Many people believe that just because they are prescribed codeine, it is safe and not addictive. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case – as codeine is habit-forming. In 2020, there were 212 [i] deaths in England and Wales from codeine drug poisoning.
Codeine is an addictive substance and can produce both physical cravings and psychological cravings which can lead to you continuing to use codeine.
In time, you can build up a tolerance to codeine which can lead to you taking more codeine to feel the same effect, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking it. People who have a codeine/ opioid dependence/ codeine addiction may seek to buy codeine illegally. [ii]
If you think you may have an addiction to codeine, you may benefit from attending a codeine rehab treatment centre to help you overcome the withdrawal symptoms and beat the codeine addiction.
However, the first step is learning about codeine addiction. Read on to learn more about codeine addiction, and how Help4Addiction can help you.
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 – causing the brain to block certain signals to the rest of your body. Codeine binds to opioid receptors within your CNS (central nervous system), which helps to relieve pain and lower your reaction to pain. [iii]
You may get prescribed codeine to treat mild pain to moderate pain. Codeine usually comes in a pill form, but 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.
The Effects of Codeine
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, they should be taken as per the doctor’s instructions.
Codeine can make you feel constipated – and as your tolerance increases, the side effects likely won’t resolve. You may 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.
It isn’t recommended that you take codeine while pregnant, as you may experience unfavourable outcomes such as low birth weight, premature birth, hypoxic-ischemic brain injury, and even neonatal death. Taking codeine when pregnant can result in newborn babies being born dependent on codeine.
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 [iv], which could lead to marital issues or problems within your relationship.
Is Codeine Dangerous?
Codeine can be particularly dangerous if you have issues with your breathing, or if you have severe asthma or asthma attacks. This is because codeine can cause slow breathing which can result in death – especially in younger children. Don’t give codeine to children under the age of 18 years old – if a child ingests codeine by accident, treat this as a medical emergency.
Avoid taking codeine if you have a blockage in your stomach or your intestines. Codeine breaks down in your liver quickly and can ready higher than normal levels inside your body – which can be very dangerous.
Codeine is addictive – and can be dangerous if you develop a mental or physical dependence and take large amounts. Too much codeine can be poisonous, and lead to what is known as a codeine overdose.
What is Codeine Used For?
Many people think codeine is only used to relieve pain – although this is the most common reason people use codeine, it 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 prescribed 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. [v]
Treat Pain – Moderate Pain
Codeine is often prescribed to treat mild to moderate pain/ moderately severe pain. 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 as well as diarrhoea and relieve the anxiety and stress associated with pain.[vi]
You can use codeine to treat pains that other pain killers (for example ibuprofen or paracetamol) fail to relieve.
When using codeine to treat mild pain to moderately severe pain, you should always follow your doctor’s instructions on how to take codeine safely. Codeine classes as an opioid – and opioids are known as pain relievers.
Codeine is considered a highly addictive substance, so prolonged use 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.
As codeine is addictive and is possible to develop codeine dependence, you may experience codeine withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking codeine.
If you’re currently taking codeine and you want to stop, discuss this with your doctor. Your doctor should tell you how to reduce the dose gradually. [vii] 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
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 common codeine withdrawal symptoms include:
- Stomach cramps
- Muscle aches
- Mood swings
- Irritability and agitation
- Runny nose
- High blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
Codeine Addiction Treatment
At Help4Addiction, we can help you find the right codeine addiction treatment for you. With relationships with many addiction treatment centres around England and Wales, we can find the best place for you to beat your codeine addiction.
If you have an addiction to codeine, other opiates or other drugs, contact us today to discuss your treatment options.
The first stage of the treatment process involves a detox from the drug – which means ridding your body of the drug.
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.
Once you have successfully stopped taking codeine and detoxed from the drug, you can move on to the next stage of codeine addiction therapy.
You may be offered cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), or counselling. This can help you gain an understanding of your addiction and improve your mental health. Improving your mental health is an important step of rehab, and can help to prevent relapse.
After completing codeine rehab, you may want to continue treatment on an outpatient basis so you can receive continual support. This can be in the form of extended counselling sessions, group therapy, or attending support groups.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Codeine Medicine Addictive?
Codeine can be considered a strong drug. It is addictive and is not suitable for recreational use.
Is Prescription Codeine Safe?
Many people believe codeine may be safe for their health, but the use of it can be dangerous for people with respiratory problems – and can result in a coma if taken excessively. This risk increases especially when codeine has been mixed with other central nervous system depressants like alcohol or opioids, and other drugs.