Codeine Abuse Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects

Doctors may prescribe opioids to people dealing with painful injuries. If a person broke their arm in a car accident, a doctor may prescribe an opioid for the pain. Whether a person starts using illicit or prescribed opioids, they can develop an addiction.

One such opioid is codeine. The drug is a prescription opioid. It is used to treat pain and coughing. Due to its addiction risk, doctors will likely avoid prescribing it. They will use other medication for treating coughs, when possible.

Codeine affects behavior and physiology. Understanding the signs allows a person to get the help they may need.

Behavioral signs are:

  • Drug-seeking activity (like stealing money to buy drugs or always talking about getting or using drugs)
  • Misusing the drug to get high
  • Using more of the drug for longer than prescribed

Other signs include:

  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in vision
  • Cold or clammy skin

Some of these signs can also be hints of a serious issue like a drug overdose, which can be fatal. Even if a person managed an addiction before, they should look out for these signs. Doing so can help avoid a setback in sobriety.

The side effects of codeine abuse are similar to those caused by other opioids. Its euphoric effects keep the person wanting more of the drug. This cycle is when the addictive nature of the drug kicks in. What starts off as safe use can move into a dangerous addiction.

Side effects of codeine abuse are:

  • Unusual heart rate
  • Brief euphoria
  • Seizures
  • Breathing issues
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dependency
  • Withdrawal symptoms

Spotting bad drug behavior is a big step toward recovery. Drug abuse can lead to addiction.

An addiction is defined in the DSM-V using the following criteria:

  1. Using drugs for longer than medically necessary
  2. An inability to control or reduce drug use
  3. Spending a lot of time obtaining and using drugs
  4. Having a craving for drugs
  5. Being unable to finish daily tasks due to drug use
  6. Using drugs despite being a burden to daily activities
  7. Using drugs despite the impact on work or personal life
  8. Taking drugs in risky situations
  9. Using drugs even after seeing negative effects from drug use
  10. Developing a drug tolerance 
  11. Withdrawal symptoms after drug use stops 

To know the severity of an addiction, a doctor can count how many of the 11 criteria are met.

The severity of the addiction is counted as:

    • No addiction: zero to one 
    • Mild Addiction: two to three 
    • Moderate Addiction: four to five
    • Severe Addiction: six or more

For people living with drug addiction, entering treatment can be a hard decision to make. An intervention can be held to show support for the person with the disorder. Doing so can direct them to help with their addiction.

Having an intervention specialist assist is useful if an intervention is desired. A professional can help people plan a time and place to help ensure a productive outcome. Factors to consider are timing, who will attend and what to say. Positive support may be what gets a loved one headed in the right direction.

When the intervention is over, treatment is the next step. Contact The Recovery Village to learn about how professional treatment can help.

“Opioid Use Disorder Diagnostic Criteria.” PCSS-MAT, American Psychiatric Association, Accessed 30 Jan. 2017.

“DrugFacts: Cough and Cold Medicine Abuse.” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health, May 2014, Accessed 30 Jan. 2017.

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.

Share on Social Media: