Codeine addiction has not been one of the more widely publicized types of addiction, but it can be a silent killer when it is abused. Codeine is a narcotic opiate intended to treat mild to moderate pain and for the management of cough. Codeine is most often found and prescribed in combination with other drugs for optimal effectiveness.
Codeine Abuse Signs and Symptoms
One of the most common forms of codeine abuse is in prescription strength cough syrup, which contains promethazine. Promethazine is an antihistamine and has mild sedative, pain relief, and sleep aid qualities. Although the promethazine is included in cough syrup to deter abuse, when the two drugs are taken in extremely high amounts, they can lead to respiratory failure and fatal overdose. Commonly referred to as “purple drank”, this cough syrup became popularized by underground hip hop DJs in Texas, and has remained popular throughout the southern and southeastern hip hop culture.
Another common form of codeine is in pill form, and this is the form in which codeine can be most dangerous. Since codeine is a narcotic opiate medication, it has the same effects as other opiod drugs, although codeine is far less potent. Although it would takes higher doses of the drug to reach the effects of many other painkillers, codeine has effects such as:
- Mood Swings
- Shallow breathing (in higher doses)
- Decreased heart rate
If an individual is given a prescription for codeine, it is most likely for the management of mild to moderate pain, and not intended to be taken on an around-the-clock basis. However, since codeine has not be labeled as one of the primary drugs of addiction, like other prescription drugs, it may be easier for those with a codeine addiction to get prescriptions for more from doctors. Additionally, since codeine is intended to treat very minor to moderate pain, one would not need to create an elaborate rouse to justify the need for stronger painkillers.
This should not imply that codeine cannot do any harm. When it is abused, and taken in large amounts, codeine can be just as deadly as any other painkiller.
Additionally, codeine addiction can happen just as quickly and easily as any other drug as well. Codeine is a Schedule II or III drug, as classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), which means it is perceived to have a moderate to high potential for abuse, depending on whether it is used in combination with other medications, like acetaminophen (non-narcotic painkiller).
When codeine is abused, it can result in dependency and addiction because it binds to the opiate receptors in the brain. As a result, continued and excessive use of codeine can increase tolerance to the drug, which leads to higher and more frequent doses.
Once codeine addiction develops, an individual can become desperate to ensure he or she always has codeine available in order to avoid painful and unmanageable withdrawal symptoms. Since it is an opiate, codeine withdrawal symptoms are the same as those associated with other drugs in its class, and can include the following:
- Muscle pain and spasms
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- High fever
- Increased anxiety
- Cold sweats
- Runny nose
- High blood pressure
- Intense cravings
It is important to note that these withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening, but are often a strong deterrent for many codeine addicts to get sober and find recovery from addiction.
Signs of Codeine Addiction
Codeine addiction has many signs, most of which are behavioral and indicative of a change of lifestyle that results in negative consequences for the addict. Since addiction is a behavioral problem, the following signs can be applied to any addiction, wither it is codeine addiction, behavioral, or addiction to any other substance.
- Change in appearance and personal hygiene
- Change in friends and/or associates
- Loss of interest in things that were once cherished and enjoyable
- Financial trouble (i.e. unexplained missing money and/or unpaid bills despite employment)
- Legal trouble from DUI, possession, theft, prescription fraud charges, etc.
- Troubled or broken relationships as result of codeine addiction
- Health related problems resulting from codeine overdose or other complications exacerbated by codeine
- Involvement in dangerous, destructive and other addictive behaviors, such as additional substance abuse, risky sexual encounters, and/or illegal activity surrounding obtaining codeine
- Frequent and severe mood swings
- Inability to maintain, or get a job as a result of frequent absenteeism, erratic behavior, and/or insufficient performance
- Becoming hostile or agitated when confronted or questioned about codeine abuse and addiction
- Frequently appearing to be under the influence and/or uninterested in anything other than discussions that are codeine related
- Presence of withdrawal symptoms when not using codeine
- Engagement in various methods to get more codeine such as doctor shopping, using pill mills or online pharmacies, and/or involvement with street level drug dealers
- frequent “accidents” that result in trips to the emergency room to request more codeine
- Increased isolation from friends and family
- Poor performance at school, work, or neglectfulness at home and with loved ones
The signs of codeine addiction can be endless, depending on the individual and his or her circumstances. However, when codeine addiction develops, the individual addict will change in every way possible to continue the addiction, despite initial attempts to hide it.
Detox for Codeine Addiction
Once addicted to codeine, the only way to end the cycle is to get sober and stay in recovery from the addiction. The first, and most important step in getting sober is to detox from the codeine. Since the withdrawal symptoms are not life threatening, detox does not require supervision, however it is highly recommended. The reason for this is because the psychological symptoms combined with those that are physical can create a grueling experience, one in which an addict wants to either do more codeine or jump out of a window. Despite feeling this way, very few addicts actually attempt suicide. Nonetheless, the symptoms are incredibly difficult to endure until the detox is complete.