being used to relieve pain, codeine can also be used to treat diarrhoea.

The recommended dose when using codeine to treat acute diarrhoea is 30mg three or four times a day. However, you may be prescribed high doses of up to 60mg.

You may also be given codeine if you have a particularly dry or painful cough. In this instance, you may take it via the mouth through a linctus. The recommended dose for this is 15-30mg three or four times a day.

Follow your doctor’s instructions on using codeine to treat mild to moderately severe pain. Doing so will ensure safe use of codeine. Codeine classes as an opioid drug – and opioids are known as pain relievers.

Codeine is an addictive substance, so be sure to take it with caution – taking codeine for a long period of time can lead to codeine addiction and codeine dependence.

This means you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms if you lower your dose or if you stop taking codeine. Read on to learn more about codeine withdrawal.

Codeine Addiction Explained

Drug addiction falls under the term ‘substance use disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5-TR), substance use disorder is characterised by:

If you are displaying these signs of codeine addiction, then you should consider addressing the problem and seeking expert advice.

Many people believe that just because they are prescribed the drug by a doctor, it is safe and not addictive. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case – as codeine is an addictive, habit-forming drug that can result in physical cravings and psychological cravings, as well as withdrawal symptoms.

The longer or more frequently you take codeine for, the more you may build up a tolerance. This can lead to you taking more codeine to feel the same effect – which can quickly develop into physical dependence.

Codeine addiction can be difficult to overcome. This is why it’s so important that you receive the professional support you need. This is something we can help with at Help4Addiction – we firmly believe that everybody deserves their best chance at sobriety.

Codeine Abuse

Codeine abuse is a form of prescription drug abuse. If a doctor prescribes you codeine, it’s important that you follow your doctor’s instructions when taking it.

Codeine abuse can include taking a higher dose than recommended, taking codeine more frequently than recommended, or mixing codeine with other prescription drugs, street drugs or alcohol to increase the effects.

Be sure to avoid illegal prescription opioid sales – this is a form of prescription drug abuse and can increase the risk of addiction.

Abusing codeine can also increase the risk of overdose. In 2020, there were 212 deaths in England and Wales from codeine drug poisoning. Likewise, if you abuse codeine frequently, you increase the risk of developing a physical dependence on the substance.

There are many risks of opioid abuse and addiction, including parental prescription opioid abuse. A study explored the characteristics of parents who abused opioids, and which characteristics had greater impairment in their children.

The mean BIS score of 24 children was found to be 15.5. Greater child BIS scores were linked with parental characteristics such as sourcing prescription drugs through illicit means, having an arrest history, having prior substance abuse episodes, and using drugs intravenously.

Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms

Because codeine is an addictive substance, and it is possible to develop codeine dependence, you may experience codeine withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking codeine – or when you drastically lower your usual dose.

If you’re currently taking codeine and you want to stop, discuss this with your doctor or healthcare professional. Your doctor should tell you how to reduce the dose gradually and safely.

However, it can be difficult to stop taking opioids such as codeine – which is why we can find you the right opioid addiction treatment for you.

Codeine withdrawal symptoms are often comorbid with other opioid withdrawal symptoms. However, the withdrawal symptoms you experience can depend on a variety of factors – including the severity of your addiction, the length of your addiction, whether you’re taking other medications, and personal circumstances such as your height or weight.

Some people will experience mild withdrawal symptoms, whereas others may experience particularly unpleasant symptoms.

When withdrawing from codeine, you may experience a range of physical, behavioural and psychological symptoms. This means you may have psychological or emotional responses to withdrawal, as well as physical reactions. Some examples of codeine withdrawal symptoms include:

What To Expect From Codeine Addiction Treatment

Knowing what to expect from codeine addiction treatment can ease your mind, and help you make your decision going forward.

Many people prefer to undergo residential rehab – as an inpatient, you will reside in the rehab facility throughout your course of treatment. Your sessions will be in the same place, with meals and accommodation provided as part of the overall cost of rehab.

However, others prefer outpatient addiction treatment programs. This may be a better option for you if you have other responsibilities such as childcare, or you’re unable to take time away from work.

Codeine addiction treatment can vary from clinic to clinic. There are countless different rehab providers across the UK – some provide private rehab, luxury rehab, residential rehab and outpatient rehab. There is also rehab for NHS patients to consider.

With so many options, it can be difficult to make an informed choice. Thankfully, the team at Help4Addiction will speak with you to determine the right course of action.

Codeine Detox

The first stage of the addiction treatment process involves detoxing from the drug – which means cleansing your body of the substance.

During this stage, all access to codeine will be cut off to allow your body to detox successfully. You may experience withdrawal symptoms when you first enter treatment, but these should ease with time.

Depending on the severity of your addiction, we may recommend that you complete a medical detox under the supervision of medical professionals.

We never recommend that you detox from codeine cold turkey. Instead, contact us for professional advice regarding how to detox from codeine safely. We can ensure you undergo the best codeine detox for you and your circumstances.

Codeine Addiction Rehab

Because detoxification does not address all aspects of addiction, we recommend that you complete a drug detox as part of a larger treatment plan.

Therapy is an important step during codeine rehab – not only can it treat existing mental disorders, but can help you learn more about yourself and your drug addiction.

Talking therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) can improve your confidence and overall well-being, and teach you valuable coping skills.

Some other forms of therapy during codeine addiction treatment may include counselling, group therapy, family therapy, holistic therapy, and many more.


After completing codeine rehab, you may worry that you’ll return to drug/ alcohol abuse. Leaving rehab can be scary – whether you’re finishing an outpatient program or leaving residential rehab.

This is why many people decide to continue treatment on an outpatient basis so they can receive continual support. Secondary treatment can be in the form of extended counselling sessions, group therapy, or attending support groups.

Finding The Right Codeine Addiction Treatment With Help4Addiction

At Help4Addiction, we understand that it can be difficult to address codeine addiction; and understand how it can be overwhelming to browse different treatment options and find relevant treatment or recovery information.

We can find the right drug or alcohol treatment service that suits your preferences and requirements, whether you’re looking for formal health care treatment/ formal addiction treatment support or an informal, outpatient service.

Contact our friendly team at Help4Addiction today for support and treatment advice if you think you have a painkiller addiction involving codeine. You don’t have to deal with codeine addiction alone; we are here to support you and find the best treatment programme for you.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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