Codeine Addiction And Treatment Options

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Codeine is an opioid used in painkillers and cough and cold medications. All of these forms can be abused in a way which is harmful to a person’s health and disruptive to their life. Even though codeine isn’t as potent as other opioids, abuse can still lead to dependence, addiction, and even a fatal overdose. Choosing an individualized inpatient drug rehab helps to protect you from these risks, while teaching you how to live a drug-free life.

What Is Codeine?

Codeine is a unique opioid, in the fact it has dual properties. Like other opioids, it acts as a pain reliever, but in addition to this action, it also acts as a cough suppressant. This medication alters the way your brain processes and reacts to pain and also slows down the brain activity which typically triggers coughing.

As a pain reliever, codeine is used to treat mild to moderate pain. It is delivered by itself or as a combination medication with other more mild pain medicines, such as acetaminophen. Tylenol #3 and #4 are two commonly abused examples of this blend. When used to suppress cough, either within a cough or cold medicine, it’s combined with a variety of other medications.

When you take codeine it’s actually changed to morphine in your body, albeit a smaller concentration than would be found if you used the drug directly. This effect creates some of the drug’s potential for abuse.

Is Codeine A Gateway Drug?

What is dangerous about codeine, is that some people believe it’s safer to abuse because it isn’t as strong as other opioids. While it is true that codeine isn’t as strong as other painkillers, no amount of drug abuse is ever safe.

Others wrongfully think it’s a harmless drug because it’s used in something with an “everyday” application, like cough syrup, or because it’s branded under a household name like Tylenol. This risk holds especially true for young people, with whom codeine abuse is prevalent.

Codeine_TylenolWithin this age group, many users turn to codeine as a “safer” alternative, when codeine abuse is anything but. As teens and others use codeine more and more, they will begin to notice less of an effect from the drug when they use it. This is called a tolerance.

To overcome this, a person may do one of two things, both of which are dangerous. They may begin using more of the codeine drug or they may progress to something stronger.

Here, a person may begin using a stronger opioid painkiller illicitly, like Vicodin or even OxyContin. Either of these behaviors causes the risk of addiction, overdose, and death to climb even further.

Why Do People Abuse Codeine Cough Syrups?

People even abuse codeine-containing cough medications, especially ones containing promethazine. Promethazine is antihistamine which produces a sedative or calming effect. Recreational users seek both this and the opioid-inducing euphoric state from the codeine.

This practice has been glamorized by pop culture and is especially high within youth and teen age brackets. In these instances of abuse, the cough syrup is commonly mixed with soda, pop, or even alcohol. Recreational users refer to these concoctions as “lean,” “purple drank” (this is also the term for the mix which contains alcohol) or “sizzurp.”

This form of abuse is dangerous to anyone, but it holds particular danger for young people. At this age, these individuals are more apt to succumb to peer pressure and make poor decisions since their brain isn’t fully developed. Drug use at this age can also harm the developing brain, in some cases causing long-term damage.

How Do People Abuse Codeine As A Painkiller?

Like all medications which are used illicitly, codeine in any form is abused because a person self-medicates or uses the drug recreationally to pursue a euphoric state. These behaviors may occur with a personal prescription or with medication which was purchased or stolen. The pain relieving form of the drug may be taken orally, or a person may crush the tablet so that they can snort it.

Abuse Can Harm Your Liver

When you abuse a drug it adversely impacts may important organs within your body. Depending on the drug, some bear this brunt more heavily than others. For those who choose to abuse a codeine combination product which contains acetaminophen (like Tylenol #3 and #4) this impact is particularly felt by your liver.

Codeine_Tylenol 3In too great of quantities, acetaminophen can be very harmful to your liver, to the extent that acute liver failure or the need for an organ transplant becomes a concern. The frightening thing is that the amount of acetaminophen which is considered damaging isn’t that great. It’s actually an amount which is easily reached (and surpassed) within situations of abuse and addiction.

Each Tylenol #3 and #4 contains 300 mg of acetaminophen. Any amount over 4,000 mg is considered unsafe and harmful to your liver. Regular drug abusers can reach this amount very quickly, exposing their liver to toxic amounts of the drug. Kidney damage has also been linked to high amounts of acetaminophen.

Codeine Can Cause Overdose

While it may take more of the drug to create a toxic burden on your body, codeine and its combination products can still lead to overdose, including those which are fatal. This risk increases if users use the drug with other opioids, alcohol (as in “purple drank”), or other central nervous system depressants.

Either alone or in these combinations, as a person’s body moves towards overdose their breathing, heart, and blood pressure rates all fall dangerously low. For users who abuse Tylenol #3 and #4, overdose can occur from just the acetaminophen alone, should amounts reach 7,000 mg of this medicine.

What Are The Signs Of Codeine Abuse And Addiction?

Drug abuse changes the way a person lives. As abuse continues a person begins to ignore important responsibilities within their life in pursuit of finding and using the drug. Within these states a person may:

  • Continue using the drug even though it’s causing harm to their mind and body.
  • Crave the drug
  • Develop a tolerance
  • “Doctor shop” to obtain more prescriptions for the drug.
  • Go into withdrawal and become sick if they suddenly stop using it.
  • Hide or hoard the drug or cough syrup.
  • Let their job or education slide.
  • Lose interest in things they once enjoyed.
  • Push friends and family members away.
  • Self-medicate a pain problem with the drug in a way other than prescribed.
  • Steal the drug or buy it off the street.

If any of these look familiar, let us help. The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you or a family member can begin regaining a healthier, sober life.

Teens who use drugs are far more apt to develop an addiction later in life. Intervening as quickly as possible at this age is extremely important, so that you have the best chance of preventing future problems.

How Is A Codeine Addiction Treated?

When a person becomes heavily addicted to opioid drugs like codeine they often require a medical detox. A medical detox supports a person’s body by aid of medications designed for this purpose (such as buprenorphine or Suboxone), so that symptoms of withdrawal are as minimal as possible. These medication-assisted treatments are supplemented with behavioral therapies.

Codeine_Medical DetoxTreating the physical addiction isn’t enough for lasting sobriety. As soon as you complete this step, you should enter directly into treatment to begin where detox left off. Research-based behavioral therapies and alternative treatment modalities work to treat the psychological addiction. These may include:

  • Motivational interviewing (MI)
  • Cognitive behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Dual diagnosis care
  • Family therapy and support
  • Mindfulness and stress management practices
  • Wilderness therapy

To truly overcome the chains of an addiction you need to undo the damage caused by drug-induced negative emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. These modalities are best used within an inpatient drug rehab program. This intensive, residential format will create a healing, nurturing space where you can build positive coping skills and healthy behaviors. These powerful transformations will protect you as you move forward into the next chapter of your life: your sober recovery.

Don’t Let Codeine Addiction Start A Downward Spiral In Your Life

A codeine addiction requires prompt treatment. Our confidential assessment can help you find an inpatient program to meet these needs. Contact today.

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