Codeine Addiction: Symptoms, Signs, & Side Effects
By The Orlando Recovery Center
Last Updated: September 21, 2023
Codeine is used to treat many common health issues, such as coughs, stomach ailments and pain. Because the prescription drug can be commonly used for these issues, becoming addicted to the drug can occur at almost any age. Regardless of whether it is taken to relieve mild to moderate pain or for other reasons, it is most often abused for its calming effects. Codeine may not as addictive as other opiate drugs, but it is still dangerous and habit-forming.
There are some telling signs of codeine abuse, but the most common side effect of medications containing codeine is nausea, especially when it is ingested as cough syrup. If a person takes any amount more than the recommended dose of these medications, they are likely to become nauseous. Many people who use codeine make it a habit of keeping anti-nausea medications handy.
Most symptoms of codeine abuse differ among people depending on their brain chemistry, the length of time the drug is abused and the amount used. Other symptoms of codeine abuse include:
- Anxiety, depression and mood swings
- Sleeping more often or nodding off at random moments
- Decreased appetite and weight loss
- Clammy hands or feet
- Stomach pain and constipation
- Slowed breathing
It can be easy to become addicted to codeine as the brain eventually stops producing its own chemicals that stimulate the reward center. Codeine has replaced its job. After tolerance has developed, an addicted individual will need codeine to feel any amount of pleasure.
Side Effects of Codeine Abuse
Codeine use often starts out with a harmless prescription and no intention of abusing the drug. Codeine is less regulated than some opiates which are considered to be more dangerous, such as morphine and OxyContin. Obtaining codeine is relatively easy. Though less potent, codeine provides effects similar to morphine such as:
People who use codeine may face a high risk of developing a physical tolerance and dependence on the drug. Even though many people begin using codeine to relieve a legitimate ailment, it is frequently abused as a tolerance develops. Many people who use codeine turn to the drug to cope with physical pain as well as their emotional pain.
Codeine abuse or addiction tends to have a profound impact on the satisfaction of life. As the person becomes increasingly preoccupied with obtaining the drug, relationships and responsibilities are hindered.
Physical Side Effects of Codeine Abuse
Over long periods of use, codeine can cause many dangerous physical side effects. Long-lasting codeine abuse may escalate to many detrimental, potentially life-threatening side effects, which can vary from one person to the next. A few of the potential side effects of codeine use include increases in:
- Lung infections
- Bowel damage
- Sleep disorders
- Irregular or slow heart rate
- Brain damage
- Acute pancreatitis
- Liver and kidney damage
- Heightened pain sensitivity and cold skin
- Uncontrollable muscle twitches and cramps
- Decreased muscle tone
Signs of Codeine Overdose
In some cases, one instance of codeine abuse can be fatal. If you or someone you care for is struggling with a codeine addiction, watch for codeine overdose symptoms. Some common codeine overdose signs may include:
- Sudden fatigue, drowsiness and confusion.
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Lips and nails having a blue tint
- Cold skin
- Problems breathing
- Stomach spasms or constipation
- Low blood pressure and weak pulse
Some of these symptoms may be present while using the recommended dosage of codeine. The most common cause of death from codeine overdose is respiratory failure, or when a person simply stops breathing. Non-fatal opiate overdose can damage the body in several ways, including:
- Anoxic brain injury from deprivation of oxygen
- Liver and kidney failure
- Hypothermia, due to the body losing heat
- Fluid in the lungs, or pulmonary edema
- Breakdown of skeletal muscles
Codeine, even though only considered a mild opiate, can be deadly. Opiates weaken the central nervous system, which controls vital functions like the heartbeat and respiratory system. Codeine overdose can cause breathing to slow to dangerous levels, restricting oxygen supply to the brain. Without adequate oxygen, rapid cell death begins, and the affected individual can suffer brain damage, coma or even death.
If you or someone you know is currently using codeine and needs help in the Orlando, Florida area, Orlando Recovery Center can help. To learn more about wide-ranging treatment options for codeine addiction, call the Orlando Recovery Center to speak with a representative.