Codeine Addiction

Used to initially treat mild to moderate pain, codeine is a prescription medication. Being one of the main ingredients in prescription cough suppressants and popular pain relievers, such as Tylenol 3, this opiate is widely distributed, and unfortunately, also highly addictive.

Globally, it is the most frequently used opiate and its consumption is increasing. Research shows that there are increasing concerns surrounding the continued use of codeine in relation to misuse, dependence, and fatalities; and while those impacted most may represent a hard-to-reach group, codeine addiction can impact anyone.

When taken over prolonged periods, an individual can easily become addicted. In some cases, this causes users to use other opiates that are stronger, worsening their addiction. In fact, three out of four new heroin users have a history of misusing prescription opioids. This is why it’s important to take proactive action, addressing a potential addiction as soon as possible.

Effects and Symptoms of Codeine Abuse

When you take codeine, it is broken down by the liver, reverting into morphine. Once broken down, the brain’s reward center then produces feelings of euphoria and wellbeing. The effects of codeine are largely dependent on how this drug is broken down. In this case, there appears to be a genetic component, causing differences in its pain-relieving effects, as well as codeine’s level of toxicity.

In many cases, an addiction to opiates is unintentional. However, once addicted, it can be very challenging to overcome without specialized treatment. This is why codeine is not intended for chronic use.

Codeine abuse can develop due to numerous circumstances, including:

  • Taking codeine intentionally to get high
  • Taking codeine in larger doses than prescribed
  • Taking codeine as prescribed for prolonged periods

When using codeine, some of the effects include:

  • Drowsiness and nodding off
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Stomach issues
  • Clammy hands
  • Itching
  • Slowed breathing
  • Changes in vision
  • Decreased appetite
  • Sweating
  • Nervousness
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness

Signs That You’re Addicted to Codeine

While codeine is not as strong as most other opioids, it works the same way in the brain. Much like morphine, codeine also showcases the same adverse effects in terms of being dose-dependent and is habit-forming. This means that in many circumstances, codeine has a high potential of abuse and overdose is possible.

  • You’ve developed a tolerance — You now need more and more of the drug to feel its effects. How high your tolerance will depend on how much codeine you’ve been taking and for how long, as well as your genetics.
  • You’re now dependant — As your tolerance grows, you may develop a dependence on codeine. One of the most prominent signs of dependence is needing to take codeine in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
  • Symptoms of withdrawal can range from mild to severe and typically last for a week or longer after stopping codeine use. There are a number of medication interventions available to help target these symptoms, ensuring a safer, more comfortable withdrawal process. Read more here.
  • Please note: Although dependence can quickly develop if you take more than the prescribed dosage, codeine dependence can also develop if you take your medication exactly as prescribed.
  • And will experience withdrawal symptoms — Once your body becomes accustomed to receiving regular doses of codeine, it can no longer function “normally” without it. For some users, withdrawal may feel like extreme flu symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms include vomiting, joint pain, muscle pains, diarrhea, runny nose, stomach cramps, and poor appetite. For long-term, heavy users, medical intervention is typically needed.

Overall, opioid use disorder is categorized and summarized based on select criteria. The DSM-5 diagnostic categories include:

  • Impaired control (codeine is taken in larger amounts and cravings increase)
  • Social impairment (failure to fulfill major obligations + interpersonal issues)
  • Risky use (placing oneself in hazardous situations, continuing use despite consequences)
  • Pharmacological properties (i.e. tolerance and withdrawal effects)

Codeine Addiction Stats

  • In the United States, approximately 33 million people use codeine every year.
  • In 2017, the National Opioid Pharmacotherapy Statistics found that codeine was the opioid drug of dependence among 4 percent of clients receiving opioid pharmacotherapy. Learn more about the opioid epidemic here.
  • Codeine has also long been used to treat pain in children. In 2013, more than one million children aged 0-17 were using codeine. In 2018, the FDA changed labels to limit their use, stating that children under 18 should not use cough medications containing codeine or hydrocodone.

Getting Treatment for Your Codeine Addiction

The treatment you require will depend on your unique situation. For example, do you require support for both your mental health and codeine addiction? This is highly common and requires a customized approach.

Another variable is the type of codeine use pattern you showcase. For example, has your addiction developed from a therapeutic dependence? A non-medical dependence? Are you experiencing a high-dose dependence?

  • Therapeutic dependence — Have you been taking the recommended dose for prolonged periods and in turn, you have experienced dose escalation?
  • Non-medical — Have you been using codeine purely for the euphoric effects?
  • High-dose dependence — Have you been taking very high doses? In some cases, users take 100+ tablets. Are you pharmacy hopping and experiencing severe withdrawal?

These are the types of things you can discuss with a professional during your initial assessment. At Transformations, you’re provided with a safe and caring environment that allows you to create the best possible treatment plan for you and your unique needs. Treatment should not be a one-size-fits-all process. The goal is to provide you with the type of support YOU would benefit from most. After all, what works best for one client isn’t ideal for another. There are many variables to consider and when those variables are properly addressed, your chances of success greatly increase.

Professional treatment and a more holistic approach can help you overcome your codeine addiction, especially when your treatment plan includes medical treatment, as well as a combination of other therapies and specialized services.

The role of therapy in codeine addiction

While some clients only require support in order to overcome their physical addiction to codeine, counseling typically plays a pivotal role in terms of one’s overall treatment plan. This is because the vast majority of individuals who use codeine also have an underlying mental health disorder or live with chronic pain.

There tends to be a high co-occurrence of early age trauma, history of abuse, other substance abuse disorders, and personality disorders. Whether you’re using codeine to numb mental, emotional, or physical pain, it’s essential that you’re supported with key strategies to better manage your unique symptoms. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be highly effective, as well as relaxation techniques, mindfulness, and other evidence-based relapse prevention strategies.

Related: Meditation and Mindfulness in Addiction Recovery

Whether you would personally benefit from family therapy, nutrition education, or group support, treatment at Transformations is based on the best scientific evidence available.

What to Expect From the Recovery Process

What deters most codeine users from seeking help is the fear of withdrawal. This is why medical detox is so beneficial, not just in terms of comfort levels, but also overall safety. While codeine withdrawal is not typically life-threatening, there can be serious complications. These complications occur on a case-to-case basis. the ultimate goal of medical detox for codeine addiction is to help you feel as comfortable as possible as you transition to a treatment program.

This means that once your body is rid of codeine, your treatment does not end there. Sustained success will be contingent on addressing a number of key factors. Once again, these factors will be based on a case-to-case basis. For example, if you originally began taking codeine to address pain issues, it’s important to work towards alternative avenues of relief and support. Depending on your situation, interventions such as yoga can have an immense positive influence.

Some other areas to consider include:

  • Mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. When dealing with underlying mental health issues, this can drive a cycle of codeine abuse. During treatment, the goal is to treat both your addiction and mental health so that you can live a higher quality of life for many years to come.
  • Relationship problems, including marital problems and family conflict. These areas may cause immense stress. It’s also important to address meaningful relationships, as these relationships can have a positive impact on the recovery process in terms of ongoing support.
  • Psychosocial issues, including concerns surrounding employment, accommodation, legal issues, friends/family members who use, etc.

All of this will be reviewed within your initial assessment, ensuring that you receive the best possible treatment plan for your unique needs. This is something that Transformations is incredibly passionate about. We understand that each individual is their own unique being with their own unique needs. Addiction is a highly complex disease and no two people are identical — this cannot be stressed enough.

As you work with a team of licensed professionals, they will be able to guide you towards a healthier, more fulfilling life. For example, if you began taking codeine in order to mask symptoms of trauma, it will be critical to address the psychological impact of the trauma you endured. Working through your experiences in a compassionate, structured setting will allow you to overcome the emotional pain you feel so that you can address your addiction long-term.

This is just one example of endless possible scenarios, which is why Transformations offers such a wide range of treatment options. Whether you’re a veteran, a young adult, or someone in the LGBTQIA+ community, we offer specialized programs for every need. Although you will likely begin your journey with medical detox, what happens moving forward in your treatment plan will depend on YOUR progress, needs, desires, and goals.

So when it comes to what you can expect, expect the best possible outcome for you. A life that is free from addiction — a life that is fulfilling and full of hope. Today could be the beginning of the rest of your life, all you need to do is pick up the phone and call. Your road to recovery starts here.

If you or a loved one need help with your codeine addiction, please contact us today.

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