Codeine Addiction

One of the most prescribed painkillers in America, codeine is a major substance involved in the country’s opioid epidemic. While codeine effectively provides pain relief from several conditions, the drug’s addictive potential makes it extremely dangerous for some users. Codeine is typically safe to use as long as it’s prescribed for short-term use; unfortunately, nonmedical codeine abuse can produce physical dependence and even fatal overdoses. Many users initially use codeine for medical purposes, but the drug’s addictive potential often leads to misuse, which can easily lead to codeine addiction. If codeine addiction develops, The Recovery Village offers the opportunity for a fresh start and hope for a life free from addiction.
In order to fully understand the dangers of codeine addiction, it’s important to answer the “What is codeine?” question. Doctors prescribe codeine to help patients manage mild, moderate, and severe pain, or to suppress a cough. Codeine is an opioid, a class of drugs that interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells to essentially slow down how messages travel between the brain and the body.

First discovered as a naturally occurring substance in small concentrations in opium, it was later isolated as a unique chemical compound by Pierre Jean Robiquet in 1832. Robiquet, a French chemist, stumbled upon the discovery while experimenting with morphine extraction processes. Isolating codeine ushered in a new era of analgesic, antitussive, and antidiarrheal solutions based solely on codeine, bypassing the need to extract it from the opium poppy.

In 2005, as studies began to corroborate the potential for codeine addiction, drug manufacturers — and the pharmaceuticals industry — added warnings to the labels of over-the-counter medications containing codeine. Specifically, instructions were intended to differentiate safe, doctor-recommended use of the drug versus unsafe, nonmedical use of the drug. Currently, codeine products carry a black-box warning — mandated by the FDA — because of the drug’s risks.

You may hear people discuss codeine and codeine combinations by using street names or slang names, including:

  • Cody
  • Schoolboy
  • Loads
  • Pancakes
  • Syrup
  • Fours
  • Doors
  • Purple Drank
  • Sizzurp
Codeine is commonly available in three forms: tablet, syrup, and injection solution. Low doses of the drug are available for purchase over-the-counter (OTC) in some parts of the country, making codeine one of the most commonly abused OTC drugs. Codeine is also a major ingredient in cough syrup, typically in a promethazine/codeine combination. Codeine is often found in multi-ingredient medications — especially cough syrups. Some common brand names include:

  • Robitussin
  • Maxiflu CD
  • Maxiflu CDX

Codeine addiction can develop after misusing any form of the drug, whether it’s prescribed for pain or a cough.

codeine cough syrup
Yes, codeine is addictive, as is the case with other opioid medications. Therefore, codeine addiction is a very real possibility if this drug is misused. Codeine impacts the user by slowing down how messages are sent between the brain and the body, relieving pain symptoms and suppressing dry coughs.

When taking this drug at high dosages, a person can achieve a codeine high that is similar to the effects of heroin and other opioids. The addictive high is what leads users to resort to nonmedical use of the drug — the addicted brain demands that a person maintains their euphoric state by continuing to use codeine.

Codeine addiction can develop slowly for some people and quickly for others — a mental addiction may ignite upon the initial use of the drug. Because it is less potent than some other opioids, it is sometimes considered a “safer” opioid. However, at high dosages, the risk of codeine addiction is every bit as strong as that of other drugs that can lead to opiate addiction.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers standalone codeine — prescribed exclusively for pain — a Schedule II controlled substance, a classification reserved for drugs that are deemed to have a high potential for abuse and could lead to codeine addiction. Other examples of drugs classified this way include opioids like hydrocodone, fentanyl, and oxycodone.

Is codeine addictive? Yes, but the good news is that help is available to treat codeine addiction. Codeine addiction can be devastating, but recovery is possible — even in the face of a codeine addiction relapse. Treatment can help keep a person on the long-but-worthwhile road to sobriety.

DrugFacts: Cough and Cold Medicine Abuse. (2014, May). Retrieved January 30, 2017, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cough-cold-medicine-abuse

Charity, Justin. “This Is Your Favorite Rapper. This Is Your Favorite Rapper On (or Off) Lean.” Grantland, 15 May 2015, grantland.com/hollywood-prospectus/this-is-your-favorite-rapper-this-your-favorite-rapper-on-or-off-lean/.

“Codeine Facts.” DrugInfo – Facts About Alcohol & Drug Prevention – DrugInfo, Alcohol and Drug Foundation, 11 May 2016, www.druginfo.adf.org.au/drug-facts/codeine-facts. Accessed 30 Jan. 2017.

“Opioids.” SAMHSA, 23 Feb. 2016, www.samhsa.gov/atod/opioids. Accessed 30 Jan. 2017.

“Resources – Controlled Substance Schedules.” DEA Diversion Control Division, Drug Enforcement Administration, www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/schedules/. Accessed 30 Jan. 2017.

Codeine Addiction
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Codeine Addiction was last modified: September 15th, 2017 by The Recovery Village