Codeine addiction

Codeine is an opioid pain reliever that can be obtained via a prescription or purchased over the counter in the UK. It is derived from morphine and can produce feelings of euphoria, relaxation and sedation when taken in high doses and can be highly addictive if abused. Sadly, codeine addiction is a very real problem in the UK and was responsible for 200 drug-related deaths in 2021, with a further 140,863 people seeking treatment for opioid addiction.

If you recognise any of the signs in this page, Recovery Lighthouse can offer you the tools and resources to overcome your codeine addiction and turn your life around. With our expertise and your commitment, a full recovery from codeine addiction can be achieved.

Codeine addiction - codeine pill

What makes codeine addictive?

Codeine’s analgesic effects occur as a result of the drug’s impact on the central nervous system. Once consumed, it binds to opioid receptors in the brain and blocks nerve signals from being sent through the body. This makes it highly effective in the treatment of pain and as a cough suppressant in the short term.

However, codeine also produces feelings of pleasure and well-being. This is what causes so many people to come back for more, as it consistently triggers the brain’s reward system and results in a positive association with the drug.

With continued use, tolerance very quickly develops and you will find you need more and more codeine to feel the same effects. It does not take long for full dependence on codeine to materialise and you may find yourself needing it just to get through the day.

The path to codeine addiction

Codeine addiction can develop via both medical and recreational use.

Medical codeine addiction…

Many people do not realise that prescription drugs like codeine can also be dangerous, often assuming that no harm could come from a legal drug. If your doctor has prescribed you codeine to treat a medical condition, or if you started to purchase codeine-containing products to treat symptoms of pain, coughing or diarrhoea, it is possible that you will become addicted to codeine.

It is therefore vital that you follow dosing instructions exactly. Codeine addiction is more likely to develop if you:

  • Take higher doses than instructed
  • Take codeine more frequently than instructed
  • Take codeine for more than a few days

Recreational codeine addiction…

Due to the pleasant initial effects of codeine, the drug is commonly used recreationally. This often starts out with experimentation where you may begin to take codeine out of curiosity or as a way to have fun. Soon this may start to spiral into regular and risky use, eventually leading to full dependency and addiction to codeine.

Codeine addiction is more likely to develop if you:

  • Have a family history of substance addiction
  • Suffer from mental health issues
  • Have experienced past trauma
  • Live in poverty or difficult circumstances
  • Have difficulties coping with stress

Signs of codeine addiction

Codeine addiction can be difficult to identify as it it often mistakenly perceived as a medical need. Your codeine addiction may try to deceive you, telling you that you need to take codeine to prevent pain. It may try to convince you that codeine is not harmful, and taking it once or twice more won’t do any harm – after all, your doctor can prescribe it. Unfortunately, none of these scenarios are true. It is crucial to be able to spot the signs of codeine addiction and take action before any serious harm occurs.

Signs of codeine addiction include:

  • Increased tolerance and needing to take more codeine to feel the same effects
  • Impaired control over your use of codeine
  • Continued use of codeine despite any negative side effects
  • Use of codeine even when there are no medical symptoms present
  • Inability to function normally without codeine
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms if you do not take codeine
  • Experiencing intense cravings for codeine
  • Going to extreme lengths to obtain codeine, for example, visiting multiple doctors or buying codeine illegally

If you have experienced any of the above signs of codeine addiction, Recovery Lighthouse can help you to put a stop to the downward spiral.

The dangers of codeine addiction and abuse

Every time you take codeine, you expose yourself to multiple risks that can have a severe impact on every aspect of your life. Not only does codeine harm your physical and mental health, but it can also cause problems in work and relationships, as well as lead to serious drug addictions.

Health implications…

Although codeine can help alleviate certain medical conditions, it also comes with acute health risks and side effects. Some of the side effects of codeine include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Difficulties breathing
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Muscle cramps
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Sensitivity to pain with long-term use
  • Increased risk of pancreatitis
  • Increased risk of mental health issues

These side effects can cause both short and long-term damage to your health. It is important to be aware of these dangers and prevent them by getting the right help as soon as possible.

Codeine addiction - muscle cramp

Problems at work…

You may also experience problems at work alongside codeine dependence as consuming the drug will start to take priority over everything else. It is possible that the effects of codeine will cause a decline in your performance. You may feel too sleepy to carry out tasks effectively, often arrive late or miss your shifts altogether.

These problems could become severe enough to lose your job and this, coupled with the constant need to purchase more codeine, can lead to financial difficulties.

Relationship troubles…

For both you and your loved ones, dealing with a codeine addiction is stressful, and this stress can take its toll on relationships. Family members may not know how to approach you and the worry they feel can lead to tension and arguments. In some cases, relationships may break down entirely. This may lead to increased isolation and feelings of loneliness which only exacerbate your codeine addiction as you try to numb negative emotions and forget any emotional pain.

Gateway drug…

One of the most dangerous and insidious pathways to heroin addiction is through codeine dependence. Unfortunately, the quick onset of tolerance means that you will require more and more codeine to feel the same level of relief. Over time, you may need to turn to more powerful drugs like heroin in order to address your opiate needs. It’s an unfortunate cycle that is sadly all too common, but with professional help, it can be interrupted.

Spotting codeine addiction in a family member

Spotting codeine addiction in a loved one can be difficult. Addiction is a complex issue, and those experiencing it often conceal their substance use from family and friends. It is much easier to hide codeine addiction as it can be concealed under prescriptions and perceived medical needs. As such, it is important to consider the individual signs that might indicate dependence on codeine.

To begin with, if your loved one is going through larger quantities of codeine than prescribed or consulting multiple doctors to get an increased number of prescriptions, these are both likely indicators that a problem exists. Additional warning signs may include:

  • Mood swings
  • Changes in appetite
  • Secretive behaviour
  • Changes to sleep patterns
  • Skipping social activities and obligations
  • Carelessness in personal hygiene

If you have suspicions that your family member might be addicted to codeine, it is best to express your concern in a non-judgmental way so as not to further alienate them from seeking help for their issue.

Can I overcome codeine addiction?

Tackling codeine addiction can be a difficult and overwhelming task, but it is important to recognise that effective treatment is available. Inpatient rehab centres like Recovery Lighthouse offer comprehensive programmes staffed by experienced medical professionals who focus on helping individuals with codeine addiction gain a new perspective on life.

Rehab typically follows a pattern of detoxification and withdrawal management where your body will cleanse itself of codeine and begin healing. Our team will safely taper you off of codeine and help you to feel comfortable as you go through withdrawal.

Therapy is another crucial part of codeine addiction treatment. With a combination of individual and group therapy sessions, you will be able to explore the reason for your codeine addiction and work on building coping skills and relapse prevention techniques.

Additionally, our free aftercare plan provides post-treatment support and helps you to transition successfully into healthy lifestyles and long-term recovery. With dedication and the right support, lasting success is possible.

What’s next?

Codeine addiction is a serious problem affecting thousands of people, from all walks of life. While it may be difficult to overcome, there are a variety of rehab facilities, treatment options, and resources available to individuals struggling with codeine addiction. With the right support and treatment, your codeine addiction can become a thing of the past.

If you are ready to take back control and kick your codeine addiction, contact our admissions team at Recovery Lighthouse.