Codeine phosphate is an opioid analgesic drug—otherwise known as a painkiller or narcotic. It is a relatively mild narcotic but, when used in large amounts, it can still be quite dangerous.
Typically, codeine is prescribed to treat mild to moderate pain, but its recreational use and popularity has grown in recent years. Codeine is a favorite among young adults and high school students (Nielsen et al., 2015; Jonasson et al., 2000).
Alcohol, however, is still the most popular drug in the United States, and that distinction does not seem to be changing any time soon. Alcohol is widely abused by adults and teenagers alike, with nearly 40% of all high school students having at least tried some alcohol in the past 30 days, despite the fact that alcohol is illegal for individuals under the age of 21 (NIAA, 2013).
When used in conjunction, alcohol and codeine can enhance their respective effects and increase the potential for a drug overdose. Alcohol inhibits the metabolism of codeine—and that of other opioids—thereby increasing codeine’s effects (Swift, 2008; Hall 1996).
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol With Codeine
There are several signs of concurrent alcohol and codeine use that those at risk for substance abuse should be well aware of in order to be able to recognize the symptoms of substance abuse in themselves and others.
Individuals abusing alcohol typically have:
- Slurred speech.
- Blurred vision.
- Slowed reaction times.
- Lowered critical thinking and motor skills (Kinney, 2009).
Alcohol’s effects typically wear off within a few hours, but long term alcohol abuse can cause debilitating organ damage to the liver and the kidneys.
- Slowed heart rate.
- Weakened pulse.
- Urination problems.
Combined Effects of Codeine and Alcohol Abuse
When used in conjunction, alcohol and codeine can cause dangerous effects for drug users. Both drugs act on the central nervous system and, when these substances are used in conjunction, users may experience dangerous symptoms such as:
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Mental impairment.
- Low blood pressure.
- Respiratory distress.
- Coma, fainting and even death (Hall, 1996; Julien et al., 2011).
Problems caused by concurrent alcohol and codeine use are quite serious and need to be addressed by a medical professional. Alcohol can cause the active ingredients in codeine to be released quicker into the bloodstream, which increases the risk of a drug overdose (Hall, 1996). If prescribed codeine, patients should avoid alcohol altogether, as the drug’s potential dangers are too severe to ignore.
Treatment for Co-occurring Alcohol and Codeine Addiction
Patients suffering from alcohol and codeine addiction either separately or concurrently should get help at a rehab program. There are several rehab programs that operate locally and can help patients reach sobriety.
Patients can usually choose between inpatient programs and outpatient programs. The difference between the two types of programs is that inpatient programs require patients to stay at a facility overnight for a period of between 30 days and 90 days. Each type of program generally lasts for about the same period of time.
Outpatient programs do not have the same overnight requirement. Instead, outpatient programs require that individuals check in with a medical professional at least once per day for the duration of their treatment. Both inpatient and outpatient programs offer strong support systems and qualified medical professionals who specialize in treating addiction.
Statistics for Alcohol and Codeine
There are several troubling trends regarding alcohol and codeine use in the United States. Alcohol use and codeine use are both trending upward in the United States, particularly among high school students (Van Hout, 2015).
There is more access to prescription drugs in today’s world, and young adults are taking advantage of the access. Alcohol also continues to be the most popular drug for both the adult population and for minors in the United States. Often, this is due to a culture where drinking alcohol is deemed cool or acceptable, even for those below the legal age of 21 (NIAA, 2013).
Among underage drinkers aged 12-20, 22.3% stated that they had given money to someone with the expectation of purchasing alcohol.
Teen Drinking and Codeine Abuse
Rates of teenage drinking and prescription drug use continue to be high in the United States, with 40% of high school students reporting using alcohol in the past 30 days (NIAA, 2013). In the same time period, nearly one fourth of high school students report having engaged in binge drinking behavior.
This is a dangerous trend, and the rate of recreational abuse of prescription drugs among high school students continues to increase.
Resources, Articles, and More Information
There are several articles that will provide further information on codeine and alcohol abuse:
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