Codeine Addiction, Signs of Abuse, & Treatment

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 abuse and dependence. Those who abuse this drug may become physically dependent on it and need it to avoid withdrawal and may in time become addicted to it.

Side Effects of Codeine Abuse

Man with headache

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, abused, or misused with other substances.

Codeine Addiction

The formal diagnosis for an individual who has abused codeine products would be an opioid use disorder, or OUD, per the diagnostic criteria published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA):

  • 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

Most individuals are not qualified to make a formal diagnosis of an opiate use disorder. Only trained mental health clinicians can make this diagnosis.

Other Signs of Codeine Abuse

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.
  • New friends, especially known drug users.
  • Becoming increasingly isolated.
  • Having new or increased financial difficulties.
  • Experiencing numerous accidents or injuries.
  • Showing personality and mood changes.
  • 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.

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 Do You Treat Codeine Addiction?

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.

Success in recovery is strongly related to the amount of time an individual continues their participation in treatment-related activities, such as therapy, social support group participation, volunteer work, etc. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that longer durations of treatment result in better recovery outcomes.

You aren't alone. You deserve to get help.
Desert Hope is located in Las Vegas, Nevada, which is easily accessible from most locations in the Southwest. We offer a full continuum of care that spans from inpatient medical detox and rehab to outpatient services and sober living. Take the next step toward recovery: learn more about our addiction treatment programs near Vegas or learn about how rehab is affordable for everyone.