Codeine is an opioid (narcotic) painkiller. Doctors often prescribe the drug to alleviate mild to moderate pain. It is also a primary ingredient in prescription-strength cough suppressants.
Millions of people use codeine for pain relief, but like all opioids, it presents risks. The drug can easily give rise to physical dependency and even addiction. It can also act as a gateway drug, leading the way to even more powerful narcotics.
Those who struggle to quit using prescription painkillers may need to seek professional help from a codeine rehab center like Yellowstone Recovery. Although withdrawal and rehabilitation can be difficult, codeine addiction treatment provides hope to those who have fallen prey to the drug’s addictive potential.
What Is Codeine?
Codeine is one of many opioid-based prescription drugs used to treat pain. Although it is relatively mild by narcotics standards, it is still one of the most dangerous medications in circulation today. Unfortunately, many people are lulled into a false sense of security by the perception that codeine is less harmful or addictive than other, more notorious drugs like OxyContin.
Given the potential for abuse, the government has named codeine a Schedule II drug. That means it has an accepted medical use, but also a high likelihood of causing physical dependency in users. In order to use codeine legally, an individual must first receive a prescription from a medical professional and then fill the order at a licensed pharmacy.
It is illegal to buy codeine on the street, or to receive pills from family and friends. Nevertheless, many people choose to do so. Some try to obtain the drug illegally after their doctor has refused to continue their prescription; some seek relief from emotional pain and use codeine to self-medicate; others simply want to experience the euphoric high that opiates create.
How to Minimize the Risk of Addiction
Unfortunately, the likelihood of adverse health effects increases every time someone uses the drug in an unintended manner, or contrary to the explicit directions of a healthcare provider.
Even people who take codeine for a legitimate complaint face the risk of dependency. Those who take the drug recreationally, or without the supervision of a doctor, put themselves at greater risk of addiction.
That’s because doctors and pharmacists calculate doses carefully based on an individual’s age, weight, medical condition, and overall health. They also consider other drugs that may interact with codeine to cause a harmful reaction. Finally, most doctors will try to limit the amount of time their patients use the drug in order to reduce the potential for addiction. Following the doctor’s advice is the surest way to limit risk exposure.
How Codeine Affects the Body
Like all opiates, codeine gives rise to certain side effects, which include:
- Shallow or difficult breathing
- Stomach pain
It is possible to overdose on codeine. The following symptoms are signs of serious, potentially fatal complications:
- Loss of consciousness
- Respiratory distress
- Slow heartbeat
- Cold, clammy skin
The long-term effects of codeine may include:
- Liver damage
- Organ damage
How Codeine Affects the Brain
Like all narcotics, codeine has a direct impact on the brain and central nervous system. It binds to opioid receptors and prevents the brain from registering pain. Over time, it can alter the brain’s chemistry and even damage cells.
As soon as the brain becomes accustomed to the presence of synthetic opioids, it stops producing endorphins, its own natural pain-relieving chemicals. That undermines the body’s ability to fight pain on its own, increasing the likelihood that someone will come to rely on narcotics in order to function normally.
Codeine is dangerous precisely because it has a direct, powerful, and long-lasting impact on a person’s neurological system. By altering the brain itself, the drug creates the conditions under which addiction can flourish.
Symptoms of Codeine Addiction
A person who has become addicted to codeine may:
- Go to different doctors more frequently, in the hopes of obtaining multiple prescriptions.
- Display marked drowsiness during the day.
- Sleep more during the night or day.
- Experience loss-of-appetite weight loss.
- Display apathy or become disinterested in normal activities.
- Have a decreased libido.
- Become alienated from friends and family.
- Neglect their personal and professional obligations.
- Lie to cover up the extent of their drug use.
- Get angry or defensive when asked about the topic.
- Ask for or even steal money or prescriptions from friends and family.
The Road to Addiction
The road to addiction begins the moment tolerance sets in. Essentially, the body gets used to the presence of the drug. Once it does that, a user will need to increase the dosage in order to feel the same relief and euphoria. Eventually, tolerance can lead to physical dependence.
Dependence arises when the body gets so accustomed to codeine that it needs the drug in order to function normally. As soon as the user decides to quit, they may begin to feel ill and uncomfortable. Withdrawals make addiction more likely, since many people would prefer to keep using the drug rather than face the uncomfortable and sometimes painful process of quitting.
The final stop on the way to addiction is emotional dependency. After repeated use, codeine becomes a psychological crutch. Someone who started off with the intention of easing physical pain may soon come to rely on the drug to feel whole and normal. They continue to use even though the drug is destroying their lives, largely because they are no longer able to quit on their own.
Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms
Some withdrawal effects occur soon after the drug has worn off. Others take longer to manifest.
Early Onset Symptoms
- Fast heartbeat
- Muscle aches
- Teary eyes
- Runny nose
Late Onset Symptoms
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach cramps
- Cravings (can last for months after detox)
Withdraw can be challenging. At the very least, it’s uncomfortable. That’s why it’s important for people to go through codeine detox under professional supervision. Substance abuse counselors can help ease the discomfort, make frequent status checks, and keep the recovering user accountable during the process.
Rediscover Hope with Addiction Treatment
Treatment options for codeine abuse include inpatient detox, inpatient and outpatient cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational reinforcement, substance abuse education, life skills training, and ongoing, structured support.
Yellowstone Recovery has helped many people overcome opioid addiction. Our treatment center uses a 12-step approach to help individuals overcome the power of addiction. If you or someone you love struggles with abuse and addiction, feel free to contact us to learn about our safe, effective, and affordable treatment programs in Southern California.
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