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Article Summary


Codeine is an opiate drug which is derived from opium or produced synthetically in laboratories and widely available as a prescription pain medication. Codeine can be found in many different types of prescription medication either on its own or mixed with other drugs such as acetaminophen. It can be administered in the form of a liquid, tablet or capsule and is metabolized into morphine in the body creating effective pain relief when used as prescribed. Because it is an opiate drug, it is only meant to be used for a short amount of time to avoid any kind of abuse or the possibility of the patient developing a dependence to it which could lead to addiction.

Codeine Side Effects

When codeine is administered in clinical settings, it affects the areas of the brain and central nervous system associated with pleasure and reward. This is true for any opiate drug including illicit street drugs such as heroin and prescription opiate drugs. Codeine produces a flood of feel good chemicals, chemicals which are already naturally produced in the body but are at much higher levels when opiates are administered. These effects are artificial and only possible through the effects of codeine, which is what produces the short stint of pain relief that users experience when taking the drug. This can of course be extremely beneficial for someone who has had an accident, surgery or is in need of relief from acute pain for just a short amount of time.

The effects of Codeine can be intensified when taken in doses much higher than would ever be prescribed. A codeine high can be very similar if not exactly the same as a heroin high, and why the drug is high on the list of diverted pharmaceuticals and in such high demand among recreational drug users. In large enough doses, Codeine can not only produce pain relief but can also produce an extreme sense of physical and emotional warmth and euphoria. This is the typical opiate high, a high which is nearly unrivaled. So someone who was a heroin addict for example might find excessive amounts of prescription opiates such as codeine to be a suitable substitute for their drug of choice. Much like heroin, codeine can even be crushed up and dissolved and administered intravenously producing instantaneous gratification from the drug.

Someone who uses any type of codeine product for an extended period of time is going to become both physically and psychologically dependent to the drug. Because codeine is causing these extremely high levels of feel-good chemicals in the body, the body stops producing it own. The body can't immediately return these levels to normal if an individual stops taking codeine. So if the individual abruptly stops taking the drug after having developed dependence to it, they will almost always experience the complete flip side of the positive feelings and experiences and instead feel sick and depressed. Along with these symptoms individuals will also have an intense craving to use Codeine or some other opiate, which leads them to further drug seeking behavior and use.

Codeine Abuse

You may have heard of prescription drug abuse and how big of an epidemic it has become, and this is why. Individuals can very easily obtain these types of drugs and use opiates such as codeine to get high. Because codeine is available by prescription, many are under the assumption that it is more safe and less addictive that street opiates such as heroin. Nothing could be farther from the truth, with many statistics and examples of serious consequences resulting from abuse of codeine and other prescription opiates by individuals who were disillusioned or misinformed about these powerful narcotics. For example, it is extremely easy to experience respiratory depression as a result of any kind of opiate overdose including prescription opiates such as codeine. If someone takes too much, breathing may slow to the point of death. The dose which can cause such an outcome can vary from person to person depending on their tolerance, but is a very likely outcome for anyone who is abusing codeine other than prescribed. There's a reason only a certain amount of the drug is prescribed at any given time, yet individuals who abuse codeine and other drugs don't consider these facts and the risks involved.

In pop culture, rap songs, etc. you may have heard of something known as "Sizzurp" or "Purple Drank". These are slang terms for codeine cough syrup also containing promethazine which has been combined with soda and pieces of candy. Both codeine and promethazine are depressants, and as such can intensify the effects of each other when taken possibly resulting in respiratory or cardiac arrest when taken in high enough doses. Any type of negative outcome from codeine use is of course more likely when taken with other depressants such as alcohol or other drugs or prescription drugs. Again, the priority for most individuals who are abusing substances like this isn't lessening the effects but heightening them, so there are many casualties each year of individuals who refuse to take these risks into consideration.

Codeine Abuse Treatment

As is the case with all instances of opiate dependence and addiction, individuals will most often not be able to overcome the cravings and withdrawal symptoms which will ultimately prompt them to seek out and use more codeine or other opiates. It is no different from someone who has become dependent to sticking a needle with heroin into their arm, despite the misconception that prescription drugs are different somehow when it comes to dependence and addiction. There is no shame in seeking help to overcome any kind of opiate addiction, even if it is related to codeine or some other prescription opiate. The treatment techniques are much the same as those used to treat any other type of addiction, and treatment professionals have become accustomed to treating such conditions with extremely good results. It is not uncommon for someone who is addicted to a prescription opiate such as codeine to require a long-term inpatient or residential stay in a drug rehab program to ensure they are completely physically and emotionally rehabilitated.

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