Codeine is a prescription opioid that is fairly weak compared to other options. However, prescription opioids have played a large role in the current opioid crisis in the United States. Abuse of prescription opioids often leads to the use of stronger, illicit drugs. However, addiction is treatable, and learning the signs of addiction can help you avoid some of the most dangerous consequences of the disease. Learn more about codeine addiction
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What Is Codeine?
Codeine is a naturally occurring psychoactive alkaloid that’s found in the opium poppy plant. As an opiate, it works similarly to other opium derivatives such as morphine and heroin. However, its effects are milder than many of its counterparts. It’s commonly used as a medical treatment for mild-to-moderate pain symptoms and how treatment can help.
It’s also commonly used to relieve the discomfort that causes coughing, so it is used in a variety of cough medicines and suppressants. However, there is little evidence to support its effectiveness in suppressing acute coughing. It can also be used to treat irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea.
Codeine comes with several side effects, most commonly, drowsiness and constipation. But it can also cause itching, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, euphoria, and dysphoria in some circumstances, especially when it’s abused or used with other drugs. Like other opioids, respiratory depression is one of the most dangerous side effects that codeine can cause. This can happen during an overdose, and it’s more likely to happen when codeine is mixed with alcohol, other opioids, or prescription sleep aids like benzodiazepines.
Like other opioids, long-term use or abuse can lead to tolerance, physical dependence, addiction, and withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal often mimics a cold or flu with a runny nose, nausea, vomiting, sweating, diarrhea, body aches, and chills.
Codeine works in the body in a way similar to other opioids but with a few key differences. It primarily works by activating specific opioid receptors, but it has a low affinity for the receptor on its own. However, it’s what is called a prodrug, which is a drug that breaks down into more active psychoactive chemicals when it’s metabolized.
That means, it’s a weak opioid when it enters your body, but as you process it, it breaks down into morphine, which is much more effective.
What Are the Signs of Codeine Addiction?
Codeine addiction, like other prescription opioids, can lead to serious consequences, including the use of illicit drugs, legal issues, infectious diseases, and more. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three out of four heroin users reported using prescription opioids first. However, addiction is a severe substance use disorder, and it usually follows some clear signs. Catching a problem early can help you to avoid some of the most serious consequences of addiction. It’s also important to note that even serious addictions can be treated.
The first sign that substance use is becoming a problem is a growing tolerance. If you have been taking codeine for a while and start to feel like your normal dose is weaker than it used to be, your body could be getting used to the drug. As your body adapts to codeine, it may start to rely on it, which leads to chemical dependence. Dependence is characterized by feelings of withdrawal symptoms or cravings when you miss a dose or stop using. Codeine withdrawal often feels like the flu.
A substance use disorder becomes an addiction when compulsive use gets out of control. Someone who is addicted to codeine will continue to use the drug, even if it causes serious consequences like a job loss or legal trouble.
Struggling with an addiction to Codeine? Let our treatment experts help!
Struggling with an addiction to Codeine? Let our treatment experts help!
What Is Involved in Codeine Addiction Treatment?
Though opioid addiction is a serious disease that is notoriously difficult to get over, it can be treated with the right help from certified addiction professionals. For treatment to be effective, it needs to be tailored to your individual needs. Because addiction affects everyone differently, it’s important for treatment to be as individualized as possible.
Addiction can come with a variety of underlying causes and consequences that need to be addressed in treatment. Otherwise, things like untreated mental disorders, financial struggles, medical problems, and other issues, can lead to a relapse.
When you first enter addiction treatment, you will go through an intake and assessment process to determine the right level of care for your needs and what needs should be addressed first. As soon as you can, you may sit down with a therapist to go through what is called a biopsychosocial assessment, which looks at your biological, psychological, and social needs.
In many cases, people begin the treatment process with medical detox to address any health-related needs such as those involving disease and withdrawal. Codeine withdrawal isn’t known to be life-threatening, but it can be extremely unpleasant. People who are addicted to opioids often see withdrawal as a significant barrier to treatment, because, even though it most likely won’t be dangerous, it’s difficult to make it through intense cravings and terrible flu-symptoms without using. In some cases, vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive sweating can cause dehydration, which can be life-threatening.
Medical detox involves 24-hour care daily from medical professionals. You will be monitored at all times to avoid dangerous medical complications, and you may be treated with medications to alleviate your symptoms when necessary.
In some cases, medication-assisted treatment can be used to stave off withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Medicines like Suboxone are used to alleviate withdrawal while you go through treatment. After you are removed from the active addiction lifestyle, address underlying issues, and learn relapse prevention strategies, you are slowly weaned off the medication.
After detox, you will go through levels of care that are appropriate for your needs. If you need continued monitoring for a medical or psychological condition or complication, you may go through an inpatient treatment program or residential treatment that involves 24-hour medical monitoring or clinical care.
If you can live on your own, you may attend an intensive outpatient treatment program, which involves more than nine hours of clinical services a week. This level of care also includes partial hospitalization, which can provide as much as 12 hours of services every day.
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Outpatient treatment is the last stop on the formal continuum of care. It involves less than nine hours of clinical services every week.
However, it’s a vital part of the treatment process. It provides continued support as you start to enter independent life with more free time to pursue your goals.
In outpatient treatment you will go through therapies like individual, group, and family therapies, depending on your treatment plan. Outpatient treatment is often an important step between more intensive therapies and complete independence.
Codeine Abuse Statistics
- 80% of heroin users report using prescription drugs first.
- About 115 people die every day because of an opioid overdose.
- Between 21% to 29% of those prescribed opioids misuse them.
Start Your Journey To Recovery Today
Addiction is a serious issue in the United States, and it’s difficult to overcome on your own. However, you don’t have to go through it by yourself. Learning more about addiction treatment is often the first step toward recovery for yourself or a loved one.
Start your journey to long-lasting recovery today. It’s never too late to work toward lifelong sobriety, even if you’ve relapsed before.
CDC. (2017, January 26). Heroin Overdose Data. Retrieved from from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/heroin.html
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, March 06). Opioid Overdose Crisis. Retrieved from from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis
Schroeder, K., & Fahey, T. (2004, October 18). Over-the-counter medications for acute cough in children ... Retrieved from from http://www.cochranelibrary.com/enhanced/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD001831