Codeine is a prescription painkiller that can only be dispensed by a licensed physician. The medication shares similar properties to other medicines like OxyContin and Vicodin; however, it’s much less potent. Despite its lack of potency, it’s played a role in the opioid crisis that’s affected the United States. Unfortunately, abusing prescription opioids can lead to using illicit street drugs like heroin or fentanyl, leading down a long and dangerous road known as addiction.
Although codeine lacks the potency you might find with other opioid prescription drugs, codeine addiction can still occur. Fortunately, addiction treatment has improved over the years, and research has led to cutting-edge therapy techniques that provide a user with the best chance to lead a conventional life free of drug addiction. Addiction is a complex topic that requires care and a tailored approach to overcome.
Codeine is a psychoactive and naturally occurring alkaloid that’s roots are traced back to the poppy plant. Since it’s considered an opioid, it shares properties with heroin and morphine but produces much milder effects. Due to its milder effects, it’s routinely used by physicians to treat mild or moderate pain, including pain incurred by some surgeries.
It’s also common to find codeine in cough medications and medicines used to treat diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome despite evidence that proves it works for that.
Codeine usage may cause several adverse side effects that include dizziness, constipation, or drowsing. In addition to these symptoms, it can cause the user to experience itchiness, nausea, dry mouth, vomiting, dysphoria, and euphoria. Although such side effects can occur, they will be more severe when codeine is used in conjunction with more potent opioids or other depressant drugs like alcohol or benzos.
Those who take more than the prescribed dose are susceptible to overdosing, which may lead to respiratory depression – this is the most dangerous aspect of opioid drugs. However, overdoses are most likely to occur when it’s used in conjunction with other depressants.
Long-term abuse of codeine will cause an array of issues, including physical dependence and addiction. Those who become dependent on codeine will experience withdrawal symptoms upon cessation or a reduction in their dose. Some of these symptoms may include diarrhea, runny nose, sweating, nausea, vomiting, body aches, and chills. These symptoms keep most people trapped in codeine addiction because they’re unable to overcome these alone.
Codeine addiction is a severe disease, but you can build a meaningful life with the right help. Continue reading to learn more about the signs of codeine addiction.
Codeine addiction can have disastrous consequences, including drug-seeking behavior, which may lead to using illicit drugs. Codeine addiction may also cause you to get in trouble with the law or pick up an infectious disease. An estimated three out of four heroin users described using prescription opioids before developing a heroin addiction, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Like any disease, addiction will cause specific symptoms, and detecting it early will be the key to preventing severe problems down the line. Fortunately, even the most serious addictions can be treated with therapy.
The first sign of a growing substance use disorder is tolerance, which will consist of your standard dose getting weaker with each use. Your body is starting to adapt to the presence of codeine, and it’s slowly leading to chemical dependence. When your body becomes dependent on codeine, you will notice cravings anytime you don’t have codeine or withdrawal symptoms when stopping “cold turkey.”
If you continue using codeine despite these noticeable symptoms, it will lead to addiction. At this point, use will become compulsive and out of control, leading to severe problems in a person’s life. Addiction can push a person to steal, commit robbery, or commit acts they never thought they could to keep using.
As mentioned above, it could also lead to drug-seeking behavior, causing the individual to use more potent drugs like heroin or fentanyl. If you’ve broken the law, lost your job, or got expelled from school and continue to use codeine, you’ve likely become addicted.
Opioid addiction is notoriously challenging to treat, but advances in the field have made success stories more prevalent. However, the only way an individual will find success in opioid treatment is to attend a program that tailors its approach around their specific needs. A customized plan can be the difference between staying on course or drifting in and out of treatment.
To ensure a person gets the right help, they must be aware of codeine addiction’s specific symptoms. Addiction will cause different symptoms depending on what stage they are in the process. Unfortunately, some consequences must be addressed in treatment for it to be successful, such as financial struggles, mental issues, or other medical problems that lead to addiction or can spur a relapse.
Upon entry into a treatment center, you’ll go through an assessment process meant to reveal the care you’ll need. The process will include their drug history, medical history, mental health evaluation, and addiction severity. It may lead to a mental disorder diagnosis and answer some questions as to what influenced addition. It will lead to a dual diagnosis, which may impact the level of care required.
Once the assessment process is complete, and the clinicians have a better idea of your history, the client will be placed into a detox center that will address immediate needs, such as withdrawal symptoms or infections. Although codeine withdrawal isn’t life-threatening, the symptoms are intense, which may lead to relapse. Opioid users consider the withdrawal process a significant barrier to getting help because of the intense cravings and flu-like symptoms. In rare cases, sweating, diarrhea, or vomiting can lead to dehydration that can be fatal.
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Detox consists of round-the-clock care from professionals trained to keep the client comfortable. It may include medication to alleviate symptoms and mitigate any issues that could occur. The process consists of weaning the client off codeine until it’s safely out of the body. Once mental and physical stability has been achieved, it will be a milestone, meaning you can move to the next stage in the process. The placement will vary depending on the severity of addiction and relapse history.
The assessment stage will predict where you’ll end up, which could be a residential treatment center, where you’ll stay onsite for up to 90 days. You will attend individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy during this time. If your addiction is less severe, and you aren’t considered a risk, outpatient treatment may be favorable, allowing you to commute to therapy sessions. This is the best choice for those who can’t forfeit their obligations but still need help overcoming addiction.
MedlinePlus (2018, March 15) Codeine. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682065.html
NIDA (2020 September) Opioids. Retrieved. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids
NIDA (2020, May 27) Opioid Overdose Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis
NIDA (2020 September) Addiction Science. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/addiction-science
CDC (2020, March 19) Opioid Overdose. Heroin Overdose. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/heroin.html