Codeine Addiction – Description and Treatment

Codeine is an opioid drug typically prescribed to patients for the treatment of mild to moderate pain. Although in most cases it is available on prescription, low doses of the drug are obtainable over-the-counter. Some of the medications that are freely available contain a mixture of codeine with paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen. Although codeine is considered to be a mild opioid drug, it can be addictive. Those who take it over an extended period of time are in danger of developing a codeine addiction.

The Effects of Codeine

As mentioned above, codeine is used to treat pain, but it can produce feelings of relaxation, warmth, sleepiness, and an overall sense of wellbeing. Nevertheless, it has also been found to make some people feel confused and fatigued. It also causes sweating, constipation, nausea, mood swings, and itching in some individuals.

Codeine is typically prescribed for short-term relief of moderate pain that is not responding to other painkillers. Nonetheless, those who take the drug for a longer period are in danger of developing a tolerance to its effects. This means they will need to take more of the drug to achieve the desired effect, which can, in turn, lead to physical dependence.

Abuse of codeine, which could include taking the drug more often than prescribed or taking it in larger doses than advised by a GP, can lead to addiction. However, even those who take it exactly as directed are at risk of addiction if they take the drug for a long enough time.

It is not uncommon for some people to become psychologically dependent on codeine. This means a feeling of needing the drug to make them feel better. They begin taking the drug for more than just the initial reason it was prescribed. They may start to take it whenever a stressful or emotional situation is experienced because they believe the medication will help them to cope.

Sadly, many codeine addicts will also take other substances such as alcohol or other prescription medication as well, as this increases the relaxing effects of the substance. Unfortunately, mixing codeine with other chemical substances can increase the risk of serious health problems, including respiratory problems and coma. Those who mix codeine with stimulants such as cocaine could be risking heart problems.

Signs of a Codeine Addiction

Spotting a codeine addiction is difficult. Those who have been prescribed the drug and are taking it as directed may never even contemplate the fact that they could become addicted. Most assume that any medication prescribed by a GP must be safe. The reality is that some prescription drugs are addictive and can cause problems.

It is usually the case that a person will not realise there is a problem until they stop taking the drug. They may, in some instances, for example, notice that they are running out of their medication earlier than expected. It is then that the individual looks for other ways to get more of the drug as he or she does not want their GP to know they have been taking too much.

The risk of addiction increases the longer a person has been using codeine. If you or someone you love has been taking codeine for a while, it makes sense to be alert to the signs of addiction.

If you notice that you are taking more codeine than you did initially, it may be that you have built up a tolerance to the drug. If you hear a loved one saying that their medication does not seem to be having the same effect as before, then this is because he or she has become tolerant. Those who have become tolerant to codeine usually begin taking larger doses of the drug, or they will start taking it at ever-more regular intervals.

Another sign to look out for in yourself or a loved one is a preoccupation with the drug. If you are constantly on edge worrying about if and when your medication is going to run out and then find yourself thinking of ways to get another prescription, you may have a problem. You might find yourself thinking of things to say to your doctor so that he or she will give you a repeat prescription. If a family member is taking codeine, then be alert to things that he or she says about the medication. You may hear comments about the person’s tablets running low, or you will hear him or her saying that he/she is going to have to phone the doctor for more codeine.

One of the most obvious signs of a codeine addiction is withdrawal symptoms when not using the drug. This could include sweating, shaking, nausea and vomiting. For those who are worried about a loved one, you may notice other signs that something is not quite right, such as loss of appetite, weight loss, poor coordination, lack of interest in activities that he or she once enjoyed, mood swings and poor sleeping habits.

What Causes a Codeine Addiction?

Nobody knows exactly what causes addiction, but it is thought that some are more prone than others. Certain risk factors make individuals more susceptible to addiction, but even having every single risk factor does not guarantee that a person will become an addict. And some people will become addicted despite not having one single risk factor.

Those with a family history of addiction tend to have a higher risk of developing an addiction. If these individuals were to take codeine, they might be more likely to become addicted than a codeine user with no family history of addiction.

Children of addicts often end up with addiction problems themselves in later life. Those who have seen their parents use drugs or drink alcohol may find comfort in these substances, despite having a first-hand knowledge of the destruction these can cause.

Another risk factor for addiction is unresolved trauma. Those dealing with painful memories or emotional problems often turn to chemical substances in a bid to self-medicate. Codeine is often used to help people block out painful feelings, especially when mixed with other substances such as alcohol.

Long Term Effects of a Codeine Addiction

Although codeine is considered less harmful than other opioid medications, it is still an addictive substance and one that can result in negative consequences for the individual and his/her loved ones. Those who become addicted to codeine may begin to neglect other areas of their life. They might become obsessed about the drug and do whatever it takes to get their hands on it. This could mean lying to their loved ones.

Some addicts will turn to street drugs like heroin if they fail to obtain a new codeine prescription from their GP, and this can bring about a host of devastating consequences. Addiction often leads to relationship problems, job losses, financial hardship, and homelessness.

There are also a number of physical and mental health problems associated with long-term codeine addiction including liver damage, kidney damage, acute pancreatitis, cramps, muscle spasms, respiratory problems, seizures, depression, anxiety, and coma.

Codeine Addiction Treatment

While codeine addiction may not be as prevalent as addiction to other drugs, it is still a major issue for many people around the UK. The problem is that many of these people fail to see there is an issue until it is at an advanced stage and he/she is suffering withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug.

Thankfully, there is help available, and treatment providers around the UK are working hard to help those affected. Here at, we understand the need for professional help when it comes to conquering a codeine addiction, which is why we work with a huge network of providers across the country.

Our goal is to make sure that as many people with addiction problems as possible can access the treatments they need to get better. Call us today and we will provide you with free advice and information on how to get the help you need.

It may be the case that you need a codeine detox before beginning a programme of rehabilitation, which could include cognitive behavioural therapy, motivational interviewing, counselling and group therapy. You may also be advised to join a fellowship programme, where you can use 12-step work to help you maintain your sobriety.

Please remember, you are not alone – codeine addiction is an illness that affects many people, but it is an illness that can be overcome. Call us today for more information.

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