Codeine Addiction, Signs of Abuse, & Treatment

Codeine, a common opioid medication, is often prescribed for pain relief. However, its potential for dependence and addiction has become a growing concern.

Continue reading to learn more about codeine effects, risks of misuse, and how to get help for yourself or a loved one who needs codeine addiction treatment.

What Is Codeine?

Codeine is an opioid drug found in numerous medications used for pain relief and cough suppression. As an opioid, codeine is in the same class of drugs as many powerful painkillers (e.g., oxycodone, hydrocodone) and the illegal drug heroin.

Codeine is a controlled substance due to its potential for misuse and dependence. Those who misuse this drug may become physically dependent on it. Dependence is the state where the body has become so used to the presence of a substance, in this case codeine, that a person needs it to feel and function as normal.

Side Effects of Codeine Misuse

The side effects of codeine include:

  • Stomach pain.
  • Constipation.
  • Headache.
  • Fatigue.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Dizziness.
  • Slowed breathing.

Codeine’s side effects will likely worsen if the drug is taken in high doses, misuse, or used with other substances.

Signs of Codeine Addiction

When someone is addicted to opioids like codeine it is considered an opioid use disorder. While only a medical doctor or other qualified healthcare provider can officially diagnose an OUD, knowing what signs to look for can help you get treatment for yourself or a loved one. Signs of an opioid use disorder (OUD) include:

  • Numerous unsuccessful attempts to cut down or stop using codeine
  • Frequently using more codeine than intended or using it for longer periods of time than originally intended
  • Continuing to use codeine even though it is causing the individual issues in personal relationships, at work, at school, or in other important areas of life
  • Continuing to use the drug even though the person knows that it is causing them physical and/or psychological harm
  • Spending significant amounts of time using codeine, trying to get it, or recovering from its use
  • Frequently using the drug in situations where it is dangerous to do so
  • Giving up important activities in favor of using codeine
  • Failing to fulfill major obligations as a result of codeine use
  • Experiencing significant cravings for codeine.
  • Developing a tolerance to codeine (requiring increasing doses to achieve the effects)
  • Having withdrawal symptoms when trying to cut back on or quit codeine.

Other Signs of Codeine Misuse

You don’t have to make a formal OUD diagnosis to watch for signs that something is wrong. Some other physical and behavioral signs of codeine abuse are:

  • Frequently having/using codeine but not having a prescription.
  • Often appearing lethargic or extremely sleepy during the day.
  • Showing signs of intoxication, such as slurred speech, staggered walk, slowed reflexes, etc., without the smell of alcohol.
  • Having numerous prescription containers for codeine or empty containers of cough syrup around.
  • Becoming increasingly dishonest or secretive.
  • Decreased personal hygiene/increased sloppiness.
  • Frequent flulike, including headaches, nausea, lethargy, etc.
  • Having new or increased financial difficulties.
  • Using codeine in a manner inconsistent with its prescribed instructions, such as using it with alcohol or other drugs, or taking it more frequently or in greater amounts than the prescription requires.

Can You Overdose on Codeine?

Yes, you can overdose on codeine. Misuse of codeine and use of codeine with other substances (e.g, alcohol) increases the risk of overdose. Signs of a codeine overdose include:

  • Respiratory depression.
  • Extreme drowsiness.
  • Skeletal muscle flaccidity.
  • Cold and clammy skin.
  • Constricted “pinpoint” pupils.
  • Slow heart rate.
  • Low blood pressure.

Codeine Withdrawal & Detox

Becoming dependent on a drug like codeine means needing to take it to feel normal. Once a person becomes dependent on codeine, they will experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to reduce their dose or come off the drug altogether. Physical dependent on opioids like codeine is not uncommon, and the symptoms of codeine withdrawal are not generally considered to be potentially dangerous like the withdrawal syndromes associated with alcohol and sedatives.

Treatment for withdrawal from codeine typically involves the use of opioid replacement medications or other medications to address specific symptoms. The use of opioid replacement medications, such as methadone or Suboxone, can eliminate or substantially reduce the severity of the withdrawal symptoms. Once an initial dose of the medication is established, the physician then slowly tapers down the medication at specific intervals over time to wean the person off the drug.

Codeine Addiction Treatment

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, simply going through the withdrawal process from any drug does not constitute a program of recovery. Getting through the withdrawal process prepares an individual to enter comprehensive addiction treatment, which lays the foundation for a life of sobriety.

How Is Codeine Addiction Treated?

Therapy session

A comprehensive program of recovery for an opioid use disorder as a result of codeine abuse may include many forms of treatment such as:

  • Medical detox to help ease the discomfort of withdrawal and provide a transition to inpatient or outpatient rehab.
  • Substance use disorder therapy (individual or group) delivered by a trained mental health professional.
  • Ongoing participation in 12-Step groups, specialized peer support groups, online support groups, etc.
  • Treatment for any co-occurring disorders such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.
  • Continued medical management of issues as required under the supervision of a physician (e.g., the use of medications for depression or other psychological disorders, and other needed medical treatments for other issues).
  • Life skills training (e.g., applying for jobs, managing finances, etc.)
  • Alternative or recreational therapies, for example, yoga, music therapy, art therapy, or biofeedback.
  • Case management.
  • Other interventions as needed in the specific situation.

Desert Hope offers all forms of treatment listed above in a beautiful Las Vegas-based facility. If you’re struggling with opioid addiction, we can help you recover from day 1. We offer medical detox to keep you comfortable and can help you move right from detox into our inpatient facility or one of our outpatient programs. We even offer sober living if you’ve completed treatment and still need support in your recovery.

Codeine Rehab in Las Vegas

Getting help for addiction is a brave first step on the road to recovery and getting back to living the life you deserve. At our inpatient rehab in Las Vegas, our treatment specialists use evidence-based addiction-focused healthcare to help people struggling with substance use disorders find meaningful recovery.

Call our compassionate and knowledgeable admissions navigators at to learn more about your treatment options, including outpatient addiction treatment in Las Vegas, and how to start admissions. If you’re worried about the cost of rehab, our navigators can go over different ways to pay for rehab, including using insurance coverage for addiction treatment.


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