In the late 1990s, doctors increasingly prescribed opioids like methadone, oxycodone, and hydrocodone.
That led to a dramatic rise in overdose deaths. Heroin and fentanyl use caused spikes in overdose deaths in 2010 and 2013. Between 1999 and 2016, 350,000 people died from overdoses involving opioids, including prescription and synthetic forms. Even as doctors prescribed these medications more often, the amount of pain American patients reported had not changed.
Part of that statistic includes the abuse of codeine cough syrup. Despite the dangers, the recreational practice of sipping cough syrup, either alone or with soda or alcohol, has been normalized within popular culture.
Famous musicians have touted the effects of promethazine-codeine cough syrup use in songs even as people have died from its use. While not as potent as heroin or oxycodone, long-term codeine use can lead to permanent organ damage, memory loss, muscle problems, breathing difficulties, and death. When codeine is mixed with alcohol, the consequences become more severe.
Codeine is prescribed by doctors to treat mild-to-moderate pain and acts on the central nervous system. It is also used as a suppressant in cough medicine and is grouped with other medicines known as narcotic analgesics.
Depending on how it is prepared, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies codeine as a Schedule II, III, or V substance.
As a mild opioid, it can be easily abused. Over time, codeine use will cause the body to slow the production of endorphins. Thus, the amount prescribed codeine may no longer impart the same highs, which may users to consume larger amounts. In some cases, when users can no longer achieve the same high with the prescribed dosage, they turn to potent illegal drugs such as heroin and fentanyl to satiate that craving.
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Like other opioids, codeine attaches itself to the brain and body. The medicine informs the brain to block pain and produce feelings of calm and happiness. It does this by triggering the release of endorphins which performs those vital functions.
Codeine works on these areas of the brain and nervous system:
When used exactly as directed, codeine can take between 10 minutes to 30 minutes, on average, to go into effect. The medicine usually lasts between four-to-six hours. Taking more than the prescribed amount can make the drug habit-forming.
Although codeine is a milder opioid, its misuse can trigger life-threatening consequences over time. Common short-term effects on the brain’s opioid receptors and dopamine levels are:
Those effects can generate a host of issues, including a loss of consciousness, respiratory problems, and cardiac arrest. The lack of oxygen in the bloodstream can lead to permanent organ damage.
Chronic codeine abuse include:
Because codeine addiction is not immediate, the signs of addiction may be harder to recognize. The ravages of addiction become more immediate when a person begins to exhibit these signs:
If you or a loved one is exhibiting any of these behaviors, then it is paramount that detoxification and treatment are sought.
As with all addiction treatment, detox can mean the difference between sustained sobriety and utter relapse. It ultimately is a life or death decision. Codeine addiction may not carry the severity of other opioid dependencies, but failure to enroll in a medically supervised detoxification program can be hazardous to your well-being. Medical professionals suggest detox because it offers the best shot at helping users overcome their addictions.
A medical detox entails ridding you of the substance over the course of four to six days or longer if needed. A team of medical professionals will evaluate and determine your best course for recovery. They also will find the most effective therapies for your condition based on the stated goals. They may administer medication that will help you achieve sobriety and establish control over your addiction.
You will learn vital coping mechanisms and strategies to help you combat your addiction. This residential treatment phase lasts between 30 days and 90 days depending on the case.
If further treatment is needed at the conclusion of this phase, then you can participate in our partial hospitalization program. PHP is offered at these South Florida treatment center locations: Ocean Breeze Recovery (OBR), Pathway to Hope (PTH), and The Palm Beach Institute (PBI).
Though it is at a lower grade of strength when compared to morphine, codeine remains highly addictive. As longtime users adjust to prescribed dosages, it is likely they will increase their intake, heightening their chances at addiction. Codeine dependency can produce alarming physical impairments, including overdose.
Signs that show a user has lapsed into a codeine overdose include:
If someone has overdosed on codeine, you must immediately call 911 to avoid serious, permanent organ damage or death.
Codeine: MedlinePlus Drug Information. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682065.html#why
Codeine (Oral route). (2018, October 01). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526029/
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, March 06). Opioid Overdose Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis
(January, 2018). Codeine Information. FDA. Retrieved August, 2019 from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/postmarket-drug-safety-information-patients-and-providers/codeine-information
(March, 2018). Codeine. Medline Plus. Retrieved August, 2019 from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682065.html