Is Codeine Addictive? Signs of Codeine Addiction

Millions of people use codeine for legitimate medical purposes. Countless others abuse it in search of a recreational high. What risks are associated with either approved or illicit use of this substance? Is codeine addictive? How can you identify someone who may be in danger as a result of their codeine use?

What Is Codeine?

Codeine is a prescription medication that is typically used as a painkiller or cough suppressant. It is a natural opioid – which means that it is produced by the opium poppy plant – that was originally isolated in 1832 by a French chemist named Pierre-Jean Robiquet. 

Codeine is one of the most commonly used opioids in the U.S. and throughout the rest of the world. It is included in the World Health Organization’s Model List of Essential Medicines, though it was removed from WHO’s Essential Medicines List for Children in 2011. 

It is usually taken orally, either as a capsule, tablet or liquid. 

In the United States, codeine is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, This means that the U.S. government has determined that codeine has “a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.” 

Other Schedule II substances include morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl, and methamphetamine.

Is Codeine Addictive?

Is codeine addictive? Yes, this drug poses a high risk for both abuse and addiction.

When someone takes codeine, the drug binds to specialized receptors on cells throughout the central nervous system. In addition to blocking the delivery of pain signals, codeine also causes a buildup of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is associated with learning and reward. This leads to both an easing of pain and an elevation of mood.

The desire to extend codeine’s pleasurable effects can prompt a person to misuse the medication. This misuse can cause the person’s body to adapt to codeine’s presence, and crave more. When the individual tries to end or significantly reduce their codeine use, their body may respond with a variety of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Needing to use greater amounts of a substance (tolerance) and developing painful symptoms when trying to stop using a drug (withdrawal) are two of the classic signs of addiction. We’ll discuss these and other signs in greater detail in the next section.

What Are the Signs of Codeine Addiction?

A common follow-on to the question, Is codeine addictive, is, How can I tell if someone is addicted to codeine?

People who develop substance use disorders (addictions) often go to great lengths to hide their behavior. This can make it difficult to tell if someone has developed a problem related to codeine or any other addictive substance. If you suspect that someone in your life has developed an addiction to codeine, keep an eye out for the following types of signs:

  • They use codeine more frequently or in larger amounts than directed by their physician.
  • They continue to use codeine after the pain or cough they were being treated for has subsided.
  • They try to buy, borrow, or steal codeine that was prescribed to someone else.
  • They lie to their doctor about their symptoms in an attempt to get another prescription.
  • When they can’t use codeine, they become agitated or irritated.
  • They have begun to use codeine is especially hazardous ways, such as by combining it with alcohol or other drugs.
  • They have failed to meet personal, academic, or work-related responsibilities due to their codeine use.
  • They no longer participate in sports, hobbies, or other social activities because of their codeine use.
  • They continue to use codeine even after they have incurred harm (such as overdosing, losing their job, or being arrested for driving under the influence) as a direct result of prior use.
  • They have started to lie or be otherwise deceptive about how they spend their time and who they associate with.
  • They need to use larger amounts of codeine to experience the effects that they used to achieve via smaller doses.
  • When they try to stop using codeine, they develop distressing physical and psychological symptoms.

Someone who exhibits these types of signs may be in grave danger, and they should be assessed by a qualified healthcare provider. Completing a thorough assessment and receiving an accurate diagnosis can be vital steps on a person’s path toward effective treatment and a healthier future.

How Is Codeine Addiction Treated?

Given the intensity of codeine withdrawal symptoms, treatment for codeine addiction often begins with detoxification, or detox.

Detox is a short-term program that helps patients get through withdrawal as safely and comfortably as possible. When a patient receives care in a reputable detox program, they will be under the close supervision of experts who may be able to offer both medical and therapeutic support to ease their symptoms or help them manage their distress.

Following detox, codeine addiction treatment can take many forms, depending on each patient’s specific needs. Those who need round-the-clock care may enter residential rehab, while others may enroll in a partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient program. 

There’s no ideal path that every patient needs to take. Instead, each person should work with their treatment team to determine which programs, therapies, and services are best for them.

Find Codeine Addiction Treatment in Massachusetts

Lake Avenue Recovery Center is a trusted provider of life-affirming outpatient care for adults who have become addicted to codeine and other dangerous substances. We also serve patients whose struggles with addiction are accompanied by certain co-occurring mental health concerns.

When you choose our rehab center in Worcester, Massachusetts, you can expect to receive personalized services and comprehensive support from a team of highly skilled professionals. We understand the many ways that addictions and co-occurring mental illnesses can disrupt a person’s life, and we are committed to providing every patient with a truly customized experience while they are in our care. 

To learn more about how we can help you or a loved one, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.