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Codeine Abuse Symptoms and Addiction Treatment

Table of Contents

Overview of Codeine Abuse

“Codeine addiction is a widespread, far-reaching problem that spans across ages, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Codeine is an opiate drug often found in prescription-strength cough syrups, or in a combination formulation with various other analgesics (for example, with acetaminophen—under the brand name Tylenol 3). It is used clinically to treat pain and coughing; however, it is also often abused due to its euphoric side effects.

Codeine addiction is a widespread, far-reaching problem that spans across ages, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Codeine is an addictive drug with potentially dangerous effects at high dosages. It essentially acts as a depressant of the central nervous system. This leads users to experience:

  • Feelings of relaxation.
  • Euphoria.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Slowed heart rate.

These effects are perceived as pleasant, and the user may become addicted to these effects and, in turn, the drug.

The addictive nature of codeine, and the accompanying physical dependency that may develop over time, can lead to difficult and unpleasant opioid withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Sweating and chills.
  • Malaise.
  • Extreme irritability.
  • Abdominal discomfort.
  • Diarrhea.

The Demand for Codeine

Codeine is clearly a product that is in demand within the street and club scenes; some reports say that people pay up to $200 per bottle to obtain cough syrup for illegal use.

Signs and Symptoms of Codeine Abuse

If you think someone you are close to may be addicted to codeine, there are a few traits for which you can keep an eye out:

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  • Dizziness and staggering.
  • Itchiness and scratching (often of the nose).
  • Constricted or pinpoint pupils.
  • Slow breathing.
  • Confused mental state.
  • Complaints of constipation.
  • Blue appearance to lips or fingernails.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Delirium and hallucination.
  • Seizures.

If you or someone you love is exhibiting these signs and might need help with a codeine addiction, call for free at to learn about opiate recovery options.

Effects of Codeine Abuse

There are many unpleasant side effects of codeine abuse, some of which can be fatal. These effects include:

  • Gastrointestinal distress.
  • Clouded thinking and impaired judgment.
  • Depression.
  • Drastic lowering of blood pressure.
  • Slowed heart rate.
  • Liver malfunction (especially with the Tylenol formulations).

Markedly lowered heart and respiration rates can result from central nervous system depression. The resulting decrease in oxygenated blood to the brain and other vital organs can lead to seizures or even death.

Learn more about the effects of codeine use.

Codeine Addiction Treatment

If you are struggling to dig your way out of a codeine addiction, there are several roads you can travel to find the support you need to recover, such as:

  • Checking into a residential or inpatient rehab center.
  • Joining Narcotics Anonymous.
  • Participating in other 12-step groups, or non-12-step recovery programs such as SMART Recovery.
  • Seeking therapy from an addiction specialist or psychotherapist.

If you have a severe addiction and need to leave a toxic environment, an inpatient center will likely be best for you. However, every addiction is unique, and treatment must be tailored to the individual.

To learn more about addiction treatment options for yourself or a loved one, call American Addiction Centers (AAC) for free at .

Codeine: Key Statistics

The problem of codeine abuse and addiction is widespread. Consider the following statistics:

  • The Texas State Board of Pharmacy found that more than 145 gallons of codeine cough syrup were used for illegal purposes over a 5-year period.
  • According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), almost 17,000 deaths due to overdose from opiates occurred in 2011.
  • In 2013, SAMHSA estimated that 1.9 million Americans had an opiate use disorder in the previous year.

Especially troubling is that tolerance to opiates like codeine can increase quickly, which increases the user’s demand for the drug. Often, in an attempt to feel the same high when the prescription drug source is no longer available (or too expensive), the user may turn to street drugs like heroin as a substitute.

Additional Resources

For more information about codeine’s effects and codeine addiction, visit the following pages:

How to Find Help for Codeine Misuse or Addiction

If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to codeine, help is available and recovery is possible. Professional treatment can start anyone battling substance misuse on the path to a happier and healthier life. American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of addiction treatment programs and has trusted facilities across the country. To learn more about rehab programs and treatment options, please contact a caring admissions navigator with AAC free at .

Codeine Addiction Treatment Levels of Care

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Patrick Condron, M.Sc., M.A.C., is an addiction specialist and drug and alcohol counselor. He is Executive Director of Lazarus House, Inc., a transitional residential program for men and women who continue to work on their recovery towards independent living.
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