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 slowing down any time soon. Alcohol is widely abused by adults and by teenagers, 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 or 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 see the symptoms of abuse in yourself 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.
Codeine is usually prescribed to treat mild to moderate pain; however, the drug has recently been used recreationally at a higher rate (Nielsen et al.). Negative side effects of codeine use include:
- Slowed heart rate.
- Weakened pulse.
- Urination problems.
Combined Effects of Codeine and Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol can cause the active ingredients in codeine to be released quicker into the bloodstream, which increases the risk of a drug overdose.
When used in conjunction, alcohol and codeine can cause dangerous effects for drug users. Both drugs act on the central nervous system, and when 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).
Concurrent alcohol and codeine problems 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 programs is that inpatient programs require patients to stay at a facility overnight for a period of between 30 and 90 days. Both programs generally last 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 that specialize in treating addiction.
Statistics for Alcohol and Codeine
There are several troubling trends regarding alcohol and Codeine use in the United States. Both alcohol and codeine’s use is trending upward in the United States, particularly among high school students (Van Hout, 2015).
There is more access to prescription drugs 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 gave money to someone with the expectation of purchasing alcohol.
Teen Drinking and Codeine Abuse
Rates of teenage drinking and prescription 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:
- Hall, W.D. (1996). How can we reduce heroin ‘overdose’ deaths? Medical Journal of Australia 164.
- Tylenol with Codeine #3
- Codeine Abuse
- Get the Facts on Alcohol Abuse
For those interested in getting clean, give us a call at 1-888-744-0069 . We’re working to help you get back to living a life of sobriety, and we’ll help you to choose a rehab program that fits your individual needs. You don’t have to worry about going it alone — the rehab program that you select will have a strong support system. All you need is a bit of motivation and you’ll get on the right path towards living clean. Give us a call today!