Codeine Addiction

Estimated reading time: 30 minute(s)

Codeine is a popular opiate drug used to relieve pain and suppress cough. While the drug can provide exemplary effects in pain management, its use can quickly build tolerance in users, forcing them to take higher doses. Over time, these higher doses lead to addiction. The addiction pathway involving an opiate like codeine can be dangerous and people struggling with it must seek immediate help to stop the cycle of abuse and save themselves from permanent damage.

Symptoms of Codeine Addiction

Codeine can trigger intense feelings of joy, drowsiness, and euphoria in its users with a single dose. However, people who develop an addiction to this drug may find it difficult to experience these feelings and need higher doses of the medication to function normally. Other symptoms of codeine addiction include:

  • Itching
  • Bluish lips
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion or delirium
  • Small pupils
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Constipation
  • Stomach ache

Some people experiencing codeine abuse may appear more sedated, resulting in high fatigue levels. A person may also develop problems with vision and occasional seizures with the use of codeine. 

Most of the symptoms are similar to the ones experienced with an opioid addiction such as:

Increased Tolerance

Codeine is a powerful drug that can trigger addiction even in people taking it for legitimate reasons. The longer an individual uses it, the higher their tolerance becomes, and they end up using it in higher amounts to achieve the same effects. Some people may combine codeine with other strong opioids if their increased tolerance is making it difficult for them to experience euphoria from codeine alone.

Interpersonal Issues

Codeine dependence can exert drastic effects on an individual’s life as they struggle to maintain healthy relationships and interpersonal lives. Some common signs of interpersonal issues that may occur as a result of codeine abuse include the following: 

  • The tension between loved ones
  • Ignoring responsibilities at home and work
  • Isolating from friends and family
  • Hiding codeine or lying about having it
  • Engaging in reckless activities under codeine’s influence
  • Having financial issues due to increased codeine dependence
  • Committing crimes to get enough money to afford codeine
  • Neglecting self-care and self-hygiene

Changes in Appetite

A person who uses the drug too often ends up experiencing a lot of codeine side effects. One of these side effects includes nausea that pops up after taking a heavy dose or skipping a dose altogether. Some people end up taking more codeine to avoid this nausea; however, doing so only makes things worse. The strong sense of nausea may force an individual to eat less, and with time, this translates to weight fluctuations. Malnourishment may also occur leading to additional physical health problems.

Polysubstance Use

As the tolerance to codeine increases, an individual is more likely to engage in polysubstance use i.e., trying out other substances or opioids to experience a high or reduce their withdrawals. In time, this polysubstance use often leads to a secondary addiction, causing even more interpersonal and physical health issues. Many people with codeine addiction may even end up seeking out heroin as it can exert the same intense effect on the brain as the former. Other examples of drugs that a codeine abuser may likely include in their daily life to amplify its effects include alcohol, Xanax, oxycontin, and fentanyl.

People who take up polysubstance abuse to experience more euphoria are at a significantly higher risk of side effects, such as an overdose. An overdose can happen quickly and may prove life-threatening. Hence, such people must seek help from a professional codeine addiction rehab at early as possible.

Exploring the Side Effects of Codeine Addiction

People abusing codeine can experience two types of side effects: Immediate and long-term. The immediate codeine side effects can vary depending on the individual user and the amount of drug they are using. Some possible short-term effects include the following:

  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • jerkiness
  • Itching on skin
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Dryness of mouth
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness

Continued use over time can trigger codeine’s long-term side effects which may include:

  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle spasms
  • Damage to vital organs of the body, including the liver and kidneys
  • Memory impairment
  • Death

Seeking Treatment for Codeine Addiction

Codeine addiction is dangerous; however, recovery is possible by seeking help from a rehabilitation center. Treatment at a rehab involves several stages and typically begins with codeine detoxification. Detoxification is when the body attempts to clear codeine from its symptoms. Sometimes, it causes physical and mental withdrawal symptoms that can be highly unpleasant and uncomfortable. The rehab team provides supervised detox programs to ensure that all patients remain safe and comfortable throughout this stage.

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Following detoxification, the next stage of treatment begins, which aims to tackle the psychological aspects of codeine use. In this stage, codeine abusers undergo several holistic therapies, including one-to-one and group sessions, to better understand their addiction triggers. With this new knowledge, people feel a greater sense of self and acquire tools to overcome their drug use and maintain sobriety.

Attending a private, inpatient addiction facility ensures an unmatched service when it comes to treating codeine addiction. Such facilities have highly-trained and experienced teams that leave no stone unturned to treat both psychological and physical sectors linked to drug use. Moreover, many private rehabs also indulge their patients in holistic treatments, such as yoga, meditation, exercise, arts, music, nutritional therapy, and acupuncture. Such well-rounded programs ensure that each patient receives the highest quality of care which boosts their chances of achieving and maintaining a clean and healthy life.

Types of Therapy to Treat Codeine Addiction

Decades of research on codeine addiction have helped experts understand that the best way to manage addiction is by combining medical detox and medication-assisted treatment with various types of therapy. Most rehabs perform in-depth assessments on all people who approach them to pinpoint their level of codeine dependence and rule out other co-occurring disorders. If there is a need to enter detox before rehabilitation, the rehabs help them get through it smoothly and safely. Following a successful detox, most patients join an addiction program scheduled around a 12-step addiction model. This model involves the use of different behavioral therapies, the most common of which include the following:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, emphasizes the inaccurate thought patterns and behaviors addicts acquire and aims to replace them with more positive and constructive ways of thinking. This method allows codeine addicts to visualize the world more realistically and adjust their behaviors accordingly.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

Rational emotive behavior therapy, or REBT, includes a comprehensive active-directed treatment modality that helps clients resolve their behavioral and emotional problems and allows them to lead a more fulfilling and happier life.

Many rehabs for codeine addiction emphasize small group therapy with minimum participants where patients can address their troubles with the help of other people going through similar issues in life. Such therapy also allows patients to grow and learn from each other while focusing on therapist-led discussions on topics like relapse prevention, relapse triggers, and addiction in general.

Because addiction is now known as a family disease, many codeine addiction treatment centers aim to include the loved ones of their patients in their recovery journey. Family therapy allows these loved ones to meet with certified family therapists and discuss the impact of addiction on them. Family therapists also aim to teach the loved ones about addiction and familiarize them with the recovery journey their loved one with codeine abuse is going through. Family therapy usually takes place once a week; however, its frequency may vary from one rehab to another and depending on the patient’s needs and requirements.

Lastly, many codeine rehabs also include various experiential therapies in an attempt to treat their patients as a whole. Some most common of these therapies include the following: 

  • Recreational programming
  • Participation in support group meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous
  • Art programming
  • Nutritional and wellness counseling
  • Spiritual therapy
  • Yoga


Who uses codeine?

Codeine is a powerful drug to manage many common health issues, such as cough, diarrhea, and pain. Because of its powerful effects, many people using it end up developing an addiction to it. Latest surveys and studies suggest that young men are more likely to use this medicine, especially for recreational use. Most of these men are youngsters with little to no experience of using drugs; hence, they consider codeine as a regular, harmless, substance. Such people quickly end up developing codeine tolerance and may pursue using stronger opioids, like Vicodin and heroin, to achieve a more robust high. Around 500,000 American youngsters are using and abusing codeine presently and other prescription opioids for non-medical purposes.

Is codeine addictive?

Yes, codeine can be highly addictive, and its long-term use can lead to cravings and a strong psychological desire to keep using the medication. Ironically, many people who develop an addiction to this drug are the ones who are using it as a prescription medication to manage physical pain. Once they finish the course and stop using the medication, severe withdrawal symptoms occur, forcing them to continue the use and possibly seek codeine through illegal methods.

Can codeine get you high?

Codeine is a type of opioid that can stimulate the release of dopamine that triggers the reward system in the brain. This dopamine surge leads to euphoria causing people to experience a “high.” This feeling of high is what makes codeine highly addictive.

Is it possible to overdose on codeine?

Yes, people with codeine addiction can easily overdose on the drug in an attempt to achieve its pleasurable effects. The risk is also high in those that use codeine in combination with other drugs, such as alcohol and heroin, to achieve a more substantial effect. Some symptoms of codeine overdose include the following:

  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Weak pulse
  • Slow, strained breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Intestinal spasms
  • Extreme drowsiness or fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Lightheadedness
  • A drop in blood pressure
  • Muscle twitches
  • Bluish lips or fingernails

What treatments and therapies are available at a codeine addiction treatment rehab?

A codeine rehab may use several methods to address codeine abuse and other associated issues. The exact components of a treatment program are likely to vary; however, they generally include a blend of medications, holistic treatments, and cognitive and behavioral therapies. Most experts prefer a combined approach as it helps treat the body, mind, and spirit of an addicted person wholly instead of only focusing on the illness itself.

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