Codeine addiction

Drug addiction is often associated with ‘party’ drugs and substances obtained from the streets. But in fact, many drugs found in pharmacies and medicine cabinets are highly addictive and pose a risk of serious health complications. For example, codeine.

Codeine is a common painkiller belonging to the opiate family of drugs. Regularly prescribed to treat moderate pain, the medication is effective when taken as instructed by a doctor. However, like all opioids, codeine is extremely addictive and runs a high risk of dependency.

If you or a loved one is struggling with codeine addiction, there is help available. Linwood House offers support for those dealing with addiction, including information on the effects of codeine, signs of addiction, and treatment options. We understand how difficult addiction can be, but recovery is possible.

Codeine addiction - codeine tablet

How does codeine addiction develop?

Opiates, like codeine, work by depressing the central nervous system to relieve pain. However, once opiates have entered the central nervous system, they reinforce the reward system within the brain, causing an excessive amount of pleasurable hormones to be released. It is this desired feeling that people chase when abusing codeine.

If codeine is abused, people can experience feelings of relaxation, well-being, and contentment. The pleasant feelings induced by the substance can cause a person to take more of the substance, even if it is no longer required. Similar to other opiate drugs, codeine can cause changes in your brain’s functioning.

The brain creates balance when it identifies a change. So, after prolonged codeine abuse, your brain will begin to adapt to the chemical changes and imbalances, and you will no longer feel ‘normal’ without the presence of the substance.

An addiction to codeine is also characterised by the impulsive and compulsive need to use the drug despite negative consequences to one’s life. Codeine addiction is a brain disease, and when you have lost control over your use of codeine, formal medical healthcare treatment is needed to manage and control codeine use.

Codeine addiction in the UK

Codeine addiction is an ongoing problem in the UK; this is partly due to its easy access and being over-prescribed by medical professionals. Understanding the full extent of codeine addiction and abuse in the UK is difficult. However, statistics show that in 2021, there were two hundred codeine-related deaths.

Aside from codeine-specific related statistics, prescription opioids as a whole pose a massive danger to health care within the UK. In 2016, the UK was the second greatest consumer of codeine. While opioids are an essential aspect of pain relief in many different circumstances, it must be remembered that they are dangerous drugs with a high potential for dependence and addiction.

How to spot codeine addiction in a loved one

Detecting codeine addiction in loved ones is difficult as they often conceal their abuse:

  • They become more secretive or evasive
  • Previously enjoyable activities or hobbies start to be ignored
  • They start failing to meet social and professional commitments
  • Mood swings and emotional outbursts become more common
  • Personal hygiene may start to decline

Codeine addiction - codeine packet

While these signs are useful, the best thing to do is have an open conversation with your loved one, making sure to let them know that your concern comes from a place of love and support. If you aren’t sure if your loved one has a codeine addiction, you can speak with a member of our team to get help.

What are the effects of codeine addiction?

There are many long-term effects of prolonged codeine consumption. Of course, dependence and addiction can develop very quickly and are often catastrophic for the person and their loved ones. Additionally, with the abuse of any drug, the problematic use of codeine runs the risk of an overdose.

There are three key symptoms to spot if you believe you or someone you love is experiencing an overdose, commonly referred to as the ‘opioid overdose triad’: pinpoint pupils, lack of consciousness, and respiratory depression. Other symptoms of an overdose include seizures or muscle spasms. If you do notice any of these symptoms after taking codeine, it is important to instantly contact emergency services to prevent an overdose from becoming fatal.

Excessive codeine use also causes an increased tolerance. Similar to dependence, tolerance develops when a person regularly partakes in the abuse of the same substance, meaning that you need to take more and more to achieve the effects you once experienced with a smaller dose.

Codeine addiction - man with anxiety

Other than the risk of tolerance, dependence addiction and the increased risk of overdose, some other long-term consequences of codeine abuse include:

  • Depression
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage
  • Muscle cramps, pain, and spasms
  • Impaired relationships
  • Anxiety
  • Decreased muscle tone
  • Schizophrenia
  • Respiratory depression

Taking the next steps

If you or someone you love is struggling with codeine addiction, then it is important to seek codeine rehab as soon as possible. At Linwood House, we support people to begin their recovery journey and have aided people in overcoming their addictions. Contact us today to see how we can help you or your loved one overcome your codeine addiction.

Frequently asked questions

How can I help a loved one addicted to codeine?
If you’re supporting a loved one with codeine addiction, you can help them by seeking treatment programs and finding healthy ways to support them. However, certain actions can enable them and make things worse, like making excuses or providing money. Remember, your love for them is valuable, but it’s important to help in ways that are beneficial. If you are concerned about a loved one’s codeine abuse, get in touch with Linwood House today to learn more about how we can help.
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