In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about a drug that is found in common children’s medicines like Tylenol. This drug goes by the name of codeine. Known as a relatively mild opiate painkiller, this deceptively powerful prescription drug has habit forming tendencies.
Recognized in the United States as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act, codeine addiction has become a major problem for people all around the world. Due to the perception that codeine is the most tolerable of all opiates, many people do not realize they are addicted until a dependence has formed.
Signs of Codeine Use
Because codeine is in the opiate family, it works by activating opioid receptors in the brain. The receptors prevent electrical impulses from carrying mild to moderate pain indicators to the brain and spine. As pain receptors are suppressed, the body becomes more relaxed, allowing a user to feel less discomfort. While the immediate gratification and pleasure of taking codeine leaves many users wanting more, there are signs of use and side effects to look out for.
Some of the common signs of codeine use are:
- Dry mouth
- Blurred vision
- Low blood pressure
- Lack of concentration
- Respiratory depression
- Decreased sex drive
Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms
As a person continues using codeine, their brain becomes so accustomed to the sensations that it tricks itself into believing that it cannot function without the drug. The brain’s need to have codeine is known as a dependence and can cause an addict to disregard all responsibilities. If a user attempts to stop using codeine, they may experience a wide range of withdrawal symptoms. Because the body is craving it, but is not fed, an unstable environment is created.
Some early withdrawal symptoms are: persistent fatigue, superficial muscle damage, difficulty concentrating and loss of appetite.
For those who suffer from chronic abuse of codeine, withdrawal symptoms can be more severe. Because of the depressant effects that it has on the central nervous system, a user can develop sleep apnea (irregular breathing during sleep), aggressive bowel problems, heart problems and depression. It should also be noted that codeine effects oxygen levels throughout the body. As a result of lower oxygen, the body has to work harder, putting vital organs (like the brain) in possible danger.
Street Names for Codeine
Because codeine can only be legally used through a doctor’s prescription, those who sell or use it for recreational purposes apply street names in order to disguise opiate identity. Street names allow a user to continue abusing codeine without ever openly admitting a dependence to the drug. While most other drugs are abused on their own, codeine is often mixed to create more powerful substances. With street names influenced by color, name of the drug or popular music, codeine has a far reaching influence on culture.
Below are some of the street names for Codeine.
- Sizzurp: A mixture of codeine and cough syrup.
- Cody: A shortened version of the drug’s name.
- T-3’s and T-4’s: A mixture of codeine with Tylenol. The numbers refer to the strength of codeine in the pill.
- Robo and Tussing: A mixture of codeine and Robitussin.
- Loads and Doors & Fours: A mixture of codeine and Glutethimide (a sedative taken to treat insomnia).
Treatment for Codeine Addiction
As a person falls deeper into their addiction, codeine treatment must be tackled gradually. For many codeine abusers, an overwhelming sense of shame makes it hard for them to admit that there is a problem. While family members and loved ones may feel an urge to voice their concerns and push the abuser into a program, practicing measured empathy is incredibly important.
The first phase of treatment is a detox. Defined as a period of careful and assisted withdrawal, a detox is a tedious process that will test the user physically, mentally and emotionally. Performing a detox on one’s own is never recommended because withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person, and at times could be dangerous. The major benefit of having doctors and other healthcare professionals on hand is their ability to intervene if the process becomes too overwhelming for the patient.
As detox continues, doctors and other professionals are able to assist patients through administration of anticonvulsant or antidepressant drugs. These drugs are given in small doses but go a long way in helping a patient get through hardships of codeine detox.
Due to the delicacy of this process, detoxing can take anywhere from a week to over a month. Factors such as length of abuse, a client’s personal medical and mental health history, and potential abuse of others drugs are all taken into account by professionals.
Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab
With codeine addiction, a patient will have the option of inpatient or outpatient rehab facilities. Inpatient therapy is heavily recommended to those that suffer from chronic codeine use. People that personally suffer from or have a family history of mental illness are also great candidates for inpatient therapy. Inpatient facilities provide a safe environment where the addict lives in for a duration of time so that they can detox and receive treatment under the guidance and watchful eye of doctors, medical staff and counselors.
The perfect candidates for outpatient therapy are those who use codeine recreationally and have started noticing its effects on their quality of life. Through outpatient therapy, a user is able to stay in the comfort of their own home and continue through normal aspects of their day, such as work or school.
While a user has more freedom during outpatient treatment, they are still required to stay in constant contact with their assigned counselor and maintain the utmost honesty throughout the process. Because a person going through outpatient therapy is not taken away from their normal environment, personal and emotional triggers may cause them to continue using.
In order for a patient to receive the most comprehensive treatment, psychological dependence needs to be addressed. To tackle the complexity of human psychology, treatment centers carry out therapy sessions in a number of settings including one on one, group therapy and family therapy (if necessary).
Through one on one sessions, a patient is able to understand the thought processes behind substance abuse and reflect on their downward spiral. It is also a chance for a patient and professional to speak in an environment that is free of judgement and pretense. If there are any underlying mental health issues that could have propelled a patient’s addictive behavior, one on one sessions will help an individual understand their own psychology and why they acted in a destructive manner.
Group sessions are intended to encourage a unit of people to find comfort and strength through stories of others. Created to motivate and inspire, group sessions are moderated by a professional, but opens the floor to any person that wants to speak about the hardships of their journey and how they plan to rectify it. Building a community of support is incredibly important because anyone that suffers from addiction will have to fight it for the rest of their life. By having other people they can speak to, it helps them understand that they are not alone.
Family therapy is occasionally offered as a chance for family members to speak with a professional about addiction and how it has affected their lives. One aspect of addiction that is often ignored is the family of the addict. Through family therapy, members are given necessary tools to communicate with the recovering addict as well as understand why an addiction occurred to begin with. These sessions help family members achieve a higher level of empathy.
The journey of recovery takes a lot of time, patience and care. Making sure that an addict gets themselves into an environment where professionals are present allows them to get the training and tools necessary to understand codeine and their addiction to it. While the recovering addict may face trials and tribulations, if they continue speaking to professionals and those in their support community, recovery plans will stay intact.