Codeine is an opiate that is synthesized from the opium poppy and is widely used to treat mild to moderate pain. It is widely prescribed for many different ailments. Codeine addiction is one of the most common in the UK (stronger drugs are more common in the US) and other countries. However, it is also one of the most widely abused drugs in the world, which stems from the fact that it is so widely available and commonly prescribed, as well as the fact that it can be just as addictive as stronger opiates like morphine and heroin.
Codeine may not be as strong as other opiates, but addiction to this drug can be just as damaging and just as detrimental to an addict’s health. What’s more, the withdrawals from codeine are excruciating, which causes many addicts to relapse.
Symptoms of Codeine Addiction
Codeine addiction is relatively easy to hide, which is why addicts can go undetected for so long, leading relatively normal lives until the addiction becomes too much and begins to take over. Codeine is typically consumed in tablet form and is very rarely injected or snorted.
It can be consumed in the form of a cough syrup called “Codeine Linctus” in the UK and Promethazine with Codeine in the US. It can also be consumed via over-the-counter medications, from which the codeine is often extracted using Cold-Water Extraction (CWE) techniques.
Anyone purchasing and using large quantities of the drug, and anyone who feels that they need to use it daily in order to feel “right”, may well be addicted. If you are worried that a friend or family member is addicted, there are symptoms you can look out for:
- Constant Itching/Rubbing of Face
How Common is Codeine Addiction?
It’s not always easy to predict just how many lives are negatively affected by this drug, as many addicts hide in plain sight. They are teachers, students, housewives. Drugs like codeine are so common they work their way into all facets of modern life. However, official government statistics suggest that the number could be at least 30,000 in the United Kingdom alone.
How to Spot Codeine Addiction
Worried that your loved one might be addicted to codeine or a similar drug? There are some things that you can look out for. We have already discussed the signs of addiction and we’ll discuss the side effects soon. These can help you to spot the problem in someone who is close to you.
If you take a look at our Codeine Cough Syrup page you will also learn about some of the common methods that people use to get high on this drug.
Other Signs of Codeine Addiction Include
- Agitation: A codeine addict may be constantly scratching themselves, rubbing their faces and their hair, and generally acting like they are itching all over. These symptoms are not present at all times but tend to occur immediately after a heavy dose has been consumed.
- Digestive Distress: Someone suffering from a codeine addiction will almost certainly have bowel problems. The codeine causes a blockage and makes constipation a regular occurrence. They may struggle to have bowel movements and may pass hard, dry pellets when they do. They may spend longer in the toilet; there may be a smell of dry and “old” feces when you use the toilet after them; and they may use a lot of laxatives.
- Dry: Codeine makes the user’s throat dry. So, if you find that your loved one suddenly has a croaky voice, and that this voice comes and goes, then this is a sign that they could be using. They may talk slowly and in a deeper voice. In someone who is using every day this is likely to occur from the later afternoon onwards and may be gone by the morning.
- Long Sleeps: Someone with a codeine addiction may struggle to get to sleep on a nighttime. They may sleep easily. There is no one symptom here. However, most addicts will sleep long when they do sleep. Codeine has a very powerful sedative effect and users slip into long and deep sleeps.
- Desperation: The key thing to look out for in any addiction is a desperation, a swing between happy and content moods and desperate and angry moods. That’s because they are constantly worried about their next fix. They may lash out if they can not get the drug. They may even try to rope you into helping them. This could also be the result of a mood disorder, so make sure there is a drug or substance involved.
- Paraphernalia: There is rarely any paraphernalia to look out for with codeine use. The tablets are often very small and white, but the markings can differ depending on the brand. They may take OTC drugs; they may grind the tablets down to snort them. There is no tin foil, spoons, syringes or smokeables to look out for. That is why this addiction can be hard to spot. It is worth noting, however, that an addict will likely keep their supply on them at all times and will be very protective of it. So, you may find the tablets in a purse, wallet or pocket.
How Codeine Addicts Get Drugs
Of course, they may not be using OTC preparations to get their codeine fix. If this is the case then they are probably getting the drug off the black market. They may be using the dark web to buy online; they may be buying from the street; or they may be getting it from a friend. In many cases, because codeine is so frequently prescribed, they could be sealing the drugs from friends or family. They may be begging for them. They may even be faking injuries in order to get them from the hospital or from doctors.
If they are constantly requesting the drug and talking about injuries or pain in order to get it, then this could be a sign. In such cases, offer them a non-addictive painkiller or suggest that they go to the doctor to run some tests. An addict that is lying in order to acquire the drug will likely refuse to do this.
Visit our Codeine Treatment page to learn how you can help someone once you have discovered that they are a codeine addict. You can also learn about ways that you can help yourself on this page.
Side Effects of Codeine
There are many side effects of codeine. You can find these on many other sites and on the leaflet that comes with a prescription. But we don’t want to repeat what is already out there. What you won’t find on those leaflets is that many of these side effects are actually the recessional effects that drug users seek.
This includes “euphoria”, which really shouldn’t be listed on any side effect leaflet. There are also many side effects such as itching and lightheadedness that are very mild and even favorable to some users.
Of course, this is assuming you are not allergic, you don’t have a preexisting condition and you’re not using another drug. Many severe side effects are rare. That doesn’t mean they won’t happen to you and they should be taken into account, but they are not common with all users.
Ask any regular user of codeine that negative effects they experience and at least 90% of them will report the following:
- Dehydration: Codeine has a way of drying you out.
- Constipation: It can be quite severe.
- Appetite: It makes some people hungry, it surpasses the appetite of others.
- Strange Dreams: There is also a “nod”, which occurs during heavy use and is when a user just nods off from extreme tiredness and relaxation.
To counteract these make sure you drink plenty of water and eat a diet rich in fiber. You should also monitor the food you consume and make sure that you force a balanced and healthy diet on yourself.
FAQs for Codeine Addiction
We find that addictions are always best treated and prevented with information. You can’t stop a person from experimenting if they have their mind set on doing so. You can’t stop an addict from using if they have yet to come to that turning point in their addiction.
So, to make sure you are well informed about codeine, here are a few frequently asked questions about codeine addiction and codeine use in general.
Why is Codeine Prescribed?
Codeine is mainly used as a painkiller, although it has also been prescribed as a cough suppressant and a diarrhea suppressant in the past. Due to its potential for addiction and the fact that there are more effective drugs on the market these days, such prescriptions are now very rare. When prescribed in its pure form, Codeine can be used for moderate pain, and when mixed with OTC painkillers it can target mild to moderate pain.
Codeine may be widely available in the UK and US and in some other countries, but that isn’t the case everywhere. In the UAE and across the middle-east they take a very hardline on codeine, and it’s the same in Greece, where all opiates are tightly regulated.
Can you Have Codeine Allergy?
It is possible for someone to take an allergic reaction to codeine. This can often simply be an exaggeration of the symptoms that many people get, such as itching, lightheadedness and dizziness. But there are other allergy symptoms involved as well.
How Much is a Codeine Overdose?
It takes a rather large dose for someone to overdose on codeine. Many people will not experience any issues with doses between 90mg and 120mg (the maximum therapeutic single dose is 60mg). However, that only applies if they have no preexisting conditions or allergies and if they are taking it in its pure form. You should always take the dose recommended and if using recreationally you should be very cautious and very conservative with your first doses.
The overdose amount varies greatly depending on tolerance, health, weight, genetics and other factors. If you suspect an overdose has occurred then phone an ambulance and give the paramedics all the info they ask. This will likely include the dosage taken, the level of tolerance, etc.,
You should look at for the following codeine overdose symptoms:
- Bluish-colored lips
- Breathing problems
- Clammy skin
- Loss of consciousness
- Severely low blood pressure
- Weak pulse
Is Codeine an Opiate?
Yes. Codeine is derived from opium, which is where where morphine and many other opiates come from. In the past, many opioids were actually synthesized from codeine itself. These include dihydrocodeine, which is commonly used in Europe, and Oxycodeone, which is more popular in the United States.