Codeine Abuse

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.

You can get help today. Learn more about how to get your life back.

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 physical dependency that may develop over time, can lead to difficult and unpleasant 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 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 1-888-744-0069 to learn about opiate recovery options.

Effects of Codeine Abuse

There are many unpleasant side 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.

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 rehab center.
  • Joining Narcotics Anonymous.
  • Participating in other twelve-step groups, or non-twelve-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 treatment options for yourself or a loved one, call
1-888-744-0069 .

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 the 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:

Visit our Forum and join the conversation about opiate addiction today.

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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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