Codeine can be a highly addictive substance and provides the user with an overall sense of calm and feeling of pleasure. Although most individuals use codeine for legitimate medical purposes, prolonged use over time can lead to addiction and the need for rehab. This is not uncommon. After any lengthy use, an individual develops a tolerance for this substance and feels the need to take more and more of the drug in order to feel the effects.
Friends and family can soon see the pattern and start to look for rehab with codeine addiction help. The addiction can become apparent when after a short time without the drug, people begin to feel symptoms of withdrawal. This can occur and is normally quite noticeable after just a short time without using the substance.
New Leaf Recovery is a rehabilitation centre based in Birmingham, offering addiction treatment services to those with codeine addictions.
What is codeine?
Codeine is an opiate drug, used to treat mild to moderate pain. It is available either from doctors as a prescription-only medicine or, directly from a pharmacy combined in lower doses with aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetamol. It is used to treat pain that does not respond to simple painkillers. Someone who takes the combination painkillers containing codeine at higher than recommended doses in order to get a stronger codeine effect can easily consume doses of aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetamol that could be fatal.
What are the effects of codeine?
- Feelings of warmth and well-being, calm, relaxation, and sleepiness.
- Nausea, vomiting, constipation, loss of appetite, drowsiness, confusion, sweating, itching, dry mouth, mood swings and feeling of lethargy.
What are the risks of taking codeine?
Codeine can lower blood pressure and can suppress normal breathing, and so it can increase the risk of respiratory arrest (when you stop breathing altogether). There is more risk of overdose and death if you are mixing too much codeine with other drugs that suppress breathing such as alcohol, benzodiazepines like diazepam (valium), or other opiate drugs.
- When a higher than the recommended dose of codeine is taken in a tablet combined with another type of painkiller (commonly paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen), there is a real risk of experiencing the side-effects of these other drugs. And whilst these other drugs may seem harmless in normal doses, they can cause really serious problems in overdose- with risks of kidney failure, liver failure, and of indigestion or bleeding from the stomach, which can be fatal.
As with other opiates, taking very high doses of codeine during pregnancy may lead to withdrawal symptoms in newborn babies.
Codeine and the law
- Codeine is a substance controlled under class B of the Misuse of Drugs Act. That means it’s illegal to
have, give away or sell.
- Codeine on its own is only available on prescription, unauthorised possession can get you up to five years in jail and an unlimited fine.
- Supplying someone else, including your friends, can get you up to 14 years and an unlimited fine.
A small amount of codeine is in some medicines which can be bought without prescription but only in pharmacies. These medicines include cough syrups and tablets or capsules where the codeine is combined with other medicines, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin, for treating headaches, period pain etc. Codeine-containing medicines carry warning on the packs about the risk of addiction and advice that the non-prescription medicines should only be used for up to three days at a time without medical advice.
Codeine withdrawal symptoms
An individual with a codeine addiction may experience some of the withdrawal symptoms listed below when not using the substance. Some of the codeine withdrawal symptoms include:
- Joint and muscle aches and cramps.
- Flu-like symptoms.
- Restless legs.
- Headache & migraine.
- A runny nose.
- Panic attacks and anxiety.
- Stomach cramps.
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