Codeine Addiction | Abuse, Effects, Signs, & Treatment

Codeine is a prescription drug that acts as a pain reliever and cough suppressant. As an opioid, codeine poses a high risk of addiction.

Codeine Addiction | Abuse, Effects, Signs, & Treatment

Codeine is a prescription drug that acts as a pain reliever and cough suppressant. It appears as an ingredient in various cough and cold medications.

As an opioid, codeine poses a high risk of addiction. If you or someone you love struggles with codeine addiction, it’s important to seek professional help.

What Is Codeine Abuse?

Codeine abuse occurs when you use codeine in a manner not prescribed by your health care provider. For example, you might:

  • take it without a prescription
  • take it more often than prescribed
  • take higher doses than prescribed

In addition, some people (especially adolescents) abuse codeine by mixing codeine cough syrup with soda and hard candy. The resulting drink has many street names, including “lean,” “purple drank,” and “sizzurp.”

Effects Of Codeine Abuse

People who abuse codeine are more likely to experience the drug’s side effects. The most common side effects of codeine are headache, stomach pain, and trouble urinating. Rarer, more serious side effects include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • weakness
  • vision changes
  • agitation
  • hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t really there)
  • trouble breathing or swallowing
  • changes in heartbeat
  • irregular menstruation
  • difficulty getting or keeping an erection
  • rash
  • seizures

Learn more about Common & Rare Side Effects Of Codeine

Overdose & Addiction

Like other opioids, codeine slows down important central nervous system functions, including breathing and heart rate. When you abuse codeine, these functions may slow to the point of a life-threatening overdose. Common signs of a codeine overdose include:

  • cold, clammy skin
  • smaller pupils
  • slow, shallow, or stopped breathing
  • bluish lips and/or fingernails
  • constipation
  • nausea and vomiting
  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • loss of consciousness

Finally, codeine abuse often leads to codeine addiction. Codeine addiction is a serious disease that makes you feel unable to stop using codeine despite negative consequences.

Signs Of Codeine Addiction

The most common signs of codeine addiction are tolerance and physical dependence.

Tolerance means that over time, your body gets used to the effects of codeine. You’ll then need increasingly larger or more frequent amounts of the drug to feel the desired effects.

Physical dependence means your body requires codeine to function normally. If you stop using it, you may experience codeine withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • mood swings
  • faster heartbeat
  • trouble sleeping
  • larger pupils
  • watery eyes
  • runny nose
  • sweating
  • chills
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhea

Other signs of codeine addiction include:

  • frequent cravings for codeine
  • avoidance of family and friends
  • loss of motivation
  • trouble completing tasks at work or school
  • decline in personal hygiene
  • doctor shopping (visiting multiple doctors to get multiple prescriptions of codeine)

Codeine Addiction Treatment Options

If you’re addicted to codeine, you can recover at a substance abuse treatment program. These programs are available on an inpatient or outpatient basis.

Inpatient care involves living at a treatment center and receiving 24/7 care. Outpatient care involves regularly attending a treatment center while living at home. Your doctor can help you determine which option is right for you.

No matter which option you choose, your treatment will most likely start with medical detox. During detox, medical professionals will help you slowly and comfortably stop using codeine. They may treat certain withdrawal symptoms with medications, such as sleep aids or anti-anxiety medications.

After detox, your treatment plan may include services such as:


Most codeine abuse treatment programs offer multiple types of therapy, including individual therapy and family therapy.

In individual therapy, you’ll learn to identify and manage triggers (people, situations, feelings, or other things that make you want to abuse codeine). Your therapist can also help you cope with any underlying mental health concerns that led you to abuse codeine in the first place.

In family therapy, you and your loved ones will learn how to resolve conflicts, repair damaged relationships, and support your long-term recovery.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

During MAT, your doctors will prescribe medications to make your recovery easier. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the following medications to help people recover from addictions to codeine and other opioids:

  • buprenorphine, which decreases opioid cravings
  • methadone, which decreases opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms
  • naltrexone, which discourages opioid use by blocking the pleasant effects of opioids

Support Groups

In a support group, you can connect with other people recovering from drug abuse. Each meeting gives you the opportunity to share your experiences and learn valuable coping tips from your peers. You can also make friends who can help you stay sober after treatment ends.

Aftercare Planning

Before you leave the treatment program, your doctors will work with you to create a personalized aftercare plan. Designed to boost your well-being and reduce your risk of relapse, the plan may include interventions such as:

  • ongoing therapy and support groups
  • regular exercise
  • nutritional guidance
  • participation in the treatment facility’s alumni program

If you or a loved one struggles with codeine use, please contact Northeast Addictions Treatment Center. We provide a variety of evidence-based treatments to help you stay healthy and drug-free.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does Codeine Stay In Your System?

Codeine stays in your system for about 15 hours on average. Drug tests can detect recent codeine use between 3 hours to 90 days after the last use.

To learn more, read How Long Does Codeine Stay In Your System?

Can You Snort Codeine?

You can crush and snort codeine and codeine combination tablets to get high. However, this method of drug abuse is associated with serious long- and short-term risks including addiction, nasal passage damage, and overdose.

Learn more about Snorting Codeine

What Are The Effects Of A Codeine High?

If abused in high quantities, codeine can trigger a euphoric experience similar to morphine. However, this level of abuse puts you at high risk for addiction, dependence, and overdose.

Learn more about the Effects Of A Codeine High

Is Codeine An Opiate Or Opioid?

Codeine is a cough suppressant medication that’s considered an opiate and narcotic. It is an opiate because it’s naturally derived from the opium poppy plant. Codeine is not partly synthetic, so therefore it is not considered an opioid.

To learn more, read Is Codeine An Opiate Or Opioid?

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

©2024 Northeast Addition Center | All Rights Reserved

This page does not provide medical advice.

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