Codeine may be effective in managing pain, but it’s also one of many prescription drugs that are frequently abused. Developing an addiction to codeine can happen over an extended period of time as the use of the drug is prolonged. An increase in dosage may occur as the user attempts to achieve the same effects that were produced when they first began using codeine.

Once an addiction has developed it can be incredibly difficult to stop individually. It is important to ask for help from trained professionals if you or someone you love is suffering from codeine addiction. These professionals can assess your or your loved one’s personal situation and make the appropriate treatment recommendations.

What Is Codeine?

Codeine is a member of the opiate family and is typically a prescription pain-reliever that is highly addictive. Once ingested it is converted into morphine, also proven to be a high risk for addiction. Codeine has become one of the most frequently prescribed drugs in the US and is available over-the-counter in the UK. Taking codeine in regular doses and for an extended period can lead to a build-up of tolerance, eventually resulting in physical dependence. 

What Is Codeine Prescribed For?

Codeine-based medicines are commonly prescribed to prevent or suppress coughing or as a pain-reliever.

Prescriptions for other conditions or mild symptoms include:

  • Cough 
  • Nasal congestion
  • Headaches
  • Cold symptoms
  • Allergies
  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Muscle pain and spasms
  • Diarrhoea
  • Osteoarthritis 

How Does Codeine Addiction Develop?

Codeine addiction usually starts with a prescription for codeine-based cough syrup or codeine tablets to help with mild pains such as migraines or backache. However, developing a tolerance to codeine can happen very easily, especially if used regularly and for an extended period, as it is more easily accessible and less potent than other opiates. It is thought that abusing codeine can ultimately lead to the misuse of stronger opioids. 

Since Codeine is commonly prescribed by doctors, many people begin taking the drug in small doses with little risk of addiction. Those who receive a prescription for a short amount of time are usually at low risk of developing an addiction. However, as with many other drugs, a tolerance typically develops over a period of time. Using codeine impacts the brain and central nervous system. If someone uses codeine consistently, over an extended period of time, or in high doses, their brain chemistry will begin to change and their body may begin to develop a dependence. Sometimes this occurs alongside a doctor’s prescription, while other people may become addicted through recreational use.

Side Effects of Codeine Use

Codeine is a psychoactive drug, meaning it has mind-altering properties. The effects are similar to other opiates, and the euphoric feeling it produces often leads to misuse and addiction. People who take codeine tend to experience an intense high similar to heroin. 

Other side effects of codeine use may include:

  • Drowsiness 
  • Disorientation 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Stomach pain
  • Constipation
  • Excessive sweating
  • Itching
  • Trouble urinating 
  • Seizures
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Fainting
  • Shallow breathing
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Hallucinations 

Codeine & Alcohol

Mixing codeine, or any other type of narcotic medication, with alcohol, is never advised. This combination has the potential to cause serious injury. If you’re taking codeine, you should also avoid driving or operating machinery due to the risk of experiencing any of the side effects mentioned above. 

Signs of Codeine Addiction

Recognising the signs of codeine addiction could help you save a life. Whilst these may not be the same for everyone, there are common patterns of behaviour to look out for.

Signs include: 

Avoiding responsibilities: This may present as a sudden or gradual loss of interest in daily activities, a sudden drop in grades or performance, and/or missing days of school or work.

Secrecy and deception: Often an individual addicted to drugs will go to great lengths to keep people out of their business. 

Relationship changes: A person may shift friend groups as they seek the companionship of others who also abuse substances. They may also begin to have interpersonal relationship issues with family and loved ones. 

Doctor shopping: A person may visit several physicians to obtain more prescriptions.

Erratic behaviour: By pushing away friends and loved ones, a person may be trying to avoid the detection of their addiction. If a formerly outgoing person has suddenly begun keeping to themselves, it may be a sign of drug abuse.

Paraphernalia: An individual may crush and/or snort the medication to increase its effects. Materials may include a mortar and pestle, razor blades, credit cards, rolled-up notes, and straws. Multiple empty pill bottles should also raise a red flag.

Financial issues: A person struggling with addiction usually searches for more of the drug, leading to changes in their financial situation. Frequent and sudden requests for money are often a sign of secretive spending. They may also borrow funds from friends and family with empty promises of paying them back. 

Legal issues: Run-ins with the law may occur if someone’s addiction has gotten out of control. Many people do not realise that redistributing or reselling prescription medication from one individual to another is illegal. It carries similar consequences to dealing with illicit drugs like heroin or cocaine.

Treatment for Codeine Addiction

Addiction treatment is available on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Your decision will ultimately be based upon your individual needs and circumstances. While residential rehab is considered to be the most effective form of treatment for codeine addiction, clinics like CATCH Recovery offer exceptional outpatient addiction treatment. 

Effective treatment for any addiction consists of a medical detox where necessary. Codeine withdrawal can be extremely agonising, so a medically supervised detox is always recommended where opioids like codeine are concerned. Detox should then be followed by an intensive course of therapy. 

While detox is an important part of overcoming physical dependency, treating the psychological aspects of addiction will provide you with the tools you need to maintain long-term sobriety. Psychological dependence is the term used to describe the emotional and mental components of a substance use disorder, such as strong cravings for the substance or behaviour and difficulty thinking about anything else.

CATCH Recovery uses evidence-based treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), grief and trauma therapy, one-to-one counselling sessions, group therapy and online therapy. We also teach relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation which can help with managing stressful situations, in addition to withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia. 

Whether it’s residential rehab or intensive outpatient therapy, finishing a programme can also feel daunting. You may feel overwhelmed without the structure and safety you’ve become accustomed to. With this in mind, we have created an exceptional aftercare programme designed to prevent relapse and help you deal with the stressors of everyday life. 

Codeine Addiction Treatment in London

Our outpatient clinic is based in South West London, which is accessible from anywhere in the UK. If you need support but don’t live in the South East of England, you may benefit from the tele-health services we offer. If you require residential rehab, we also provide referrals to rehabs in the UK and Ireland. Call us today to discuss the different options that are available.