Is Codeine Addictive?

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Codeine is a narcotic that is a prescription pain medication used to treat mild to moderate pain. It is an opioid analgesic, meaning codeine works by binding to the opioid receptors in one’s body, intentionally interfering with the communication of certain neurotransmitters that would otherwise deliver pain messages to one’s brain. The way codeine interacts with one’s natural chemicals, in turn, results in diminishing one’s perception of pain. When used as exactly as directed, codeine can be a highly effective medication. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has classified codeine as a controlled substance. Depending on the dose, codeine can have a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. Individuals that abuse codeine most commonly do so for its calming effects. Codeine is not as innately addictive as other opiates (e.g. heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, etc.), but when abused it can be both dangerous and habit-forming. 

Side Effects

There are several known side effects of codeine that can occur when taken as prescribed. When an individual abuses codeine the list of side effects increases and includes more severe effects. Common side effects of codeine abuse could include, but are not limited to, any combination of the following examples, as provided by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sedation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Constipation
  • Memory loss
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach pain
  • Headaches
  • Liver damage

Long-term side effects that could occur from codeine abuse could include: intestinal blockage, kidney problems, amnesia, cognitive difficulties, and more. Every person is different and will respond somewhat uniquely to codeine. It is important to note that an individual that habitually abuses codeine, especially when ingesting it in large doses, is at increased risk of overdose. 

Substance Use Disorder

Addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic brain disorder. It is characterized by compulsively engaging in rewarding stimuli without regard for consequence. Though research has noted that some individuals are more predisposed to developing an addiction than others (as a result of exposure to certain risk factors) the process of developing a substance use disorder takes time. Addiction does not occur overnight. The process of addiction is as follows: an individual will first develop a tolerance from habitual substance abuse (meaning they will require more of the drug to achieve the same effects), and then develop dependence to codeine (meaning they will need to use the substance in order to function), and the next and last phase is developing full blown substance use disorder.  

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one in regards to substance abuse and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-318-3777. You are also welcome to contact anytime us via email at admissions@hhtxc.com.

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