What is Codeine?
Codeine is an opiate drug often used in prescription medications taken to alleviate mild to moderate pain and anxiety. Codeine was originally discovered as a natural constituent of opium in small concentrations with rates ranging from 0.7% to 2.5% by weight. Nowadays, most of the codeine found in pharmaceutical products is synthetically produced by the methylation of morphine. Codeine addiction is common with regular use due to its opiate properties.
Codeine is an effective medication for relieving short-term pain. When taken in the long term for extended periods of time, there is a much higher risk of developing dependency and addiction.
Effects of Codeine
Those prescribed medications with codeine take it for its ability to numb the pain. They may also, however, experience dreamlike, disassociative feelings that are produced from codeine’s pain-relieving properties. Some users, when they experience these side-effects, may start abusing the medications and take larger or more frequent doses.
Addiction to codeine occurs as tolerance to codeine builds in the brain, and the user finds they need to take more in order to produce the same effects as when they first began using. Tolerance and dependence on codeine can develop within three weeks of use.
There are certain signs and symptoms that may occur when one has developed an addiction to codeine. Signs and symptoms of codeine addiction include:
- Compulsive and uncontrollable use of the medication
- The onset of withdrawal symptoms if abstinent
- Drug-seeking behavior with doctor
- Isolating and lack of concern for anything other than using codeine and other drugs.
Someone with a dependency and addiction to codeine will mostly have withdrawal symptoms when they abruptly stop using. Codeine Withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Aches and pains
- Cold and flu-like symptoms
- Loss of appetite
- Mood swings
Codeine has a milder withdrawal than other opiates and so is sometimes used recreationally by the youth population. If someone believes they may be developing or have developed an addiction to codeine, they should immediately consult their prescribing doctor.
It is normally recommended to slowly taper off the medication and reduce dosage leading to complete abstinence. This method helps to alleviate the worst of the withdrawal symptoms that would be felt by going cold turkey.
Although codeine is a weak drug compared to others, overdose is still possible and can be harmful. Opiates control the central nervous system, regulating normal functions such as heart rate and breathing.
Especially when combined with other opioids or alcohol, too much codeine can slow it down to dangerous levels, reducing the amount of oxygen to the brain. Once this happens, cell death begins rapidly, and the victim may suffer from coma, death, or brain damage.
Signs of excess codeine:
- Slower breathing
- Cold skin
- Feeling or tiredness
- Loss of consciousness
- Low blood pressure
- Respiratory disorders
- Eyes pain
- Blue lips
Opioid overdose can be treated with medications that block responses to the brain’s interest, but immediate intervention must be taken to prevent the brain’s immune system from being deprived of oxygen.
Treatment for Codeine Addiction
For individuals who have developed a dependency on codeine should quit under medical supervision. Codeine, being an opiate, can have potentially lethal withdrawals, although less likely with codeine than other opiates such as heroin and methadone. An addiction treatment center or a detox center is recommended as the first step in treatment and recovery from codeine addiction.
Outpatient treatment centers are recommended after detoxification from codeine. Therapy is required, especially in patients with a dual diagnosis involving mental or psychiatric disorder, which is often an underlying issue in drug addiction. Outpatient facilities will also help to continually monitor the patient while not entirely disrupting their return to the normal life of school or employment.
12-step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous have been found to be very useful for those recovering from codeine addiction or other drugs. These programs are support groups of men and women suffering from and recovering from addiction. Meetings are held regularly and frequently across the globe.