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Codeine Addiction

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What is Codeine Addiction?

Codeine is an opiate painkiller often prescribed as a cough suppressant, for mild to moderate pain relief, or as a treatment for diarrhea. When advised by a doctor, codeine can be safe to use over short periods of time. However, half of all prescription opioids misused in the U.S. come from a friend or family member, and codeine is no exception. Prolonged used of codeine, or using the drug without a prescription, can lead to physical dependence and addiction.

Risks of Codeine Addiction

It is estimated that over two million Americans currently suffer from prescription opioid addiction, including painkillers such as codeine, oxycodone, morphine, and fentanyl.

Being part of the opiate family of drugs means a prolonged use or misuse can lead to physical and psychological dependence on codeine. Users may experience physical withdrawal symptoms if they attempt to stop using codeine, alongside drug cravings, and the inability to stop using due to psychological addiction.

Misusing codeine can cause serious risks to your body, including:

  • Respiratory depression
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Liver failure
  • Depression

Side Effects of Codeine Addiction

Codeine should never be used without a prescription, or in larger doses than prescribed, as that may result in severe side effects occurring. The most common side effect of codeine use is constipation, which is why some doctors prescribe it for diarrhea. Other side effects can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Itchiness (particularly of the nose)
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Dry mouth
  • Clouded thinking

Signs of Codeine Addiction

If you believe a loved one may be misusing codeine, or are worried you may be addicted to the drug, here are some warning signs to look for:

  • Using more than the prescribed amount of codeine
  • Doctor shopping to get more prescriptions
  • Drug cravings
  • Needing a higher dose to get the same effect (tolerance)
  • Lying about how much codeine is being consumed
  • Being unable to stop using codeine

Another indication of codeine addiction is a user experiencing withdrawal symptoms when codeine intake is reduced, or removed.

Here are some common codeine withdrawal symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Weakness
  • Sweating
  • Muscle spasms
  • Diarrhea

What to do if Someone You Love is Abusing Codeine?

Those who abuse the drug to experience the high it causes when taken in large doses require professional rehab to put an end to their abuse, and sometimes, inpatient care is the best option for codeine addiction.

Here are some steps to take if a loved one is misusing codeine:

  • Talk to them about their addiction
  • Have them talk to their doctor about the prescription dosage
  • If they are in denial, seek help from an intervention
  • Check in on them regularly to ensure they are okay
  • Help them find a nearby inpatient facility

Treatment Options Available for Codeine Addiction

 The best treatment option for codeine addiction is a medically supervised, gradual tapering program. This type of treatment will help avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and can be achieved at an inpatient treatment facility. The patient should also receive behavioral therapy and counseling, especially if they are suffering from a co-occurring disorder, such as a mental illness. This will help them stay off the drug long-term.

Inpatient treatment programs are highly recommended if the patient:

  • Is a long-term user
  • Suffers from a mental illness in addition to addiction/dependence
  • Has experience severe withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit previously
  • Does not have a safe, drug-free home environment in which to recover

Also, it is essential to make sure that the program you choose offers effective treatment options for your recovery. It is not usually recommended for opioid abusers go through medical withdrawal without the use of medications, so make sure the inpatient program you choose offers not only a pharmacological option but the best one for your needs.

  • Methadone: Best for those with severe dependencies on codeine
  • Buprenorphine: Best for those with less critical dependencies
  • Naltrexone: Best for those who are no longer dependent on opioids and who have a strong motivation to stop using these drugs
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