Codeine and Anxiety

Codeine is a commonly prescribed opiate used for pain and severe cough. While considered by some to be a less risky opiate, codeine is still dangerous and highly addictive. More than half of all opiate prescriptions are written for patients who also have a co-occurring mental health condition like anxiety.

People with mental health conditions like anxiety are also at a higher risk of misusing or abusing medications prescribed and becoming addicted. The connection between opiates, like codeine, and anxiety is known by medical and mental health professionals but not always understood.

People seeking a quick fix for anxiety may ask “Does codeine reduce anxiety?” or “Is codeine good for anxiety?” While codeine may initially cause an anti-anxiety effect, it’s often not long lasting. A person using codeine to reduce anxiety will need to continually take the drug.
People who misuse codeine for anxiety relief have reported codeine causing anxiety. Someone who abuses codeine and has experienced symptoms of anxiety after its use may wonder, “Can codeine cause anxiety?”.

For those people who use codeine as prescribed, anxiety side effects are not uncommon. When codeine use becomes chronic, anxiety is likely to be experienced when codeine is not being used. Not only is anxiety a withdrawal symptom of codeine but it is also associated with the craving to use codeine.

Codeine anxiety attacks are uncommon and likely occur more frequently for people who use codeine with a pre-existing anxiety disorder. Someone who experiences an anxiety attack when withdrawing from codeine may feel the only way to avoid a future attack is to continue codeine use. Using codeine to avoid experiencing symptoms of anxiety can become a negative cycle in which fear of anxiety encourages more use of the drug which further inhibits someone from managing anxiety using healthy coping mechanisms.

If you think you may be addicted to codeine, take this self-assessment.

Effective treatment is available for people who struggle with substance use disorder and anxiety. Whether someone uses codeine to relieve anxiety or develops anxiety following opioid use, recovery is possible. When substance use and anxiety treatment are co-occurring, a structured treatment plan is likely to give the best outcomes. Whether someone seeks inpatient or outpatient treatment, an effective  anxiety treatment plan could  include:

  • Peer support
  • Individual counseling
  • Medication management for codeine and depression treatment
  • Medical support during detoxification
  • Family education and counseling
  • Step-down and transitional services
  • Follow-up and on-going support
Some relevant facts to remember about codeine and anxiety include:

  • Whether anxiety or codeine use comes first, treating an anxiety disorder and co-occurring substance use disorder requires a skilled professional.
  • People with mental health conditions like anxiety are also at a higher risk of misusing or abusing medications prescribed and becoming addicted.
  • More than half of all opiate prescriptions are written for patients who also have a co-occurring mental health condition like anxiety.
  • While codeine may initially cause an anti-anxiety effect, it’s often not long lasting.

If you or a loved one struggles with addiction and a co-occurring mental health condition like anxiety, help is available at treatment centers across the country. The Recovery Village offers comprehensive treatment for substance use and co-occurring disorders. For more information about our care options, reach out to a representative today.

Caruso, C. “Most Opioid Prescriptions Are for People with Depression, Other Mood Disorders.”Scientific American, Published June 26, 2017.  Retrieved December 4, 2018.

Kosten, T. R., & George, T. P. “The neurobiology of opioid dependence: implications for treatment.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, Published 2002. Retrieved December 4, 2018.

Motaghinejad, M., Fatima, S., Banifazl, S., Bangash, M. Y., & Karimian, M. “Study of the effects of controlled morphine administration for treatment of anxiety, depression and cognition impairment in morphine-addicted rats.” Advanced Biomedical Research, Published 2016.  Retrieved December 4, 2018.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Opioids.” Retrieved December 4, 2018.

Nielsen, S. “Treatment-seeking codeine users: A different kettle of fish.” National Institute of Drug Abuse, Published 2014. Retrieved December 4, 2018.

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