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Codeine Addiction Treatment

In the US, doctors prescribe codeine as a cough syrup and a pain reliever in pill form. Though intended to relieve pain, codeine addiction takes hold when people overuse the medication.

What are the symptoms of codeine addiction and what can people do for treatment?

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What Is Codeine?

Codeine is a medication derived from the opium poppy plant. It is used as a pain and cough suppressant medication.

Codeine was discovered in 1832 by French chemist Pierre Jean Robiquet. It’s classified as a narcotic analgesic.

In the US, pure codeine is a Schedule II substance, available only by description. If combined with other medications (like paracetamol), codeine may classify as Schedule III. Codeine is a Schedule I drug in Canada.

What Does Codeine Do?

Codeine is a pain-relief medication that is also prescribed to treat symptoms of diarrhea and acute cough. It works by acting on the central nervous system.

Why Do People Take Codeine?

People use codeine for mild symptoms of pain. It should only be taken for short periods. Users should not exceed the recommended daily amount.

People who use codeine should not exceed four doses per day (240mg total). It should only be used at intervals of at least six hours.

Moderate Side Effects of Codeine

As a depressant medication, codeine calms the central nervous system to mute pain signals across the body. The common side effects of codeine include:

  • Drowsiness – Depressant meds can cause fatigue in certain users.
  • Itching – Codeine arouses a histamine response that can cause itchiness.
  • Constipation – Codeine is often used to treat diarrhea. The medication works as a stool hardener. Consequently, this can cause the opposite of diarrhea: constipation.
  • Lightheadedness – Like all depressant meds, codeine can render people light-headed or less sharp and alert when on the medication.

Users generally don’t have optimal energy levels or cognitive function while on codeine. Codeine should not be used by breastfeeding mothers.

Serious Effects of Codeine Addiction

Once a person starts overusing codeine, the drug loses its effects. To reap the benefits (pain relief), the person takes high and higher doses to get the same effects as before. After a while, codeine stops working as intended. Instead, it causes the following symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite – Codeine can cause appetite loss. People who abuse codeine often undergo noticeable weight loss.
  • Nausea and vomiting – Codeine can make users feel dizzy and nauseous. This plays into the appetite loss factor.
  • Stomach cramps – Discomfort in the stomach accompanies vomiting. This is another reason why people eat less when they abuse codeine.
  • Diarrhea – Once the body develops codeine tolerance, it loses its effects at normal doses. Though codeine is often used to treat diarrhea, it can have the reverse effect once it stops working as intended.
  • Chills or goosebumps – People who suffer nausea and/or insomnia might also get shivers and goosebumps from codeine addiction.

People who abuse codeine often have enlarged pupils. Hardcore users typically show signs of fatigue and shakiness. 

Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms

When a person struggling with codeine addiction suddenly stops using the medication, withdrawal symptoms take hold within the first 24 hours and last a few days. Symptoms of codeine withdrawal include:

  • Anxious, irritable mood – People cut off from their drug of choice typically get irritable as withdrawal symptoms peak. Depressants like codeine, when used properly, have mellowing effects on individuals. During withdrawal, the opposite mood takes effect.
  • Insomnia – People have difficulty sleeping during withdrawal. The recovering user will typically feel anxious, nervous and suffer shakes, shivers, nausea, cold sweats and other symptoms that make it impossible to sleep.
  • Sweats – Sweating is typical during the drug withdrawal process. Cravings, which peak on days two and three, cause sweat-inducing anxiety.
  • Fatigue – People with insomnia also suffer fatigue because of their inability to sleep. Codeine withdrawal is often accompanied by yawning.
  • Muscle aches – People who experience withdrawal symptoms of codeine addiction often suffer physical stress like muscle aches. People who use codeine as a pain-suppressant often feel the pain return during detox.
  • Increased heart rate – Codeine use slows the heart. Once off the drug, users may experience faster heartbeats.

Other withdrawal symptoms of cocaine addiction include teary eyes and a runny nose.

Codeine Withdrawal Treatment

Codeine addiction is a substance use disorder. Treatment centers across the US offer programs for people struggling with opioid addiction and mental health issues. Treatment programs for people addicted to illicit and prescription drugs generally include:

  • Detox – The first stage of the treatment process. Detox starts when a person enters a treatment center, sometimes within hours of his/her last dose. On days two and three of detox, the patient typically struggles with physical dependence, extreme cravings and mood swings as codeine clears from the system. May include medication-assisted treatment.
  • Physical therapy – To help patients overcome moderate pain and body aches, treatment center staff may administer physical therapy and promote activities like stretching and yoga.
  • Residential treatment – Residential addiction treatment consists of 30-90 days at an inpatient rehab facility. Treatment programs generally include group counseling, wellness activities, private therapy and healthy meals. Inpatient treatment gives patients time to recover from addiction to codeine.
  • Outpatient programs – As an alternative to residential treatment, most centers offer outpatient options. An outpatient treatment program covers the same ground — support groups, health, wellness, counseling — but the patient comes in during the day, usually anywhere from 9-40 hours per week for three months.

Treatment centers offer a range of program options for people struggling with addiction to prescription opioids and other drugs. Inpatient treatment is vital for people with a strong addiction to codeine and other opioids. Outpatient programs treat mild to moderate levels of codeine addiction.

Get Treatment for Codeine Addiction

Get Help Today

Don't go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you're facing. Get in touch with one today.

Make a Call

People dependent on codeine need the guidance and supervision of a treatment center to achieve successful recovery. Throughout the US, treatment centers offer help for people who struggle with drug abuse and substance use disorders.

If someone you know struggles with an opioid use disorder, check for clinics in your area and ask about their treatment plans. As with other substances, codeine may be habit-forming but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Get the person you know the life-changing care he/she needs today.

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