Codeine isn’t a drug that most people worry about becoming dependent upon. Indeed, it has less potential for abuse than other opioids such as hydrocodone or oxycodone. Yet more and more people find themselves addicted to codeine each year. Prescription drug addiction is a growing epidemic and not just among drug addicts and celebrities, but also curious teens and people taking prescription painkillers for legitimate purposes.
What Is Codeine?
Codeine is an opiate drug, similar to morphine and heroin. It is typically taken orally or “freebased” (smoked on aluminum foil), as other methods can result in serious cardiovascular problems.
A prescription painkiller, codeine can be used to treat diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, cough, pain and other ailments. Codeine can be found in many over-the-counter drugs and prescription and OTC cough syrups, such as:
- Tylenol with Codeine
- Promethazine/Codeine Syrup
- Empirin with Codeine
- Fiorinal with Codeine
- Nurofen Plus
- Robitussin A-C
Dangers of Codeine Addiction
While codeine can be used safely to relieve pain as directed by a physician, codeine abuse can result in:
- Stomach bleeding
- Kidney damage
- Liver damage
- Blurred vision
- Lowered heart rate, blood pressure and breathing
- Sexual problems
Because codeine is absorbed quickly and little of the drug is metabolized as it passes through the liver, codeine can be extremely potent and addictive.
Once an individual becomes physically or psychologically dependent, they are said to be addicted to codeine. Tolerance develops, meaning the addict needs more of the drug to feel good and soon loses the ability to feel good at all.
Withdrawal from codeine can be painful. While t he worst symptoms typically pass within a few days, it can take months to feel normal again. Symptoms of codeine withdrawal may include:
- Muscle pain and twitching
- Headaches and fever
- Irregular heartbeat
- Nausea and vomiting
- High blood pressure
- Stomach cramps
Medications like methadone and Suboxone can make codeine detox more comfortable. Used under the close direction and supervision of a licensed physician, these medications can reduce drug cravings and make an addict more clear-headed and motivated to participate in a codeine rehab program.
The Best Treatments for Codeine Addiction
Codeine addiction is best treated with a combination of medication and addiction counseling. Some codeine addicts may be able to beat their habit in outpatient treatment, while others will require the support and structure of residential codeine rehab.