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Codeine Addiction, Side Effects, and Rehab

Generic codeine prescription bottle held by gloved hand

Published: April 18, 2024

Codeine addiction is a serious issue that can be life-threatening if not addressed and treated. It occurs when someone becomes reliant on the use of codeine to get through their day.

Drug addictions like codeine addiction are hazardous and can be detrimental to almost every area of your life. Many Americans have become addicted to or misused opioids in their lifetime.

There are many treatment options for codeine addiction, which can often be tailored to your individual needs.

Read on to learn more about codeine addiction, substance abuse treatment, and the effects of opioid addiction.

Why Does Codeine Lead to Addiction?

Codeine is a narcotic used for its analgesic effects to treat mild to moderate pain. It is also commonly used in cough syrups.

An opiate, codeine is a natural opioid, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, which are associated with a high risk of abuse and addiction.

The painkiller is associated with addiction and abuse due to the way it works. In order to relieve pain, codeine binds to opioid receptors in your brain. This prevents your brain and central nervous system (CNS) from sending pain signals to the rest of your body.

Another reason opioids are considered addictive is because they release endorphins when you take them.

After time, some people become addicted to the dopamine-release endorphins and feel obligated to take codeine more frequently or in larger doses to chase that feeling.

Codeine Abuse vs. Codeine Addiction

Though abuse and addiction are often used interchangeably, it’s important to know that codeine abuse and codeine addiction are separate conditions. Codeine is a prescription drug, so not all codeine use is considered abuse.

Codeine abuse refers to any irresponsible use of the medication. This can present many different ways including, taking the drug without a prescription, taking more than you are prescribed, taking it more frequently than you are prescribed, or taking it longer than you are prescribed. As a disclaimer, it is common for abuse to progress to addiction.

As for codeine addiction, this condition occurs when someone becomes mentally reliant on codeine to function. Addiction can cause individuals to feel that codeine use is necessary to perform daily tasks.

Does Codeine Misuse Cause Dependence?

Yes, codeine abuse can cause dependence. Physical dependence is a common occurrence with the use of opioids.

Opioids are commonly associated with physical dependence due to the way they block pain and alter brain chemistry. Much like with any other substance, the longer you take an opioid like codeine, the more your body will build up a tolerance to its effects.

As a result, many people find themselves needing a larger dose of codeine to feel the same effects they originally felt. This can cause your body to physically rely on the medication to function properly, which is physical dependence.

When you develop physical dependence, it can be very difficult to stop using codeine and can result in addiction. This is because you will likely experience withdrawal symptoms upon quitting codeine use.

Signs of a Codeine Addiction

Codeine addiction can cause several signs and symptoms to manifest. Learning to identify symptoms of codeine addiction can be incredibly helpful if you suspect a family member is abusing codeine. They can also help you to self-identify addiction.

Signs and symptoms can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Euphoria
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Heavy codeine use
  • Social withdrawal
  • Engaging in risky behavior
  • Taking higher doses of codeine
  • Inability to stop thinking about codeine

Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms occur with physical dependence and can make it difficult to stop using codeine or even exacerbate addiction.

Codeine withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Anxiety
  • Runny nose
  • Yawning
  • Hyperventilation
  • Increased body temperature
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps
  • Increased pain
  • Irritability
  • Shaking
  • Depression

Side Effects of Codeine Abuse

All drugs, including codeine, come with side effects. Particularly with codeine abuse, there are some pleasant and unpleasant side effects. These can either be short-term or long-term effects, the latter occurring after long-term misuse.

Short-term effects include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Blurred vision
  • Euphoria
  • Restlessness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rashes
  • Respiratory depression
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Heart palpitations
  • Stiff muscles
  • Opioid overdose
  • Death

Long-term effects can include:

  • Increased risk of overdose
  • Organ failure
  • Hyperalgesia
  • Memory problems
  • Mental health disorders
  • Increased risk of bone fractures
  • Chronic constipation
  • Sleep-disordered breathing

Risk Factors for Codeine Addiction

There are certain risk factors associated with developing an opioid addiction. However, it is possible for anyone to develop a codeine addiction with continued misuse.

General substance addiction risk factors can include:

  • Family history of addiction
  • Early exposure to drugs
  • Lack of family involvement
  • Mental illness
  • Peer pressure

Codeine addiction risk factors may include:

  • Being prescribed codeine
  • Being prescribed codeine for a prolonged period
  • Being prescribed a high dose of codeine
  • Being aged teens to 20s
  • Having chronic pain
  • Easy access to codeine
  • Party-seeking/risky behavior

Diagnosing Codeine Addiction

An accurate codeine addiction diagnosis can only come from a qualified medical professional. That being said, signs and symptoms can certainly help indicate the need for a medical evaluation.

Medical evaluations can help your healthcare provider assess your behaviors, patterns, and choices to determine if you have a substance use disorder (SUD).

You may be asked questions about how you use codeine, including how much you take, how frequently you take it, and the reasons you use it.

Codeine Addiction Treatment Options

Codeine addiction treatment comes in many shapes and sizes. Substance abuse treatment is all about your needs, so you may find a particular type of treatment program to be more suitable for your needs.

Many people encounter several treatment services throughout their recovery journey.

Opioid Detox Programs

Medical detoxification is a very common and important service when it comes to addiction recovery. Detox is the process of removing any remaining opioids from your system.

Some people try to detox from codeine on their own, and while it is not impossible, it can be very dangerous. It’s always recommended to detox under medical supervision.

In an opioid detox program, you will have 24/7 care during your detoxification process. Your care team will monitor your vitals, help you manage withdrawal symptoms, and administer any necessary medications or treatments during this service.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a treatment service that uses FDA-approved medications to treat addiction. It is evidence-based and particularly effective in opioid addictions.

Medications like buprenorphine, Suboxone, naltrexone, and methadone are used for extended periods of time in MAT to reduce cravings, reduce withdrawal symptoms, and encourage long-term sobriety.

In combination with other treatment services, MAT can be very effective in treating codeine addiction. Many people continue it even after their treatment program and are slowly tapered off the medication.

Opioid Rehab

Opioid rehabilitation comes in two main forms: inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment. Depending on your needs, you may choose one or the other, or start in inpatient and transition to outpatient.

Inpatient rehab offers the highest level of care with round-the-clock medical supervision. This type of treatment combines the use of several treatment options and requires participants to live in a treatment facility for the duration of the program. These programs follow a strict schedule.

Outpatient rehab is also very effective but may be better suited for people who cannot leave their home for the length of a treatment program.

This type of treatment requires participants to travel to a rehab center several days a week for treatment. Individuals will likely encounter a variety of treatment services here as well.

What Happens After Codeine Rehab?

After completing a codeine rehab program, it is likely you’ll transition into continuing care or aftercare. Both of these terms refer to care services that you continue after leaving a treatment program.

Many people find aftercare to be an essential part of their recovery journey as it helps ease the transition out of a rehabilitation program and decrease the risk of relapse.

There are countless options when it comes to continuing care, but you and your care team will determine which services may be best for you.

Some people choose to continue regular therapy sessions, some continue MAT, and others may choose alternative therapy or to attend support group meetings.

Another option commonly seen is sober housing. This is a great option for people who want to start their post-treatment journey in a sober environment with peers in the same position.

Who Can Benefit From Codeine Rehab?

You may not realize it, but codeine addiction can completely take over your life and be hazardous to many different areas of it.

That being said, the benefits of treatment can be immense and completely change your life for the better.

Benefits of codeine treatment can include:

  • Improved health in all areas of life
  • Decreased risk of codeine overdose
  • Decreased risk of death from codeine
  • Improved personal relationships
  • Strengthened familial bonds
  • Improved professional relationships
  • Improved career
  • New friendships
  • Improved well-being

How to Prevent Relapse After Codeine Rehab

Many people worry about relapse when they complete addiction treatment, but it’s important to note that having a relapse prevention plan can greatly decrease the risk of relapse.

The adjustment between treatment and day-to-day life can be stressful and introduce many triggers. However, relapse prevention can ease these obstacles.

Some relapse prevention strategies include:

  • Setting up a support system
  • Joining a support group
  • Developing new, health hobbies
  • Attending regular therapy or counseling sessions
  • Learning healthy coping skills
  • Surrounding yourself with supportive people

Find Help for Yourself or a Loved One with Codeine Addiction

Codeine addiction can happen to anyone and be completely life-changing. Luckily, professional treatment can make long-term recovery and a healthier lifestyle achievable.

If you have any additional questions regarding opioid addiction or treatment, give our helpline a call today.

Codeine Addiction FAQs

How long does it take to become addicted to codeine?

Codeine addiction can happen quickly. However, it’s important to note that there is no set amount of time it takes to become addicted to a drug. This will vary from person to person and will depend on several factors.

For example, your behaviors and patterns surrounding codeine use can affect how quickly an addiction may develop. Other factors can include your height, weight, and more.

How do you fight a codeine addiction?

The best way to fight a codeine addiction is to seek a professional addiction treatment program. It can seem quite daunting to tackle an opioid use disorder (OUD) on your own, but with the right care and support, long-term recovery is possible.

If someone you love has a codeine addiction, holding an intervention to encourage them to seek help can be very effective.

Can you recover from codeine addiction?

Yes, you can recover from codeine addiction with proper treatment. Though it is not possible to completely cure addiction, it is possible to treat and manage it.

After completing a rehab program, you may be able to achieve long-term recovery from codeine addiction.

Can you quit codeine cold turkey?

It is difficult to quit codeine cold turkey as it commonly causes physical dependence. Physical dependence causes your body to rely on codeine, which can result in very unpleasant and sometimes dangerous withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop taking it.

Trying to detox from codeine by yourself can be very dangerous, so it’s best to seek out medical detox through a professional treatment center.

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