Are you worried that you or a loved one might be addicted to codeine? You aren’t alone.

Like other opiates, codeine can become addictive, so it’s important that you’re aware if someone you love is using the medication.

Codeine is intended for short-term use, unless under a doctor’s supervision for more severe or chronic pain.


What Is Codeine?

Confused as to what codeine actually is? Let’s discuss the medication and some of its side effects below.


Codeine is an opiate that treats moderate pain. It’s categorized under the opioid umbrella, but it’s a direct derivative of the poppy plant. This makes it a natural opiate, not a semi-synthetic or synthetic opiate, AKA, an opioid.

Most of the time, it is short-term in nature. However, with a doctor’s supervision, it may be used in long-term situations.

It works by blocking pain receptors from receiving pain signals. It is, however, not as strong as many other opioids, but still carries a risk factor of dependence.

The medication is also used to help control coughs, though recent studies state that it’s not that effective in suppressing acute episodes of coughs. Instead, the medication is much more effective for individuals who have chronic coughs or an underlying condition that leads to a chronic cough.

It may also help control severe diarrhea.

How Is It Taken?

It’s most often delivered via a tablet that you can get with a prescription from a doctor. In the hospital, it may be administered intravenously.

In some locations, you can purchase it as a liquid to swallow or dissolve in water. It also can come in the form of cough syrup.

In a medically supervised setting, a patient is prescribed 15mg to 60mg tablets to take every few hours. They should not reach more than 360mg in a 24-hour period unless under the direct supervision of a physician.

Recreationally, it’s taken as a pill or crushed up and snorted. Codeine-laced cough syrup is also often mixed with soft drinks to create something known as “purple drank.”

Who Takes It?

Anyone prescribed the medication can take codeine. It’s not necessarily recommended for children under the age of 12, but it is up to the doctor’s discretion.

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A Brief History of Codeine

3-methylmorphine, also known as codeine, is found in opium poppies. The sedative and painkilling effects of codeine have been known for centuries.

There’s evidence that codeine itself has been in use since 1715 in Europe. It was, however, not isolated until 1832 in France.

Today, codeine is used all over the world. In some locations, you can get it over-the-counter in low dosages. Due to excessive restrictions on opiates, codeine was completely synthesized in the 1970s.

Consequences of Codeine Abuse

Codeine, like all other opiates, carries a risk of dependency. It also can create a myriad of symptoms, both in the long and short-term. As mentioned previously, this medication should only be used in the short-term unless under doctor’s supervision.

Effects on the Mind and Body

Codeine, like all other opiates, carries a risk of dependency. It also can create a myriad of symptoms, both in the long and short-term. As mentioned previously, this medication should only be used in the short-term unless under doctor’s supervision.

Most people experience some side effects when taking codeine, even in the short-term.

These include:

  • Feeling sleepy
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting

In the long-term, individuals may face physical or psychological dependence.

If someone becomes dependant on codeine, they may develop a high tolerance to it, meaning they will need to continue to take higher doses to get the same “feeling” they originally got with codeine.

They may also experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking them.

These symptoms can include:

  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Feeling nervous or agitated
  • Headache
  • And other classic withdrawal symptoms

For individuals who were taking low dose codeine, they may experience these symptoms in a less exaggerated form.

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Long-Term and Short-Term Health Effects

There are many short-term health effects when someone takes codeine beyond what’s prescribed. These negative effects are:

  • Allergic skin reaction/rash
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Dysphoria
  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

In the long-term, the effects are much more severe. The most common effects of abusing codeine for an extended period of time are:

  • Insomnia
  • Liver damage
  • Nightmares
  • Pain when not using codeine
  • Seizures

Codeine also causes the cardiac and respiratory systems to slow down. But, these effects don’t develop as fast as the user’s tolerance. That means that there’s an increased risk of overdose because an addict needs more codeine to feel its euphoric effects.

In the most extreme cases, codeine abuse can lead to organ failure, coma, and even death.

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Using Codeine With Other Drugs

As codeine is an opiate, you should avoid taking it with other opiates or medications that can cause CNS (central nervous system) depression. These can include antihistamines, sedatives, antipsychotics, antianxiety drugs, and anesthesia.

Some of these drugs may create a severe reaction when used concurrently with codeine, even death. Because of this, you should be sure to speak with your doctor if you take codeine before you take any other type of medication.

In some cases, the interaction with codeine isn’t particularly serious, and your doctor can decide if the pros outweigh the cons.

You should also refrain from using alcohol with codeine, as it is also a depressant. Mixing the two together can sometimes lead to fatal consequences.

Which Drugs Are Commonly Used With Codeine?

In a medical setting, codeine is often mixed with paracetamol (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen. In some cases, the medications are mixed together to form a medication to take in pill, syrup or liquid form.

In a recreational setting, individuals may take codeine as “gateway drug,” or may use it to make morphine or other substances. People have also mixed codeine-laced cough syrup with fizzy or soft drinks to create a “purple drank,” which contains high levels of codeine.

At parties at other events, individuals may also mix codeine with alcohol, which is incredibly dangerous and it can depress the central nervous system.

Treating Codeine Addiction

If you or someone you love is addicted to codeine, there is hope.

There are many rehabilitation centers that exist that can help you or your loved one withdrawal from codeine comfortably. You can also work with professional counselors to get to the root cause of why you find it necessary to take codeine in order to get through the day.

If you’re ready to take the journey, or you wish to help a loved one, contact us today.