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Understanding Codeine Addiction

Codeine is a painkilling opioid drug that is prescribed by a doctor to treat pain following a medical procedure such as an operation, or an injury that causes ongoing pain and discomfort. It is stronger than over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol, and is often prescribed when other painkillers haven’t been successful in treating pain. Codeine can also be used to treat digestive issues (mainly diarrhoea), and is often included in cough syrup (linctus) to treat dry or chesty cough symptoms.

Codeine comes in various forms, including liquid formula, tablets, and injections. Injections are usually only administered by medical professionals in hospital. Street names for Codeine include Cody, Captain Cody, Schoolboy, Lean, Sizzurp, Drank and Cough Syrup.

Codeine gets to work in the system by preventing pain signals from traveling to the brain. People taking the drug on prescription commonly notice side effects such as constipation, nausea and feeling tired. These side effects worsen if the drug is taken with alcohol. Codeine should be taken with or following a meal so that the eaten food lines the stomach and prevents feelings of nausea.

What are the Effects and Abuse of Codeine

As Codeine is an opioid drug, it causes extreme feelings of drowsiness, lethargy, relaxation and calm. It can also cause confusion, nausea and itchiness if it is being taken on a regular basis. Those under the influence of Codeine often look as though they are ‘spaced out’ or falling asleep.

People become addicted to Codeine because it helps them to feel calm and less anxious if they are suffering from stress. They therefore use the drug as a temporary escape from their problems and any worrisome feelings they may have. It can also give a user a ‘high’, helping them to counteract any feelings linked to depression or bad thoughts for a short time. Long-term abuse of the drug however can make feelings of anxiety and depression even worse, especially as the drug wears off. A person’s mental health can deteriorate as a result of Codeine addiction, as they will require more of the drug each time to get the desired ‘high’ feelings of calm they need. This soon turns into a cycle of abuse, with the user experiencing more extreme highs and lows in their moods and behaviour.

The drug takes effect in around an hour, and can last in the system for up for four hours, depending on how much is taken. It can also show up in a urine test for up to two days after consumption.

Major signs of Codeine abuse include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Slow heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Indigestion
  • Feeling very sleepy and confused
  • Bleeding from the stomach

What are the Warning Signs of Codeine Addiction?

The following are warning signs that are related to Codeine addiction. You or someone you love should seek help if you notice:

  • Often feeling extreme fatigue/feeling ‘out of it’ and drowsy
  • Nonsensical and slurred speech
  • Low attention span
  • Dilated pupils
  • Difficulty with co-ordination
  • Confusion
  • An intense craving for Codeine
  • Defensive behaviour
  • Seizures / Coma

What Are Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms

As Codeine doesn’t last long in the body, people who use large amounts of it on a frequent basis may find that they begin to experience the following withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking it. Ultimately, such withdrawal symptoms cause individuals to take more of the drug to relieve themselves. Such symptoms include:

  • Feeling cold and chills
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Runny nose and sneezing
  • Shaking
  • Rash on skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Dehydration
  • Low blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Panic attacks
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling generally irritable
  • Lack of appetite

Those who mix Codeine with other drugs may also experience strong hallucinations and problems sleeping, as well as issues with remembering things. In extreme cases of addiction, frequent seizures are common.

What Support for Codeine Addiction?

As Codeine is not a harmful drug when it is first prescribed and used in the correct way, users who abuse the drug may believe that it is generally less harmful, even when more than the stated dose is taken. Relationships with friends and family are put under great strain when a person has a drug addiction. It is also common for addicts to struggle with work commitments, family commitments and other responsibilities like running a household. Having a constant need to be under the influence of Codeine can destroy a person’s career prospects, home life and finances.

It is important to speak to the addict about their addiction and try to convince them to seek help. Try and get other friends and family members involved too so that the addict has a support network. Another alternative is to stage an intervention. Those suffering from addiction are often in denial that they require help. They may not recognise the negative impact that their addiction is having on themselves and others around them. An intervention gives an addict the opportunity to make changes before their addiction becomes worse and can motivate them to get help.

An intervention is a planned process that is carried out in co-ordination with a doctor, medical professional or rehab clinic. During an intervention, loved ones gather together to discuss the user’s addiction in a group, providing examples of how destructive their behaviour has become, whilst offering a plan for the future that offers treatment and positive goals.

Treatment of Codeine Addiction

How a Codeine addiction is treated will depend on its severity, but treatment will always be tailored to the needs of the patient. Usually, most treatments involve a combination of counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and group or speech therapy to share experiences with others. Many former addicts find that these types of treatments enable them to stay on track with their progress into the long-term. Holistic therapy such as medication, mindfulness, art therapy and yoga also help patients to cope with their cravings and triggers.

Treatment often begins once a detox has taken place to properly remove Codeine from a person’s system. Medications administered by health professionals can help to reduce withdrawal symptoms, making the treatment process more comfortable. Talking and behavioural therapies are a strong focus of ongoing therapy, so that an addict can notice the causes of their addiction and tackle these at the core, healing body and mind in turn.

Medically Supervised Codeine Detox

A detox is a process in which all traces of a drug are removed from the body to ensure that a person can start the therapy and counselling stage of drug rehabilitation. If a person suffers from a Codeine addiction, they are used to the drug being in their body. During the detox process, their brain needs to adjust to chemical changes that take place in their body as the drug is removed. This change in chemical balances is what causes withdrawal symptoms, which can be both unpleasant and uncomfortable as the body tries to naturally heal itself and balance out the chemical shifts.

During the detox process at East Coast Recovery, clients are made to feel as comfortable as possible. As a detox in a rehabilitation facility is supported and supervised by medical professionals, the rate of success is extremely high and the detox itself is a much safer process than if a person tries to detox by themselves at home. Detoxing at home is rarely successful, and can cause a person to crave a drug to extreme levels as the drug is removed from their system. These overpowering cravings can cause a person to potentially overdose as they take a larger amount of a drug to satisfy their consuming desire for it.

After the detox process, it is important to follow a treatment plan to tackle the direct causes of the addiction. Detoxing and removing the drug from a person’s body isn’t enough on its own.