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Codeine Addiction Help-Line

Codeine Addiction

Codeine is a short-acting pain medication and is one of the most commonly used drugs in the world. Short-acting means its effects last only a few hours per dose. Codeine is a member of the class of drug known as opiates which is derived from the opium poppy. Opiates include all drugs with morphine-like effects, such as heroin or Demerol for example. Most codeine found in pharmaceutical products today is synthetically produced via the methylation of morphine. Codeine is often combined with other pain killers such as acetaminophen and aspirin. Codeine is metabolized into morphine in the body, and is typically prescribed to treat mild to moderate pain and to relieve cough and occasionally to treat diarrhea.

Opiates such as codeine have been used for centuries to treat pain. While initially intended for use in the medical community, opiates such as codeine quickly became drugs of choice among recreational drug users. Opiates are now some of the most commonly abused drugs in the world. Opiates such as codeine are often abused because of the powerful effects that they can have on its user. Codeine not only relieves pain, but in high enough doses also produces a sense of please and reward, along with a euphoric calm, much like the effects of heroin. When codeine enters the brain, the brain responds by activating its hormones which are part of its "reward system", producing these bouts of pleasure and euphoria. The excessive release of these hormones and stimulation of the reward system as a result of having used codeine or any opiate can lead to addiction.

Because of the effects of the drug, codeine is commonly abused and diverted. Codeine and other prescription narcotics constitute the most-abused group of prescription drugs in the U.S. Codeine addiction can occur even if someone is taking the drug legitimately for pain. It is quite common for an individual to begin taking codeine legitimately in fact, and then have significant trouble getting off of it when it is time to do so. This is because the brain becomes used to having codeine, and once use has stopped has to readjust to functioning without it. Individuals who become addicted to opiates such as codeine need more and more of the drug just to feel normal. Users quickly develop a physical and psychological dependence to the drug and may experience withdrawal symptoms after as few as 5-7 days of continuous use.

Codeine withdrawal symptoms are similar to those experienced in heroin withdrawal. The effects are so similar, that a heroin addict may try and get their hands on codeine to ward off the effects of withdrawal from heroin or other opiates such as OxyContin or Vicodin. To avoid withdrawal and to be able to continue their habit, individuals who become addicted to prescription opiates such as codeine will do just about anything to get more of the drug. "Doctor-shopping" is one method that is commonly used among opiate addicts to get more drugs, and an addict will go from doctor to doctor complaining of this or that ailment in an attempt to get more prescriptions for opiate narcotics such as codeine. Individuals take part in criminal activity such as prescription forgery, stealing prescriptions or attempting to get the drug via the internet. To help reduce the occurrence of doctor shopping, pharmacy robberies, thefts, shoplifting incidents, health care fraud incidents and prescription fraud, the US Department of Justice has established prescription monitoring programs in 21 states to facilitate the collection, analysis, and reporting of information regarding pharmaceutical drug prescriptions.

Withdrawal symptoms of Codeine are very similar to different narcotic drugs such as: heroin, morphine, and Vicodin. Withdrawal from Codeine usually begins within 12-24 hours after the last dose. Acute withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours and generally wean away within a week. Opiate withdrawal has been known to linger for weeks or months after the initial Codeine withdrawal phase however. How severe or long a person suffers from withdrawal from Codeine is dependent upon how much has been consumed and over what period of time the person has been using. Withdrawal typically starts in 6 hours of the last dose and can be extremely unpleasant, and can exacerbate other conditions. This is why it is always best to undergo Codeine withdrawal at a drug detox or drug rehab facility.

Withdrawal symptoms of Codeine are very similar to different narcotic drugs such as: heroin, morphine, and Vicodin. Withdrawal from Codeine usually begins within 12-24 hours after the last dose. Acute withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours and generally wean away within a week. Opiate withdrawal has been known to linger for weeks or months after the initial Codeine withdrawal phase however. How severe or long a person suffers from withdrawal from Codeine is dependent upon how much has been consumed and over what period of time the person has been using. Withdrawal typically starts in 6 hours of the last dose and can be extremely unpleasant, and can exacerbate other conditions. This is why it is always best to undergo Codeine withdrawal at a drug detox or drug rehab facility.

Codeine withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Intense pain in the body
  • Tremors
  • Excessive sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle cramps with spasms
  • Body chills
  • Goose bumps
  • Paranoia
  • Muscle spasms
  • Agitated and aggressive behavior
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hyperactivity
  • Dilated pupils
  • Runny nose and eye
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite

One an individual has completed codeine withdrawal, it doesn't mean they are in the clear. Individuals who become addicted to prescription opiates often need further treatment to address underlying issues which may have caused their addiction problems. Just detoxing and getting through withdrawal is not considered treatment at all, and most addicts will often return to regular use of prescription opiates such as codeine. This is why it is recommended that anyone who is struggling with addiction to codeine take part in a drug rehab program of at least a 90 day duration which addressed opiate addiction. This will ensure that they remain off of the drug for good.

Aside from the addictive qualities of the drug and the risks associated with codeine withdrawal, the drug is very dangerous when abused and misuse and abuse could result in both short and long-term side effects and loss of life. Prescription drug overdose is unfortunately very common, and misuse of codeine could lead to an overdose which could result in any of the following symptoms:

  • Bluish-colored fingernails and lips
  • Shallow breathing
  • Stopped breathing
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Coma
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Muscle spasticity
  • Muscle twitches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Seizures
  • Skin itching
  • Spasms of stomach or intestines
  • Weak pulse

Codeine overdose can occur both in individuals who have been legitimately prescribed the drug, and in individuals who have been abusing the drug recreationally. In general, opiate narcotics such as codeine as known to cause pulmonary failure, jaundice, liver/kidney failure, amnesia, seizures, blackouts, respiratory depression, heart failure, heart attack, and coma. Repeated use of codeine can also result in stomach bleeding, kidney & liver damage, lowered heart rate and blood pressure, depression, erectile dysfunction, sexual problems, and lessened libido. People who use codeine with other substances such as cocaine, amphetamines, methylphenidate, benzodiazapines, barbiturates, or alcohol more likely to have severe reactions and possibly overdose.

Codeine is often prescribed as a syrup, and "Purple Drank" is a slang word for a drug of abuse which has become popular in the USA, starting in the south (Texas). The main ingredient for Purple Drank is very strong cough syrup that contains promethazine and codeine. The codeine syrup is usually combined with Sprite or Mountain Dew and pieces of Jolly Rancher candy. The concoction takes on a purplish hue, hence the name Purple Drank. There are many slang terms for purple drank, including syrup, lean, purple jelly, barre, sizzurp, drank and Texas tea.

The codeine concoction has been a popular drug of choice in the "hip hop" community, and abuse of Purple Drank has resulted in the deaths of several prominent users. As with all opiates, individuals who abuse the drug are at risk of respiratory depression. But there are other dangers when the drug is also mixed with central nervous system depressants such as promethazine. An overdose caused by misuse of promethazine can result in respiratory or cardiac arrest. As with all central nervous system depressants, combining the drug with alcohol dramatically raises the risk level for failure of the respiratory system. DJ Screw, who made "Purple Drank" popular became a casualty himself, and died from a codeine/alcohol overdose in 2000.

When mixed with acetaminophen, overdose can occur as a result of abuse of the drug as high doses of acetaminophen can cause liver damage. Acetaminophen is metabolized solely by the liver, so there is a risk of fatal overdose due to hepatotoxicity when mixed with alcohol. The mixture can also cause serious damage to the liver, kidneys, and stomach wall. Dosages of acetaminophen should never exceed 4000 mg a day.

Codeine abuse is becoming more and more common, and it is estimated that 33 million Americans use pain relievers such as codeine non-medically every year. Opiate narcotic abuse is second only to marijuana in terms of past-year use in the United States. This has led to many lives lost, prematurely, with unintentional deaths involving prescription opiates increasing 114% from 2001 to 2005. There is billions of dollars to be made legitimately from sales of codeine and other prescription opiates legitimately, which $10 billion dollar is sales yearly. Not to mention how much the drug dealers are making on the streets. Codeine and other prescription opiates are grossly over prescribed as a result, fueled by the money making machine that also needs its fix.

Codeine is a highly effective drug when used properly and short-term to treat legitimate medical conditions. It is not meant to be used long term, and should never be prescribed to someone who has a history of opiate abuse or addiction.

  • Drug Facts
  • The human body converts codeine into morphine during digestion.
  • Codeine is very dangerous to people with chronic heart failure, advanced respiratory insufficiency, or bronchial asthma.
  • This alkaloid (codeine) is found in opium in concentrations ranging from 0.7 to 2.5 percent.
  • Codeine is the most widely used, naturally occurring narcotic in medical treatment in the world.