Codeine Addiction

Codeine, a prescription narcotic pain-reliever, is at the heart of the opioid crisis in the United States. While many people benefit from using codeine to manage pain, prescription drugs are frequently misused and can become addictive. Codeine is typically safe to take as long as it’s prescribed for short-term use and not in large doses. This particular drug belongs to the opiate class of medications and is considered part of the opioid epidemic in the United States.

Knowing some opioid and codeine addiction facts might help people understand why the drug is part of the crisis. In the 2013 and 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a little more than 50 percent of people who misused prescription painkillers received them from a friend or relative for free. Only 22 percent got their drugs from a doctor. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 4.3 million Americans engaged in non-medical usage of prescription painkillers during a one-month span in 2014.

Since codeine is an opioid, people should be aware of the drug’s potential dangers. If a codeine addiction develops, The Recovery Village can help patients manage their substance use disorder and move toward an addiction-free life.

In order to fully understand the dangers of codeine addiction, it’s important to answer the question, “what is codeine?” Doctors prescribe codeine to help manage pain and suppress coughing. Codeine is technically considered an opiate, not an opioid, although the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Opiates are naturally derived from the poppy plant while opioids are semi-synthetic or fully synthetic substances that provide people with the same effects as opiates.

For many years, codeine-based medications were available over the counter, but many countries have made changes to their laws in an effort to curb codeine misuse and addiction. In January, 2018, the Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia moved the drug from Schedule 2 and 3 to Schedule 4, which requires a prescription to acquire medication that includes codeine.

In the United States, codeine is regulated under the Controlled Substances Act, which is the federal drug policy that classifies different drugs and allows the Drug Enforcement Administration to manage their accessibility to the public. Codeine can exist in many forms and as part of many types of medications, and each classification can bring different regulations. A Schedule I controlled substance is highly addictive — and includes illegal drugs such as heroin, cocaine and meth — while a Schedule V substance is much less addictive and usually attainable in over-the-counter medications.

Codeine is a Schedule II controlled substance when included in products for pain relief that contain codeine alone or more than 90 mg per dosage unit. Tablets of codeine, in combination with aspirin or Tylenol, are listed as Schedule III, which allows for electronic fills and refills without a physical paper-copy of the doctor-ordered prescription. Cough syrups are a Schedule III or V classification, and Tylenol Elixir with Codeine is a Schedule IV controlled substance. Some states have elected to classify Schedule V codeine variations into a more restrictive schedule in order to cut down on misuse of prescriptions. Minnesota decided to reclassify Schedule V codeine preparations as a Schedule II substance. In some states, codeine as a Schedule V substance is available in limited strengths and quantities without a prescription.

There are many codeine nicknames that people should be aware of when determining if a friend or family member suffers from codeine addiction. Some of the most common street names for the drug include:

  • Cody
  • Schoolboy
  • Loads
  • Pancakes
  • Syrup
  • Fours
  • Doors
  • Purple drank
  • Sizzurp

Many people ask, “Is codeine an addictive drug?” The answer is that it is. Many people suffer from codeine drug misuse or experienced the dangers of codeine misuse.

Since Codeine is commonly prescribed by doctors, many people begin taking the drug in small doses with little risk of addiction. There are some people who take codeine without becoming addicted to the drug because they only have a prescription for a short amount of time. However, as with any opioid, a tolerance can develop over time as taking the drug changes how the brain and central nervous system work. If someone takes codeine consistently over a long period of time, or in high doses, their body develops a dependence. Sometimes this occurs alongside a doctor’s prescription, while other people may become addicted through recreational misuse.

Codeine changes the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain and coughing. Codeine converts back to morphine when it enters a person’s brain and then binds to the central nervous system’s opioid receptors.

Like many opioids and opiates, the feel-good effects of the drug are what often lead to addiction. People who take codeine experience a euphoric high similar to heroin. Additionally, people who suffer from chronic pain might rely on codeine consistently to ease their suffering quickly rather than letting the body heal over time. Codeine’s many side effects include:

  • Feeling dizzy or drowsy
  • Nausea, vomiting or stomach pain
  • Constipation
  • Sweating
  • Itching
  • Urination problems
  • Seizures
  • Feeling extreme happiness or sadness
  • Slow heart rate, weak pulse, fainting or shallow breathing
  • Confusion, agitation, hallucinations or unusual thoughts or behaviors

People should never mix codeine, or any narcotic medication, with alcohol. This combination can cause severe injury, including death. Additionally, people who take codeine should avoid driving a vehicle or operating machinery due to potential effects, such as impaired thinking or reaction.

Codeine abuse potential is high in the United States where narcotic medications are easily accessible. Once people understand the addictive potential of codeine, they will be more likely to avoid misuse or to seek treatment for their or their loved one’s codeine dependence.

codeine cough syrup

Codeine can appear and be taken in tablet, capsule or liquid form and can be swallowed or injected. People with a prescription for codeine, or a medication that includes codeine, should take the medicine as directed.

Low doses of the drug are available for over-the-counter purchase in some parts of the United States. The opioid is an ingredient in some variations of Tylenol and Fioricet. Codeine also is a major ingredient in various cough syrups, including:

  • Robitussin
  • Maxiflu CD
  • Maxiflu CDX

Since codeine can be attained over the counter or through a doctor’s prescription, some people might believe that it’s a harmless drug and can be taken regularly with no consequences. This is not true, as there are many dangers of codeine and many people suffer from addiction to codeine cough syrup and other forms of the drug.

People often ask, “How addictive is codeine?” The answer varies based on the person’s characteristics and the manner in which they took the drug. In higher doses, codeine is much more potent and highly addictive. In lower doses, and taken only as prescribed, codeine is not that addictive and can be taken safely to treat coughs, colds and pain.

Like any opioid, codeine dependency forms from consistently taking the drug over a long period of time. Using codeine over a long period of time can cause people to develop an opioid tolerance and addiction. Many Americans rely on codeine to quell pain or to avoid many of the withdrawal symptoms associated with dependence on the drug. When withdrawal symptoms appear, this is a sign that someone is addicted to codeine and should seek treatment. If any of the following withdrawal symptoms are present, people should seek codeine addiction treatment:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lightheartedness
  • Dizziness
  • Breathing trouble
  • Sleeping irregularities
  • Depression
  • Sedation
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Stomach aches
  • Muscle weakness and pain

Early in codeine withdrawal, people might experience symptoms as the body readjusts to no longer depending on the drug. Some symptoms can occur within hours after the final dose, and these effects include:

  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Problems sleeping
  • Body aches
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Yawning

Some withdrawal symptoms could last up to a month, but by this time in the rehab process, people know their level of codeine addiction and should have a treatment plan in place. Codeine addiction treatment varies in length of time. In many ways, the length of treatment is dependent on the severity of the person’s addiction. If someone is suffering from a minor dependence on the drug, certain levels of care might not be necessary during rehabilitation. However, many people are severely addicted and in danger of injury or death. These severe cases require a longer treatment plan in order to properly begin recovery from their substance use disorder.

The Recovery Village has an experienced team ready to answer any questions people might have about codeine addiction, how addictive codeine is, and whether they are addicted based on side effects they might be experiencing. If a substance use disorder has formed, rehabilitation is the correct path. The Recovery Village can help patients take the necessary steps to achieving an addiction-free life.

In the past few years, more people have become addicted to codeine and similar opioids, causing the President of the United States to declare the country in an opioid crisis. Fixing this issue is one of the top priorities for many lawmakers and citizens, and codeine addiction facts and figures support this recent push to address the rising codeine addiction rate.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 276,000 adolescents were recreational users of pain-relief medication in 2015 and 122,000 have an addiction to prescription pain-relief medicine. Additionally, the prescription rates for opioids among adolescents and young adults almost doubled from 1994 – 2007. The publication also reports that women are more likely to be prescribed pain-relief medicines like codeine because they are more likely to suffer from chronic pain. Around 48,000 women died from prescription pain-relief overdoses between 1999 and 2010.

According to an article on CNN, since 2009, drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States  and opioid-related deaths account for the majority of drug-caused fatalities. In 2014, opioids were responsible for more than 28,000 overdose deaths, which is 61 percent of all drug-related deaths.

Are you or a loved one addicted to codeine or another narcotic pain reliever? If so, The Recovery Village can help. The codeine addiction rate has increased in the United States in recent years, along with other opioids and opiates, and more people than ever before are in need of treatment for their substance use disorders. Since codeine can be acquired through a doctor’s prescription or in various over-the-counter medications, people are susceptible to the drug and at risk of building an opioid tolerance if the drug is misused. Call The Recovery Village to learn more information about codeine and the dangers of codeine addiction. Doing so could be the important first step toward your or your loved one’s recovery.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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