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Codeine has been recognized as the best available cough suppressant partnered with a moderate pain reliever. This, however, has opened the medication up to a wide range of abuse.

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What Is Codeine?

Codeine is an Opioid used to relieve mild to moderate pain and to reduce coughing. It can be taken as a tablet, but it is also found in prescription cough syrups and other stronger medicine. Though it is considerably weaker than most other Opioids, it works the same way in the brain, inhibiting connections in pain receptors to stifle the body’s reaction. Codeine can have the same dose-dependent adverse effects as morphine, making it no less dangerous. Codeine can stifle coughing by affecting the part of the brain that triggers the body to cough.

Due to its “proven” effectiveness, this substance has come to be considered as the “gold standard” for prescriptions. Tragically, codeine is the most widely abused opioid in the world due to its euphoric effects. Despite this, this substance is still widely prescribed across the United States as a quick go-to medication.

As a cough suppressant, Codeine is typically an ingredient in some over-the-counter and stronger, prescription cough syrups. However, this substance is only a cough “suppressant,” not a cough cure, and so the issue causing the cough will not be treated. Some doctors even believe that using a cough suppressant could make the issue worse, as the body is trying to clear some kind of obstruction from the airways.

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Effects Of Codeine Use

Using Codeine, as with any prescription, comes with its own side effects, these include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea and stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Sweating
  • Mild itching
  • Rashes
  • Dry mouth
  • Flushing
  • Nervousness
  • Shakiness
  • Vertigo
  • Weakness

Despite it being weaker than other pain relievers, and many falsely assuming they can’t be addicted to it, someone can overdose on Codeine. Symptoms of overdose are:

  • Bluish lips or skin
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Constricted, pinpoint, or small pupils
  • Decreased awareness or responsiveness
  • Extreme sleepiness or unusual drowsiness
  • Slow or irregular heartbeat
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Breathing problems
  • Respiratory failure
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • stomach and intestinal spasms
  • Constipation
  • Low blood pressure and weakened pulse
  • Unresponsiveness or coma

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Metabolizing Codeine

When Codeine is broken down, it releases its metabolite, Morphine. This is what actually causes the effects of use. While uncommon, (13% of the total population), there are people who are unable to metabolize Codeine as intended, the majority of which can’t break it down. This means that Codeine won’t affect them, and they need to switch to a different medication. The rest over-metabolize the substance, releasing too much Morphine. This can increase the chance of toxicity in the body.

Codeine Addiction

Though not nearly as strong as other prescription drugs, Codeine is just as habit forming, and should only be taken as a doctor prescribes. Because of how much weaker it is, there is a popular misconception that those prescribed can’t develop a dependence. However, the drug is derived from Morphine and affects the same areas of the brain as other Opioids, making it addictive. The risk of addiction rises during long-term prescriptions, which can last up to several months. It is common for doctors to increase the dose for a patient as they build up a tolerance to Codeine’s effects. This is the first stage of unknowingly developing a tolerance, which can lead to addiction.

Even those with a prescription can develop an addiction to opioids, like Codeine, About 10% of those with a prescription for chronic pain develop a opioid use disorder. Abusing opioids, like codeine, can lead to very serious outcomes. In 2018, about 50,000 US deaths involved opioids. The likelihood of developing an addiction to codeine depend on the length of use or prescription, genetics, and environment.

Codeine Withdrawal

Despite the fact that it is weaker than most Opioids, someone recovering from an addiction to Codeine will still likely face the challenges of withdrawal. Codeine withdrawal is a necessary aspect of Codeine detox, an important step in overcoming an addiction. Withdrawal occurs because the body has become so accustomed to the presence of the substance that it can no longer function “normally” without it. When the drug is no longer present, the body’s system struggle to adapt. These can begin as soon as a few hours after the last dose and can include, but are not limited to:

  • Yawning and restlessness
  • Excessive secretion of tears
  • Runny nose
  • Perspiration and/or chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Dilated pupils
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Backache, joint pain, and weakness
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anorexia
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased respiratory rate and heart rate.

These symptoms of withdrawal can apply a lot of pressure on someone suffering from addiction to relapse, especially without medical assistance to manage the pain. Checking into a clinic and seeking assistance in recovery can be invaluable in achieving sobriety.

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If you, or someone you know, have turned to abusing Codeine then please reach out today. There are dedicated treatment providers ready to help. All you need to do is contact one now.

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