You or a loved one may have been prescribed codeine to relieve mild to moderate pain. It is commonly used in combination with other medications. It’s been glamorized in pop culture over the last several years as an ingredient mixed with soft drinks and promethazine in a concoction referred to as lean, codeine lean or purple drank. High doses and repeated misuse can lead to codeine addiction. Let’s explore this hypnotic drug and how to recover from codeine addiction.
Codeine 101 Statistics
There’s no doubt that drug abuse and addiction is prevalent in the United States. Key statistics that illustrate the depth of the abuse of codeine include:
- “Among all Americans 12 years and older in 2006, 13.6% (more than 33 million) reported a lifetime history of non-medical use of prescription opioids,” including codeine.
- “Codeine is the most widely used opiate drug in the world.”
- “The effects of codeine begin to become apparent within 15-30 minutes of ingestion, and can last for up to 6 hours depending on the dose.”
- “It is estimated that codeine and prescription abuse costs Americans over $484 billion a year.”
- “The strength of codeine is thought to be roughly 8-12% that of morphine, although this varies from person to person depending on metabolism.”
- “Opioids were involved in 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017 (67.8% of all drug overdose deaths).”
What is codeine?
Codeine is a prescription drug that falls under the category of opiate drugs, as does morphine. It is classified as a narcotic analgesic and is derived from opium. Codeine alters the way your brain and central nervous system respond to pain.
It can also serve as a cough suppressant by “decreasing the activity in the part of the brain that causes coughing.” You will see codeine as an ingredient in medications such as Tylenol 3 and Tylenol 4.
While it can give millions of Americans the pain relief they seek, its powerful effects can lead to developing a tolerance and the potential for abuse and addiction.
What types of pain does codeine relieve?
It is one of the most common medications prescribed for people who suffer from migraine headaches or chronic back pain. As stated above, some prescription cough syrup medicine also contains codeine. If you are living with mild to moderate pain, your doctor may prescribe codeine. However, it is not commonly prescribed for more severe pain such as cancer pain even in a higher dose.
What are the side of effects of codeine?
If you use codeine, you are likely to experience side effects such as:
- stomach pain
- difficulty urinating
You may also experience more side effects. If you experience any of the following, talk to your healthcare team or seek emergency medical treatment right away:
- agitation and/or confusion
- fever or sweating,
- rapid heartbeat
- shivering or twitching
- severe muscle stiffness or loss of coordination
- nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weakness or dizziness
- inability to get or keep an erection
- irregular menstruation
- decreased sexual desire
- noisy or shallow breathing
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
- changes in heartbeat
- rash or hives
Another side effect of codeine use is pinpoint pupils. The drug shrinks the size of the pupils, making it difficult to see clearly in dim or dark areas. Your ability to drive at night may be hindered.
If you or a loved one is struggling with codeine addiction, you are likely to struggle with this change in vision as well as signs of overdose such as:
- exaggerated feelings of agitation or disorientation
- respiratory depression
- cold and clammy skin
- circulatory collapse
- cardiac arrest
These are telltale signs of substance abuse. The maximum recommended daily dosage 60mg every 4 hours (240mg per day). If you or a loved one are taking a higher dose, the drug is unlikely to provide pain relief and you may experience “an increased incidence of undesirable side effects.”
What are my treatment options for codeine addiction?
Treating codeine addiction includes addressing both your physical health and your mental health. You or your loved one have a variety of treatment options available including:
- Joining the Narcotics Anonymous community – you can search for a local meeting by clicking here
- Joining outpatient support and recovery groups – you can find local services through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Working with an addiction specialist in your community
- Checking into an inpatient addiction center for more comprehensive and intensive care
What are the signs of codeine withdrawal?
If you or a loved one are experiencing codeine withdrawal, you may experience severe symptoms. Codeine withdrawal symptoms and their duration are different for each person and depend on various factors including genetics, general health and history of abuse.
- Cravings for codeine
- Abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea and/or vomiting
- Lack of appetite
- Runny nose and sneezing
- Yawning and difficulty sleeping
- Trembling, aching muscles and joints
- Goosebumps, fever, chills, sweating
- Feelings of restlessness, irritability, nervousness and/or depression
Although codeine is regarded as a rather weak opioid with fewer risks than other high potency opioids like fentanyl, codeine is still highly addictive.
We can help you
At The Blackberry Center, you will have the opportunity to recover from codeine abuse and to begin the journey to lifelong recovery in our state-of-the-art facilities.
If you or one of your loved ones is struggling with codeine addiction, we can help. We use a personalized approach to addiction treatment. Our focus is on treating the disease, not the symptoms. We put our patients first every step of the way.
Our substance abuse-only treatment programs include detox, residential and partial hospitalization program. Our on-site rehab programs focus on a comprehensive recovery approach. They address your physical, mental and spiritual needs for optimal wellness. Your needs are unique. We treat you as such.
Reach out for help today
You may be struggling with long-term addiction. Or you may be fighting strong temptations. We can meet you where you are in your fight for sobriety.
We welcome you to our treatment center. From support groups to individual therapy treatment options, we are here to fight the battle with you.
Reach out to us online today. You can also call us at 888-512-9802.
Susan Gail Taylor is a content creator focusing on the addiction, health, fitness and mental health arenas. She earned a Master of Arts degree as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Professional and Technical Writing and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She is passionate about animals, whole food plant-based nutrition, fitness and creating valuable content with featuring actionable steps. In her free time, Susan enjoys life and adventures with her husband Nathan and their two dogs Tallon and Kane. She also dedicates time to running, yoga, hiking and biking.