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Codeine Abuse & Addiction | Effects, Withdrawal, & Treatment Options

Published on September 29, 2020
brown bottle of codeine cough syrup

Codeine is found in some types of cough syrup, although it can also be prescribed for short-term pain relief. 

Since codeine is an opioid, becoming addicted to the effects it produces is possible. Treatment options are available to help you overcome opioid addiction and build a healthy life. 

What Is Codeine?

Codeine is an opioid that is sometimes found in over-the-counter cough suppressant products, such as codeine cough syrup. As an opioid, this drug is a painkiller used for relieving mild or moderate pain. 

Codeine is a class of prescription opioids known as opiate or narcotic analgesics, which affect the way your brain and the rest of your central nervous system reacts to pain. 

Some important things to keep in mind about codeine include:

  • codeine tablets for pain relief are only available as a prescription medication
  • prescription codeine is part of a restricted distribution program referred to as the Opioid Analgesic Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) program
  • Codeine use comes with a warning that it may be habit-forming and lead to physical or mental dependence when it’s used for long periods of time. 

Codeine Combination Medications

Codeine is also available in combination with other substances, like acetaminophen or antihistamines, as a prescription pain reliever or cough suppressant:

Several codeine products are available as a cough syrup, which is a form of the medication that is frequently abused. 

Effects Of Codeine Abuse

A codeine addiction can occur if you take this drug frequently or use it for long periods of time. It’s important to recognize the signs of a codeine addiction, so you can get the help you need for recovery. 

Codeine side effects that could indicate an addiction include:

  • Mood swings
  • dry mouth
  • depression or anxiety
  • appetite changes/weight loss
  • constipation
  • Pain in the stomach or abdominal area
  • slow heart rate
  • kidney damage or liver damage
  • Drowsiness
  • sleeping more often or for longer periods of time

Learn more about the Side Effects Of Codeine Abuse

Signs Of Codeine Overdose

Taking too much codeine can result in an overdose, which requires emergency medical care. 

Some of the symptoms of a codeine overdose include:

  • dizziness
  • slow breathing or respiratory depression
  • Weakness
  • muscle spasms in the intestines
  • unconsciousness
  • bluish tint in the fingernails or lips
  • severe drowsiness
  • clammy skin
  • slow or weak pulse
  • low blood pressure

Since an overdose can lead to life-threatening symptoms, it’s important to seek medical care right away. 

Learn more about the Risk Of Codeine Overdose

Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms & Detox

Stopping codeine use can lead to symptoms of withdrawal if you have a drug addiction. 

Some of the codeine withdrawal symptoms that can occur as your body adjusts to the sudden absence of this drug includes:

  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • watery eyes
  • appetite loss
  • stomach cramps
  • sleep problems
  • Runny nose
  • muscle spasms or aches
  • irritability
  • rapid heartbeat
  • chills

Codeine withdrawal can last for a week or more, with physical symptoms generally being stronger in the early days of this process. 

The codeine withdrawal process can be unpleasant to go through, but help is available with detox programs. Detox programs provide safety, support, and care for those who are experiencing symptoms of withdrawal.  

Detox is an important step in moving toward overcoming a codeine addiction. 

Learn more about Withdrawal Symptoms Of Codeine

Opioid Addiction Treatment Options

Professional treatment programs are available if you suffer from codeine addiction. Since there are different kinds of substance abuse programs for this type of addiction, it’s important to find a healthcare provider that fits you or your loved ones needs.

Inpatient/Residential Treatment

Inpatient rehab offers a safe treatment center for you to stay in while recovering from a codeine addiction. This kind of treatment program provides you with support from medical professionals, mental health professionals, and other professionals as needed. 

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient care is a form of drug abuse rehab that does not require staying at a treatment center. 

Whether you’re in a partial hospitalization program, intensive outpatient program, or standard outpatient program, you’ll be living at home and going to a treatment center as needed for behavioral therapy and/or group therapy. 

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy is an important component of codeine addiction treatment. This type of therapy is often used in different kinds of treatment programs, including inpatient and outpatient programs. 

Behavioral therapy focuses on helping you understand how drug use develops. With this kind of therapy, you can also expect to learn ways to change your thinking and behavior to improve your mental health and overcome addiction.

Overcome Codeine Addiction

If you struggle with opioid or codeine addiction, please contact Ark Behavioral Health today to learn more about our services. We see patients with substance use disorders from across the United States, and operate four treatment centers in Massachusetts.

Our treatment specialists can help you find the right program for you or your loved one’s needs.

Codeine FAQ

Does Snorting Codeine Work?

Snorting codeine is dangerous and qualifies as drug abuse. While snorting may increase pain relief, it also increases the chances of dependence, overdose, and withdrawal. Other parts of the body, such as the nose, may also be damaged.

Learn more about the Dangers Of Snorting Codeine

Is It Safe To Inject Codeine?

Codeine is safe to inject when performed by a doctor in a sterile environment. If proper instructions and tools are provided by a doctor, codeine injection can also be safe at home. However, injecting codeine to get high is a sign of addiction and can lead to serious health risks.

Learn more about the Dangers Of Injecting Codeine

How Long Does Codeine Stay In Your System?

Codeine has a half-life of 1 to 4 hours. That means it takes 1 to 4 hours for half of a dose of codeine to leave your system.

However, after your last dose, the drug may show up on a urine test for up to 48 hours, on a blood test for up to 24 hours, on a saliva test for 1 to 4 days, and on a hair follicle test for up to 10 weeks.

Learn more about Codeine Detection Times

Is Codeine An Opioid?

Yes. Codeine belongs to a group of naturally occurring opioids known as opiates. Opiates are organic compounds found in the opium poppy plant.

Learn more about Is Codeine An Opioid, Opiate, Or Narcotic?

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.
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