Understanding Codeine Addiction

Unfortunately, addiction to codeine and other opiates occurs very quickly and may be difficult to overcome. Once an individual becomes tolerant of codeine, they often begin to increase their dose to produce the same effect. This typically leads to dependence and addiction to codeine addiction. If you suspect that a loved one is abusing codeine, it’s important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of codeine addiction.

Codeine, mainly known for its presence in cough syrup, is an opiate medication used to treat mild to moderate pain. While in the body, codeine is broken down by the liver and turned into morphine. The substance is naturally occurring and is considered the most commonly consumed opiate. After taking codeine, the substance affects the brain’s reward system, signaling feelings of pleasure and euphoria. As a result, codeine is considered habit-forming and highly addictive.

Who is More Likely to Abuse Codeine?


Codeine is a prescription drug used for many common health issues in the United States, including persistent coughs, diarrhea, and pain. However, some people abuse the drug for the effects it produces on the central nervous system. As a result, many different types of people become addicted to codeine. However, one study conducted in 2013 found that codeine is more likely to be abused by men, Native American and Hispanic individuals, students in university environments, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

To continue, this study mainly focused on the southern U.S. culture surrounding “purple drank”- syrup drinks containing codeine mixed with alcohol or soda. This form of codeine is often referenced in southern rap music and even associated with famous athletes. Even further, young people appear to be more likely to seek out prescription codeine for recreational use. Unfortunately, the culture and “hype” surrounding the consumption of “purple drank” or “lean” seems to cause young teens to actively seek out this substance.

Additionally, many adolescent patients are prescribed codeine, causing many young people across America to develop an addiction and drug dependence. Concerningly, studies have confirmed that 467,000 adolescents in America abuse codeine for nonmedical reasons. Out of those people, 168,000 met the criteria for addiction.

Once an individual becomes tolerant of codeine and unable to achieve a euphoric high, they may begin to seek out stronger forms of opiates. In other words, codeine addiction may lead to an addiction to stronger substances such as Vicodin or heroin. If you or a loved one are struggling with drug abuse of any kind, there are treatment facilities available to help you overcome your substance abuse.

Symptoms of Codeine Addiction

Codeine is an opioid, so the abuse of this drug may mimic the abuse of an array of other forms of opioids. However, the most common side effect of codeine is nausea, especially when in the form of cough syrup. Also, individuals who take more than the recommended dose of this substance are more likely to experience nausea. As a result, most doctors will prescribe anti-nausea medications alongside codeine medications.

Additional effects of codeine abuse include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Drowsiness
  • Increased desire to sleep
  • “Nodding off” (randomly falling asleep, seemingly out of nowhere)
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Clammy hands and feet
  • Stomach pain
  • Constipation
  • Itching
  • Slowed breathing
  • Changes in vision

In addition, codeine abuse may cause an increase in lung infections, bowel damage, sleep disorders, irregular heartbeat, and even brain damager over time. While addiction to codeine causes physical effects, the overall impact on an individual’s life is profound. To explain, the addicted individual will become increasingly preoccupied with obtaining and using the drug, causing their responsibilities and relationships to suffer. For example, they may lose friends, careers, or suffer from severe mental health issues as a direct result of their addiction to codeine.

Symptoms of Codeine Withdrawal

Individuals who are struggling with codeine addiction will experience physical symptoms of withdrawal when they do not take the drug. This occurs when their brain and body becomes adjusted to the substance being present, causing certain symptoms to function improperly without it.

Common symptoms of codeine withdrawal include:


Some people may view these symptoms as cold or flu-like. However, for long-term users of codeine, the symptoms of withdrawal become much worse and often require medical attention. While withdrawal from codeine is usually not dangerous, it may cause dehydration and can be too unpleasant without the help of a doctor in some cases. Additionally, relapse is a major concern, as many individuals are unaware that they cannot start using at the same dosage as they used to take. Without considering the reduction in their tolerance, many people overdose on codeine when they relapse. As a result, anyone who is struggling with codeine or opiate addiction should begin their recovery at a medical detox treatment center.

Signs of an Opioid Overdose

While codeine is a mild opiate when compared to other forms, an overdose is still possible and can result in death. Opiates are known to depress the nervous system, which controls certain functions such as the heartbeat and respiratory system. Especially when combined with other substances, codeine overdose causes breathing to slow to dangerous levels. This causes the amount of oxygen in the brain to decrease significantly. As a result, rapid cell death begins, possibly leading to coma, brain damage, or even death.

The symptoms of a codeine overdose include:


Opioid overdose may be treated with medications that block the opioid receptors in the brain, such as Narcan. However, treatment must be administered in a timely manner to prevent brain damage due to oxygen deprivation. It is extremely important to remember that you must call emergency services immediately if you suspect someone is suffering from an opioid overdose.

Treatment for Codeine Addiction and Abuse

If you or a loved one are exhibiting signs of codeine addiction and need professional drug rehab, it is vital to seek help as soon as possible. Typically, the most effective treatment for opiate addiction is inpatient addiction treatment. At Comprehensive Wellness Centers located in South Florida, we are experienced in and equipped to help you recover from your addiction to codeine.

“At Comprehensive Wellness Centers, you will find the support you need to successfully overcome addiction. Our recovery program in West Palm Beach is JCAHO certified and provides each patient with the personal attention and ethical care that they need by means of a personalized treatment program. We won’t try to fit you into a one-size-fits-all treatment model. Instead, we are here to serve your needs.”

Contact us today for more information on our treatment programs concerning codeine addiction recovery.