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Article Summary

A Guide To Codeine Addiction

Like with other addictive prescription drugs, codeine addiction usually starts after you become tolerant to the drug. Although you might have first started using this prescription medication to reduce coughing or pain, you will eventually start taking higher dosages after your body gets used to the effects of the drug. The higher your dosage, the easier it will be for you to get hooked on the drug.

If you become addicted, you might ask your doctor for a higher dosage. In case the doctor refuses to comply or cuts you off, the chances are high that you will resort to any activity that will help you get your hands on codeine, especially as a result of the withdrawal symptoms the medication causes.

Understanding Codeine

Codeine is an opiate used to suppress coughing and deliver pain relief. However, this drug is highly addictive, carries the same risk, and creates the same symptoms common with any other opiate.

Although this medication is relatively weak, it is still similar (at least in chemical structure) to morphine. In some countries, it is available as an over-the-counter drug, making addiction even easier.

To augment its potency and effectiveness, users will typically combine codeine with acetaminophen or aspirin. Some of the cough suppressant formulations that doctors prescribe might also contain codeine as an active ingredient.

Codeine Uses

As mentioned above, codeine is usually found in cough syrups as well as in combination with other analgesics. For instance, together with acetaminophen, codeine is one of the ingredients in Tylenol 3.

The drug is used to treat coughing and pain. However, due to its euphoric side effects, codeine is typically abused both by those who have prescriptions and those you do not.

That said, this drug comes with a variety of antitussive benefits. For instance, it will prevent harsh coughs, which is why most prescription cough syrups contain codeine.

Additionally, some level of success has been achieved with this drug as an effective anti-diarrhea cure.

Codeine Effects

Some of the main effects of codeine use include pain relief and cough suppression. The drug works effectively to deliver effects that are quite similar to those of other opiates. This is because it will stimulate the receptors in the brain responsible for causing positive feelings.

When you experience these effects after taking codeine, therefore, you will feel euphoric and relaxed. This means that patients tend to enjoy the narcotic high caused by the drug.

However, the after-effects of this narcotic high will create the opposite effect. This means that you will feel the pain even more acutely, and increase your likelihood of experiencing symptoms of depression, paranoia, or anxiety as the primary effects wear off.

Over the long term, using codeine will result in dependency and acute psychological risk. The side effects of such use, therefore, include coughing, constipation, vomiting, nausea, and itching.

In the same way, the psychological risks of this medication have been linked to its after-effects - including a deep craving for more codeine as well as depression and a sense of hopelessness.

Whether you use it correctly or abuse it, codeine causes effects that are similar to many other opiates. These include drowsiness, vomiting, and nausea. Since opiates are designed to suppress breathing, codeine users also experience slowed breathing as well as difficulty catching their breath.

It is in this way that codeine use might kill you especially if you decide to take too much of it. The only recourse is to only take the medication according to your prescription and the doctor's specific instructions.

The mental effects that arise when you use this drug include agitation, antagonism, irritation, and confusion. If the dosage or effects are intense, you might also experience convulsions and hallucinations.

As you can probably see, codeine use comes with unpleasant effects - some of which might end up proving to be fatal. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Bowel dysfunctions
  • Clouded thinking
  • Coma
  • Constipation
  • Decreased respiration
  • Depression
  • Depression
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Impaired judgment
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Liver malfunction
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low oxygen levels
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Sleep disorders, including as sleep apnea
  • Slowed heart rate

Codeine Side Effects

The main side effects you will experience after using codeine include drowsiness, difficulty breathing, vomiting, and nausea. You might also present an appearance of sedation.

In some instances, users suffer constipation, stomach pain, and itchiness. Further, you won't be able to think quite as clearly as you normally do or able to operate any equipment safely. This means that codeine will interfere with your ability to drive vehicles.

When you first start using the drug, you might faint or feel dizzy, as well as experience changes in your vision.

Codeine Addictive Qualities

Unlike other prescription medications, an addiction to codeine is quite hard to detect. Most addicts start using the drug according to their doctor's instructions, which is why few are aware that they are becoming dependent on the drug.

Long term use will increase your risk of codeine addiction. Whether you are the one using the medication, or you have a loved one using it, you should keep on the lookout for the common signs and symptoms of addiction. Additionally, if you use codeine, you might want to monitor yourself to see whether your use is evolving into addiction.

Still, most people are unaware of the detrimental effects of abusing this drug - particularly on health and general living. Since codeine is so readily available, you should remain vigilant at all times.

Most codeine addictions develop because the user is stressed out. The dependence will develop once you start neglecting the instructions your doctor issued when they wrote out the prescription or from your pharmacist when they sold you the drug.

Like with most of the other addiction to prescription medications, addiction refers to the continued and compulsive abuse of the drug in spite of the adverse consequences of such use.

Once you develop tolerance to codeine, you will start needing more of it to help you achieve the same level of narcotic high. After prolonged use, you will also find that you have to use the drug just to continue feeling normal. At this point, your addiction will exacerbate your fear of dealing with normal tasks and responsibilities when you run out of codeine.

Since the drug is so easily obtainable, it is difficult to see the difference between abuse, use, and addiction. Still, there are a couple of telltale signs that show that something is amiss - such as ignoring your responsibilities and increasing your dosage.

Addiction specialists and clinicians diagnose addiction according to the criteria outlined in the DSMMD (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Some of these criteria include experiencing cravings and developing a tolerance to codeine.

When you abuse the drug, you will be diagnosed as having a severe, moderate, or mild addiction. This diagnosis will help the medical team concerned in the creation of the right treatment for you.

Codeine Overdose

According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), some nursing and pregnant women tend to break this drug down faster than normal. This means that if you take codeine while nursing or pregnant, your baby will end up with too much of it, too soon.

In one of the reported incidents, an otherwise healthy baby lost their life after their nursing mother took codeine to deal with an episiotomy. The mother processed the drug rapidly, leading to the child overdosing on it.

This means that if you process the medication rapidly, you might end up taking higher doses than normal - all in a relatively short span of time. This will eventually lead to faster addiction.

The following are some of the signs of a codeine overdose:

  • Chest pain
  • Cyanosis, or blue skin and lips
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Halted breathing
  • Lack of a veritable pulse
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Sluggish pulse

Therefore, most people who overdose on codeine will experience clammy and cold skin, slowed heartbeat, limpness, slowed and shallow breathing, as well as an apparent loss of consciousness.

If you suspect that someone has overdosed on codeine, or if they display any or most of the signs listed above, you must get them the emergency care they need immediately. In most cases, overdosing on opiates results in permanent brain damage - which is why you must act fast.

Codeine Withdrawal

When you become dependent on anything that is addictive, you will experience some symptoms when you decide to stop using it. The common withdrawal symptoms displayed by most codeine users range from the mild to the extremely severe.

Although these symptoms will make you feel uncomfortable, some of them are not as life threatening as you might think. If you are a long time user and you suffer other health problems, however, the withdrawal symptoms will be dramatic.

The most common codeine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea
  • Pains
  • Restlessness
  • Runny nose
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Watery eyes
  • Weight loss

Codeine Dangers

In most cases, codeine is administered in the form of a pill or a liquid. At times, it is also used together with acetaminophen. If you use it as directed by your doctor, the drug is relatively safe. However, most users will end up abusing it because of the euphoria and feelings of relaxation it produces.

Abusing the drug will eventually develop into addiction. Since codeine is classified as a Schedule II medication, there's a high potential for future abuse and addiction for most users.

Like other opiates, the withdrawal symptoms you will experience when you try to quit codeine might prove to be too severe. As a direct result, you will be forced into a cycle of abuse.

With time, the drug will depress the central nervous system. This will result in markedly lowered respiration and heart rate. As a direct consequence, there will be a concomitant decrease in the flow of oxygenated blood to your brain (as well as to your other vital organs). This is why codeine sometimes leads to severe seizures, coma, or even to sudden death.

Although codeine isn't quite as potent as, say, oxycodone, both drugs cause the same effects when you take them in high doses. For instance, you will experience the typical codeine side effects as early as after your first instance of use. These effects will only get worse with time.

Signs And Symptoms Of Codeine Abuse

The typical signs and symptoms of abuse vary from one person to the next. However, below are some of the key characteristics you are likely to display after abusing codeine and becoming addicted to it:

a) Mood Symptoms
  • Anxiety
  • Calm
  • Depression
  • Euphoria
  • Mood swings
b) Behavioral Symptoms
  • Apathy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Doctor shopping
  • Drowsiness
  • Failure to care for your loved ones
  • Healthcare fraud
  • Increased visits to the hospital
  • Lying to conceal the amounts you are using on the drug
  • Prescription forgery
  • Sleepiness
  • Stealing prescriptions and other opiates from family and friends
c) Physical Symptoms
  • Blue tinge to the fingernails and lips
  • Constipation
  • Decreased libido
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fainting
  • Hypotension
  • Itching
  • Muscle twitches
  • Nausea
  • Rashes
  • Respiratory depression
  • Seizure
  • Seizures
  • Urinary retention
  • Vomiting
d) Psychological symptoms:
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Lack of normal emotions
  • Memory loss

Treatment For Codeine Addiction

The withdrawal symptoms you will experience if you decide to quit codeine might not prove to be life-threatening. This is one of the reasons why most people choose to try quitting cold-turkey. Still, the typical discomfort arising from substance abuse withdrawal might eventually cause you to relapse.

To this end, you need proper treatment if you are to avoid the drug altogether. Treatment will also deal with the emotional and physical pain that arises from sudden withdrawal.

Irrespective of how you got ensnared to the drug, you can be cured. Abusing codeine for a long term will worsen the effects the medication causes, especially when you become more tolerant to it.

In most cases, treatment for codeine abuse and addiction will combine therapy and education with changes in your medication. Your doctor, for instance, might recommend that you undergo psychological evaluation so that the team can quickly deal with any dependency urges.

Over and above everything else, the goal of codeine addiction and abuse treatment is to help you detoxify your body and get rid of the drug. The treatment will also deal with the different psychological aspects of your addiction. At the end of the day, your addiction rehabilitation center or recovery facility will help you understand why you have been abusing codeine, and what you can do to change your behavior.

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