Codeine, which is classified as an opioid drug. A controlled substance, it is available for legal prescription from medical professionals, such as doctors. Typically, it is prescribed for the treatment of pain. Sometimes, the medication is also combined with other pain relief drugs like ibuprofen.
As mentioned above, doctors typically prescribe codeine for the treatment of mild to moderate pain. It can also be used for cough relief. Since it is an opioid drug, however, it comes with a high potential for abuse and eventual addiction.
Like any other opioid, the medication will affect the central nervous system (or the CNS) as well as the brain. By so doing, it effectively changes the ways in which the body perceives the sensations of pain. When you get a prescription for it for coughing, the drug can slow down the movements in brain that cause coughing.
Once you ingest this medication, it will bind itself to the brain's opioid receptors. In the process, it will release dopamine, a natural chemical in the brain that causes sensations of pleasure. Due to this working mechanism, codeine will reinforce its own use. Eventually, this will turn into a behavior that could be classified as substance abuse and eventual addiction. It is due to the reaction of the drug in the body and the brain that leads to abuse and addiction.
Codeine is available in the form of a tablet. It is also the main ingredient in various cough suppressants. For instance, it can be combined with acetaminophen to form Tylenol 3, a popular pain relief medication.
The use of this medication will typically start innocently when you get a prescription for drugs that contain it. Since the drug is less regulated than most of the other opioids, you may assume that it is not quite as dangerous. However, it is expressly for this reason that many people abuse it.
You need to keep in mind that the drug is similar in chemical structure to other more dangerous drugs like hydrocodone and morphine. Although it might also be less potent, you can be sure that it will produce effects that are similar to those derived from morphine. These effects include but are not limited to relaxation, drowsiness, apathy, and euphoria.
Since codeine is an opioid, it comes with a high risk for the development of tolerance and physical dependence. Although you may have started using it as a medication for a legitimate and verifiable condition, you could find yourself abusing it after developing tolerance to its effects.
Over time, you would typically start turning to the medication to deal with any physical pain. Eventually, you may even return to its use when you suffer from emotional pain. This, however, will be the beginning of the development of your opioid use disorder.
Although you may assume that taking this drug is harmless, it can cause you to suffer coma, respiratory failure, or even death especially if you use it in high doses. This risk will be compounded in case you combine the medication with other drugs that depress the central nervous system, such as opiates and alcohol.
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Since codeine is a mind altering substance, it comes with a high potential for abuse. An opioid drug, it is highly addictive due to its working mechanism in the CNS and the brain. Traditionally, doctors have been overprescribing opioids like this drug. This is because at the time they were not aware of its addictive potential or the devastating effects that it can cause among users.
If you take this medication exactly as your doctor directed, it can be safe. However, you need to be cognizant of the fact that the drug was not made for chronic use as a result of its various addictive potential and properties.
Even so, you may abuse and misuse codeine in a wide variety of ways. For instance, you may take it in ways in which your doctor did not prescribe or direct - such as through intravenous injection or inhalation.
Alternatively, you may use more of the drug or for longer than your doctor prescribed. Abuse would also occur if you took this medication without any legal prescription - such as using someone else's prescription that is not intended for you. Another form of abuse would be using the medication for the sole reason of getting high.
That said, there are certain risk factors that may increase your risk of developing an addiction to this drug or other opioids. These risk factors, according to current research, include having a family or home environment that encourages substance abuse and misuse.
If you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse, you may also be at risk of becoming addicted to this medication. This is also the case if you have an untreated psychiatric or mental health disorder, if you are of a young age, or if your social network includes people who abuse drugs.
Having a family history of drug or alcohol addiction could also increase your risk of becoming addicted to codeine. Even so, you need to realize that addiction is not discriminatory - and anyone can develop this condition even without any of the risk factors listed above.
This drug is like any other prescription medication in the sense that it comes with both short and long term effects. If you have been abusing it for a long period of time, you can expect its effects to become more severe. It is important to note that codeine use comes with effects that range from the mild to the severe. Among these effects, there is a high risk that you may overdose on the medication or even lose your life as a result of it.
That said, the following are some of the short and long term effects of abusing this opioid substance:
Once you take codeine, you should expect to experience its effects in about a hour. These effects are going to last for a couple of hours. This is why doctors typically prescribe it for use every 4 to 6 hours.
On the other hand, if you mix this medication with other substances like alcohol, you may suffer life-threatening effects. This mixture will also be accompanied by additional risks due to the interactions between the substances that you would have taken. They include:
In the long term, using and abusing codeine could lead to detrimental health effects. These effects may include mental and physical alterations, some of which may become irreversible. You can expect the following:
But how does codeine addiction develop? Essentially, you may find yourself struggling with an opioid use disorder involving this substance if you continue abusing it either in its pill or cough medicine form.
Over time, the drug will lull you into the false sense of safety and security when you believe that it is not as dangerous, addictive, or powerful as other substances within the opioid class of drugs.
The drug is considered to be so dangers because it is often a gateway substance to other opioids - including but not limited to heroin and morphine. This means that when you develop tolerance to its effects and physical dependence as a result of taking this opioid, you will not stop there.
Instead, you will try to improve its effects by mixing codeine with other intoxicating substances - including but not limited to alcohol and other opioids. Since all of these drugs depress the CNS, these drug combinations could cause you to suffer dangerously high levels of respiratory failure and depression of the brain.
The typical signs and symptoms of codeine abuse and addiction will vary widely. They may include physical and behavioral symptoms that could present in the form of changes to your physical health, physical appearance, and behavior.
Your growing substance use disorder may also affect your physical appearance. For instance, you may stop taking care of your daily activities, like washing your clothes and taking a bath.
In the same way, you could struggle with changes to your emotional and mental health. As a result, it is highly likely that your addiction may lead to anger, irritability, and mood swings. Other signs and symptoms of growing codeine abuse and addiction include:
Once you have developed physical dependence on this drug and you try to quit, you will suffer some withdrawal symptoms and intense substance cravings. In case you suspect that you already have a codeine abuse problem, you may consider attempting on your own. However, you need to understand that the detoxification process - the period during which the drug leaves your system - can be difficult and unpleasant. This will be due to the development of symptoms of withdrawal.
For this reason, it is recommended that you only try to detox once you are under the supervision and round the clock care of a medical professional. This is the only way you can make this experience as comfortable and as safe as possible for yourself.
That said, the following are some of the withdrawal symptoms that are typically associated with opioid drugs like codeine:
Generally speaking, these symptoms are not life-threatening. Even so, they can prove to be incredibly uncomfortable and intense. In case you attempt to stop abusing the drug on your own, you may find the process difficult. This is because the withdrawal symptoms can be quite severe that you will eventually look for the drug or any other opioid to alleviate them. This is why you need to only go through codeine detox under medical supervision and with various medical interventions.