Codeine Withdrawal, Abuse, and Recovery
Codeine has grown in popularity in recent years with its inclusion in cough medicines and medications. Codeine is a drug being abused at alarming rates, contributing to the opioid crisis we are experiencing here in the United States. Although it’s not one of the more commonly-abused opioids, codeine is often abused and carries a high risk of addiction.
What is Codeine?
Codeine is a true opiate. An opiate is a chemical derived from the opium poppy, such as morphine, codeine, or thebaine. Opioids, on the other hand, include semi-synthetic drugs that mimic opiates such as hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and heroin. Codeine is a narcotic medication used to help treat pain.
Codeine is most often used with cough syrup and related medications to help ease severe coughs. It also may be prescribed to help diarrhea. It is most effective as a pain medication when combined with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. When ingested, codeine metabolizes into morphine in the body, a powerful pain reliever and opiate.
Codeine Abuse and Addiction
Opioid abuse has become a serious problem in the United States. Codeine is an opioid that can easily be abused, and carries with it a huge risk of addiction. Often, individuals are prescribed codeine for an ailment, only to build dependence over time.
Individuals do not need to abuse opioid medications in order to become dependent. WebMD estimates that about one in thirty people who are prescribed prescription opioids become addicted or abuse them at some point. This rate increases greatly with long-term use.
Like other prescription drugs, many people abuse codeine for its side effects. Whether somebody has been an opioid addict for some time or is new to experimenting with drugs, codeine is a desirable drug for those abusing substances. The side effects of codeine include:
- Decreased appetite
- Drowsiness and fatigue
- Depression and lack of motivation
- Mood swings
Like other opioids, codeine carries with it a risk of overdose. This is especially true with polysubstance abuse, or the abuse of multiple drugs together. When combined with other depressants like benzodiazepines or alcohol, the risk of overdose is significantly higher.
Codeine withdrawal occurs when an individual stops ingesting the substance, causing the brain and body to have to adapt to the absence of the activity in the opioid receptors. Symptoms of withdrawal generally arise within the first 12 hours after the last dose, and worsen for the next few days. In the coming weeks, codeine withdrawal symptoms being to subside, but may linger for weeks or months after quitting.
Common symptoms of codeine withdrawal include:
- Craving for more opiates/opioids
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mood swings
- Trouble sleeping
- Anxiety and panic
- Agitation or anger
- Sore muscles and headaches
- Fever and chills
Symptoms of withdrawal vary from individual to individual. There are factors which dictate the severity of symptoms experienced, such as the length of use, the dose of codeine taken, and how often the individual use. Co-occurring disorders like bipolar, depression, or generalized anxiety may worsen symptoms as withdrawal can trigger symptoms of a mental health disorder.
Detox and Help
Going through codeine withdrawal at home can be severely uncomfortable and even dangerous. The process of withdrawal can be incredibly unpleasant, and many people return to using in order to ease withdrawal symptoms. There are many detox facilities which offer care for those struggling with opioid abuse, and can help you to mitigate the symptoms of withdrawal.
One common treatment for codeine withdrawal is opioid replacement therapy. Instead of going cold-turkey, doctors prescribe long-acting opioids to help ease the chemicals out of the system. Although this may drag the detox process out a few days or weeks, it can make a huge difference in the severity of symptoms.
If you or somebody you know is struggling with addiction to codeine or other opioids, reach out for help today. You’re not alone, and there are trained professionals out there who can help you recovery and live a life without opiates!