Codeine Addiction - Know your Medication

Codeine addiction

As prescription drug abuse continues to escalate we look at one drug in particular; Codeine. This easily accessible, highly addictive painkiller is increasing becoming a popular drug of choice for people albeit with some pretty dangerous consequences.


What is codeine?

Codeine, one of the most commonly used opioid drugs in the world, is a relatively short-acting pain killer, with most effects lasting a few hours.

Codeine is generally prescribed by a GP to treat mild-to-moderate levels of pain, and most individuals who are prescribed codeine to manage to take the drug directly as prescribed and never have a problem, but some individuals develop an addiction.

Opiates, like codeine are now the most commonly abused drug in the world due to the powerful effects on the user. In addition to pain relief, in higher doses codeine can lead to a pleasurable euphoric sensation. When opiates enter the central nervous system, they activate the reward system of the brain, allowing for excessive release of pleasurable hormones. It is this feeling that codeine addicts crave.

Like any addiction, codeine use and abuse can lead to devastating health and interpersonal problems. Many individuals who abuse codeine become tolerant to the mild effects of the drug and begin to abuse heavier and stronger drugs to achieve greater highs.


Signs and symptoms of codeine addiction

The symptoms of codeine abuse are varied among people depending largely upon the length of time a person abuses codeine, the amount used, and how often.  Some of the most common symptoms of codeine abuse are:


Mood symptoms:



•Emotional numbing


•Sense of well-being and calmness

•Mood swings


Behavioural symptoms:

•Withdrawing socially from loved ones

•Social isolation

•Pharmacy shopping, or visiting a number of doctors in order to obtain greater amounts of codeine

•Stealing or borrowing codeine from friends and loved ones

•Financial problems

•Fixation on codeine


•Legal problems

•Ordering codeine on the internet

•Lying to hide the amount of codeine being abused

•Interpersonal relationship problems


•Poor work or school performance


Physical symptoms:

•Blue tinges on the lips and fingernail beds



•Dry mouth




•Urinary retention

•Low blood pressure

•Decreased sex drive

•Respiratory depression



Psychological symptoms:




•Worsening of mental health

•Increased mental illness symptoms

•Decreased memory

•Lack of emotions


Long term effects of codeine addiction

The long-term effects of codeine addiction can impact nearly every area of an individual’s life. These effects may include:

•Acute pancreatitis

•Liver damage

•Kidney damage

•Increased sensitivity to pain

•Major depression

•Muscle twitches, cramps, spasms and pain

•Respiratory depression

•Cold and clammy skin

•Lack of muscle tone


•Job loss

•Legal problems



•Domestic abuse





Effects of codeine withdrawal and overdose

Depending upon the length of time an individual is addicted to codeine, he or she may suffer from severe symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal from drugs such as codeine should always be done under the care of a medical professional. These withdrawal effects may include:


•Runny eyes and nose

•Chills and goose bumps

•Stomach cramps

•Nausea and vomiting

•Muscle spasms



•Suicidal thoughts

•Racing thoughts




Most people who abuse prescription drugs and develop an addiction to them will do so unintentionally. It is usually an increased tolerance to the effects of the drug that leads to abuse. When a drug such as codeine becomes less effective, the temptation to increase the dose is high. Doing this can lead to physical dependence, which in turn results in withdrawal symptoms when the effects of the drug wear off. A cycle of abuse and withdrawal usually ensues, significantly increasing the risk for addiction.


Certain drugs are prescribed for a reason.


Use them correctly.

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