Codeine Symptoms And Warning Signs

Codeine is a deceptively dangerous drug that is found in many prescription cough medicines and Painkillers.

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Signs Of Codeine Abuse

Codeine is a drug designed to relieve mild to moderate pain and coughing. It is most commonly abused for its calming effects. Although it’s not as addictive as other Opiates, Codeine is still dangerous and habit-forming.

Recognizing the outward signs of Codeine abuse can help you determine if a loved one has a budding substance use problem.

Some signs of Codeine abuse include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Short attention span
  • Impaired judgment
  • Dilated pupils
  • Lack of coordination
  • Apathetic behavior

The Dangers Of Codeine

Though Codeine is less potent than fellow Opiates like Oxycodone, the 2 substances share similar effects when taken in high enough doses. This is because Codeine has a chemical structure which is very similar to stronger drugs such as Morphine and Hydrocodone and causes similar reactions in the body. The side effects of Codeine may present themselves as early as the first use and may become worse over time. If you think someone you love is abusing Codeine, contact a treatment provider today.

People commonly experiment with Codeine because of the misconception that it’s relatively harmless.

This creates a particularly disarming attitude toward Codeine, which can lead to addiction or abuse of more potent Opiates.

As a Depressant, Codeine slows a person’s breathing rate. At large doses, this may cause a person to stop breathing entirely and can be potentially fatal. Other dangerous results of an overdose on Codeine include seizures and coma.

Immediate Side Effects Of Codeine

The immediate side effects of Codeine vary based on the individual user and the amount of the drug taken. These side effects can range from mild to life-threatening. Some of the possible short-term side effects include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Itching or rash
  • Constipation and stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures

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Long-term Side Effects Of Codeine Abuse

Prolonged and frequent Codeine abuse can lead to maladaptive behaviors and health problems. Some of the long-term effects of Codeine abuse include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired memory
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Muscle spasms
  • Death

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Recognizing A Codeine Addiction

Once a Codeine user becomes tolerant of the drug, they will require more of it to achieve the previous high. In cases of prolonged use, the drug is needed just to feel normal. Addiction may exacerbate an abuser’s fear of coping with day-to-day tasks without Codeine.

Because Codeine is an easily obtained legal substance, it can be difficult to tell the difference between use, abuse, and addiction. However, there are a few telltale signs that something may be amiss, such as increasing doses and ignoring personal responsibilities.

Clinicians and addiction specialists can diagnose Codeine addiction by following a specific set of criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Having a tolerance to Codeine and experiencing cravings are some examples of these criteria. A person who regularly abuses Codeine may be diagnosed with a mild, moderate, or severe addiction, which helps determine the right course of treatment.

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Intervention For A Codeine Addiction

The most effective way to persuade someone to get help for their Codeine addiction is to stage an intervention. Because of the legality and accessibility of Codeine, some people have a hard time recognizing they have a problem. The purpose of the intervention is to bring these issues to light before it’s too late. If you’re unsure how to approach an intervention, consider hiring an intervention specialist.

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Codeine Withdrawal, Treatment, And Next Steps

Codeine causes symptoms of withdrawal similar to other Opiates like Morphine. These symptoms may be minor or severe depending on the extent of the addiction. Common symptoms of Codeine withdrawal range from joint pain and aches to depression.

Codeine withdrawal isn’t typically life-threatening, which is why some people choose to quit cold-turkey. However, the discomfort of withdrawal often leads to a relapse.

Without proper treatment, many people trying to give up Codeine turn back to the drug in an attempt to ease their physical and emotional pain.

Regardless of how you first got hooked on Codeine, you can get out of the drug’s snare. Abusing Codeine over a long period of time will only make the drug’s effects worse as your tolerance to it builds—eventually, the high will wear off and you’ll need more of the drug just to maintain a normal balance. However, just as you became addicted to the drug, you can overcome it. For more information on treatment, contact a treatment provider today.



Jeffrey Juergens

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  • Jeffrey Juergens earned his Bachelor’s and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida. Jeffrey’s desire to help others led him to focus on economic and social development and policy making. After graduation, he decided to pursue his passion of writing and editing. Jeffrey’s mission is to educate and inform the public on addiction issues and help those in need of treatment find the best option for them.

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Clinically Reviewed:

Certified Addiction Professional

Theresa Parisi

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  • Theresa Parisi received her bachelor’s degree in Addiction Science and Psychology from Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minnesota in 2010. She is currently working towards her master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida. She is a Certified Addiction Professional (CAP), Certified Behavioral Health Case Manager (CBHCM), and International Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ICADC) by the Florida Certification Board. Theresa is passionate about recovery having gone through addiction herself.

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  • All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.


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