Codeine: A drug familiar to many, codeine has a wavering reputation in the medical community. While it can bring great relief to the overwhelming physical pain many feel, it can quickly become an addiction that draws the life out of the user.
What is Codeine?
A type of narcotic medication, codeine is a drug that is known to provide pain relief and can also cause the user to feel sleepy. In general, the drug is used to treat pain that can be mild or of severe intensity because it will dull the senses. It is also known to create changes in the user’s behavior and mood, depending on the dosage.
Being a narcotic, it is very easy for codeine to become addictive; the more a person uses codeine, his body is more likely to crave it even when he no longer actually needs it. Because of this, codeine is not a very good choice of pain reliever for someone who has previously abused drugs in his past. Similarly, it should be kept away from being accessed by other people, especially children.
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The DEA has scheduled codeine due to its addictive properties as well. The core of codeine is considered to be a Schedule II drug, which means it has a high potential for abuse that leads to severe dependence. Tylenol with codeine and similar mixes are considered Schedule III drugs, which have a slightly lower chance of abuse with mild dependency issues. Finally, Phenergan with codeine and similar mixes are considered to be a Schedule V drug, with a low but still existing potential for abuse.
The human body converts this opiate into morphine. It is related to heroin, which is what gives it some of its addictive properties. It is actually very frequently prescribed for short-term pain and anxiety, and it is often combined with caffeine, aspirin, barbiturates and acetaminophen for dental work, migraines and back pain.
Why is Codeine Prescribed?
As previously stated, this is a drug that is generally provided for pain relief. Whatever the actual reason behind the prescription, it is very important that one takes this drug only as prescribed, even beyond the risk of addiction. Avoiding an upset stomach means taking the drug with a full glass of water or with food and some milk.
Similarly, it’s important not to take more than what the doctor prescribed due to its highly addictive properties. If someone has taken the drug for a significant period of time, it is wise to not suddenly stop taking the medication since this can otherwise lead to symptoms of withdrawal.
Codeine does have its fair share of benefits for which it is prescribed by many doctors. Above all, it does an excellent job relieving pain in a variety of different situations. For example, a dentist may elect to prescribe some codeine for a patient who just had a tooth extracted, or a physician may prescribe this drug to a mother who had just given birth to a child and is still dealing with painful contractions.
There are various injuries for which codeine may also be prescribed, though ultimately, it is best used for relieving pain on a short-term basis since using it for a long period of time can lead to symptoms of addiction.
Regardless of the reason behind the prescription, it is important not to take the drug with alcohol. Mixing alcohol with the narcotic codeine can lead to very serious side effects, among which death can be counted. To keep safe, it is always a good idea to check other medications to be taken with codeine to ensure that it does not contain alcohol in it.
How Does Codeine Affect the Body?
When a patient takes codeine, it dulls the senses and causes him to be less alert than he usually is. Because of this, it is important to not drive a car or operate heavy machinery while on the drug. It will relieve pain but alter the way a person reacts to situations and how he thinks about things with clarity.
There are some side effects that may occur as a result of taking codeine. These include upset stomach, dry mouth, vomiting, headache, drowsiness, dizziness, constipation and an increase in how much the patient sweats. Some also have trouble sleeping, experience a decrease in sex drive, develop some rashes on the skin and also get blurred vision.
There are, of course, more serious side effects beyond the risk of addiction. If the person winds up being allergic to the medication, there can be serious side effects like swelling of the mouth, the tongue or the throat. Regardless of the location of the swelling, it is important to go to the emergency room. A call to the doctor is necessary for lightheadedness, an altered heartbeat, shallow breathing, odd thoughts or other strange behavior.
How Does Codeine Affect the Body When Abused?
When someone begins to abuse codeine, there are obvious symptoms that one will notice. For example, the drug slows down respiration, heart rate and breathing, so the two telltale signs are sluggish responses and lethargy above all. The pupils will also shrink, causing eye problems in the day and night. Other symptoms include depression and agitation.
Some cough syrups are also known to have codeine in them, which causes addicts without access to the actual drug to purchase these and drink them. An addict may even try to drink several bottles of codeine-laced cough syrups in a single day. Teenagers might also try to buy and abuse cough syrups to relieve anxiety.
Adults addicted to codeine may try to illegally purchase the drug on the street or try to get multiple prescriptions from different doctors.
How is Codeine Dangerous?
Because doctors only prescribe between 10 mg and 60 mg per dose, abuse is considered to occur when someone takes more than 60 mg of codeine at one time. Those who abuse codeine and consume it on a recreational basis can easily become addicted in just two weeks. Serious abuse can lead to death since the drug is known to depress breathing; this is especially a risk when mixed with other drugs or with alcohol.
There are other dangers related to codeine use due to ingredients that are added to the drug. For example, if the pill has too much aspiring, the stomach can start to bleed, but the kidneys and liver are at risk if it has too much acetaminophen in it. Those who use codeine heavily may develop conditions that cannot be reversed later on.
Pregnant women who also use codeine on a regular basis can experience devastating troubles with their unborn child. This is especially true even when women who are addicted to codeine try to quit cold turkey upon discovering that they are pregnant. Doctors do not recommend this since attempting to self-detox is not only dangerous to the addict but to the unborn child as well.
The symptoms of withdrawal from codeine abuse can last as little as two weeks or as long as several months. Ultimately, how long it takes to deal with the symptoms of withdrawal and how uncomfortable they depend on how long the addict abused the drug and how much he took for each dose. Patients can feel anxious, weak and a severe loss of appetite without codeine, with other common ailments including body aches, tremors, and cold, clammy skin.
How Does One Get Help for Codeine Addiction?
Because codeine is a legal drug, many addicts do not realize just how dangerous the drug really is, especially when trying to self-detox; as previously stated, it is possible to experience cold sweats, nausea, physical aches, insomnia and much more.
The detoxing phase is very difficult, so being in an inpatient facility will make a major difference as the addict will receive care around the clock in case the severity is too much to handle. The staff will also provide the means to help ease the symptoms that are most uncomfortable, which could not safely be done on one’s own.
The start of the process of treatment is helping the patient get all the codeine out of the body. When there is no longer any trace, the patient will start to experience withdrawal, which can be very severe — usually too severe to handle on one’s own, which stresses the importance of seeking inpatient treatment. For example, quitting cold turkey can lead to serious side effects like seizures, and most facilities will not take this route in the first place.
There are a number of ways to treat this addiction, but the goal is always the same: to live life without an addiction to codeine. Most facilities will gradually decrease how much codeine the patient takes until the amount is zero, which is generally the safest way to ease off of the drug. There are also facilities that are specifically tailored for pregnant women since they can react differently from addicted men.
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