The Dangers Of Codeine

Codeine became a living nightmare for me. I started using it recreationally in my teenage years because I found it was easy to get from someone I knew. By the time I got to Pathfinders for treatment, I was a full-blown addict. Pathfinders did a great job of getting me off of it, but my codeine abuse still haunts me. 

The thing that makes codeine such a dangerous drug is that it has become popularized at the same time as many people discount the dangers. Cough medicine is not a difficult item to attain, and even the prescription varieties that carry codeine aren’t as restricted as other opiates.

From the occasional Tylenol 3 (a prescription form of the drug that contains codeine) to the Broncleer cough syrup I ended up taking constantly, codeine quickly became a way of life for me.     

When I go to a pharmacy and I pass by the cough syrup, I feel a tingling sensation in my whole body. I still have the urge to abuse it. I know that cough syrup in the regular aisles does not contain codeine, but it still contains alcohol and reminds me of the old codeine days.

Whenever I feel weak like this, I try to keep in mind that it ruined my life and nearly killed me. Even that thought alone is not enough for a lot of people. It is a highly addictive drug, and I would argue one of the most addicting drugs.

I would say for sure that it is one of the easiest drugs to get addicted to and stay addicted to, because of its availability. The euphoria you feel on codeine is fun and all, but the symptoms of codeine withdrawal are harsh. 

The side effects of codeine abuse are just as brutal as the withdrawal. I was drinking two bottles of cough syrup a day just to continue achieving the high that it gave me. My tolerance was sky high, and I needed more of it to feel anything.

Codeine is just like any other drug that you become tolerant to. Your brain adjusts as you keep abusing it and you need more and more to get the high you desire. It’s very hard on your brain to release dopamine at such a rapid rate as well. This is where all of the mental and emotional side effects come into play.

There are a ton of codeine side effects that you can suffer from. Stomach pain and headaches are the most common, but codeine abuse can also give you insomnia, agitation, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, changes in heart rate, and even seizures.

These are just a shortlist of the side effects you can suffer from. If you mix other drugs with codeine, specifically alcohol it can quickly be life-threatening. Mixing alcohol with opiates is extremely dangerous no matter what the drug is.

Because codeine is an opiate, it is often abused with alcohol. Mixing alcohol and drugs like opiates greatly increases the high and has recently become a popular trend among drug users. 

Timeline For Codeine Withdrawal

Timeline For Codeine Withdrawal

The withdrawal symptoms from codeine depend on the person. With an addict, the seriousness of your addiction plays a big part in your recovery. It may take someone less time to detox than somebody else.

Since codeine has rapidly become a popular way to get high, treatment for codeine withdrawals is more available than it used to be. It’s very important if you are trying to get off of codeine that you detox in a medically supervised setting. Codeine may be less habit-forming than other opiates, but it is still a difficult substance to withdraw from. 

Codeine withdrawal is very similar to opiate withdrawal. The first few days are marked by a lot of physical discomforts. Shakes, cold sweats, stomach issues, and overall malaise. At the beginning and middle of your detox, you will start to grapple with the mental aspect of withdrawal.

Depression and anxiety are the two big ones I struggled with. It was very difficult for me to get through the process without having extreme depression. I had suicidal thoughts. I felt completely hopeless. 

Even though I was greatly encouraged by the staff at Pathfinders, I was still a wounded animal. That is a hell that I never want to go through again. I suffered from frequent vomiting and diarrhea through my codeine withdrawal, and it affected me greatly.

One of the things that may help you before you enter recovery is tapering codeine. A lot of individuals who are addicted to opiates use this process. Tapering is defined as taking less and less of the drug over time rather than quitting cold turkey. Before I entered recovery, I tapered my codeine use from two bottles to one bottle a day, but still went through many withdrawal symptoms.

I think a lot about the emotional upheaval I went through when I was in treatment. Sure the physical symptoms were tough, but grappling with your own mind like that is very scary.

This is another reason you should detox in the presence of professionals. They will take care of you and prevent you from harming yourself. Suicide is quite common among people going through withdrawal.

The combination of physical and emotional pain can be totally unbearable for a lot of people. It’s very sad to know that this is a thing that happens, but it’s one of the unfortunate truths of drug addiction.

Within two weeks to a month, most of the physical and mental side effects of withdrawal. Depending on the severity of your addiction, you may develop post-acute codeine withdrawal.

This is when the withdrawal symptoms seem never-ending. With post-acute withdrawal, the symptoms can last for months, even sometimes up to a year. I feel fortunate that I did not have to endure this myself, though I know people who have.

I have been in meetings with people who suffered from withdrawal symptoms for months on end. These are the people that I look up to. To be able to go through that and still come out on the other side is worthy of a medal in my opinion. 

Aftercare and Long-Term Recovery

Aftercare and Long-Term Recovery

It’s very important that you seek out aftercare services and try to attend meetings during your recovery. Because codeine addiction is such a serious affliction, it’s something that you can fall back into pretty easily.

When you go through recovery, no matter what kind of addiction you have, it’s important to talk. It’s important to associate with others who have gone through what you’ve gone through.

The only way to heal the pain inside is to talk it out. I shut my emotions off completely throughout my addiction. When you do that, you have no choice but to face them when you are trying to get better.

It’s scary to open up sometimes, and it’s difficult to work through all of your emotional issues when you are without the drug. You are so used to burying your feelings by getting high, that when you get sober, you don’t know how to react or properly express these emotions.

I had a very difficult time the first few months that I attended NA meetings. I didn’t open up much. That was ok. It gave me the opportunity to listen to other people tell their stories, which eventually made me want to tell mine. 

You may benefit more from one-on-one counseling than a group setting. That is okay. Everyone’s recovery looks different. Although we all have similar stories, our recovery may not be so similar. It may take a longer amount of time for you to talk.

It may take you several tries to get clean. The only thing that really matters is that you are serious enough about your recovery that you are willing to put in the work. Recovery is like a second job. It requires maintenance. This may seem daunting, but the rewards are worth it.  

You can’t help anybody else until you help yourself. You may not think your story is important, but it is. One of the big things in recovery is it’s important to encourage people to open up. There is a lot of shame and feelings of self-doubt when it comes to addiction.

It’s vital that recovering addicts help out other recovering addicts. It’s a process that has worked great for me. There are times I don’t have much to say at meetings, and that is ok. Other times I am an open book. Just know that when you open up and tell your story, it might be the thing someone really needs to hear.


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