Codeine addiction

When you think of drug addiction you may immediately think of illegal drugs that are taken at parties. However, there are a huge number of legal substances that are highly addictive and which can cause huge damage to people’s lives. Codeine is one of these substances and codeine addiction is an ever-present issue across the UK. Fortunately, there is real help available if you are suffering from codeine addiction and are ready to make a change in your life.

On this page, we will explain everything you need to know about codeine addiction including how it develops, the signs and symptoms and where to get help.

What is codeine addiction?

Codeine is part of the opioid family of drugs and is usually prescribed by a doctor to treat pain that is not responding to typical over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Although considered less addictive than some other opiates, codeine remains an addictive substance and one that should be taken with caution.

As an opioid drug, codeine does induce similar effects to other drugs in its class, so those who take it may experience feelings of contentment, relaxation and wellbeing. These pleasant feelings can cause a person to keep taking codeine even when they no longer require its pain-relieving qualities.

Opiate drugs such as codeine can affect the way the brain functions. It is extremely easy to develop a tolerance and, when this happens, it will mean that you will begin to need larger doses in order to achieve the same level of satisfaction or relief.

Many people who take codeine for pain relief increase their dose when they feel they are no longer getting the relief required. However, this can open the door to addiction because once you have started taking codeine regularly you may experience unpleasant symptoms when you try to stop. To avoid these withdrawal symptoms, many people will continue to use codeine, even if doing so causes negative consequences in their lives. It is this cycle of abuse that often leads to full-blown codeine addiction.

Codeine addiction in the UK

Codeine addiction is an ever-growing problem in the UK. This is in part due to the fact that codeine is so much easier to obtain in Britain than in countries where it is only available on prescription, not as an over-the-counter drug. According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2020, there were two-hundred and twelve codeine-related deaths in the UK. This was a 25% increase from 2019 and a 100% increase since 2010 numbers. Clearly, codeine abuse and addiction is a serious issue that needs tackling if it is to be brought under control.

The effects of codeine addiction

Any type of addiction can result in negative consequences. While codeine may be effective at relieving mild to moderate pain, continued use of it, especially at higher-than-recommended doses, can be extremely harmful to your overall well being.

Taking codeine in high doses or mixing it with other sedative substances such as alcohol can increase the risk of overdose. Because of the way in which codeine depresses the central nervous system, there is also a risk of respiratory problems. High doses of the drug can cause breathing to slow down and the heart rate to drop. There is also the risk that blood pressure will drop, which in and of itself can bring about respiratory failure or cardiac arrest.

Long-term abuse of codeine can have an extremely negative impact on health. For example, you may become more prone to insomnia or nightmares, or you could potentially suffer liver damage or have an increased risk of seizures. A codeine overdose, which is when you take too much of the drug for your body to handle, can result in death.

How to spot codeine addiction in yourself

It is often difficult to spot the signs of drug abuse, particularly when we are talking about a prescription drug such as codeine. However, being aware of the dangers means there is a greater chance of being able to react before developing a full-blown addiction. Here are some common signs of codeine addiction to look for in yourself:

  • Taking codeine more frequently or in higher doses than prescribed
  • Experiencing cravings for codeine
  • Taking risks to obtain codeine, such as stealing or buying it illegally
  • Continuing to use codeine despite negative consequences
  • Neglecting important responsibilities in order to use codeine
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop taking codeine

Unfortunately, like all addictions, codeine addiction can be very cunning and manipulative and will try to convince you and your loved ones that everything is fine. This is why it is so important to be aware of these signs and symptoms of codeine addiction and to get help as soon as possible. If you recognise any of these signs in yourself, get in touch with us to discuss how we can help.

How to spot codeine addiction in a loved one

While identifying codeine addiction in yourself can be difficult, it can be even harder to spot in a loved one. However, it is incredibly important to be aware of the signs and symptoms so that you can get them the help they need as soon as possible. Some common signs and symptoms to look out for include:

  • Complaining about pain long after an injury
  • Taking codeine for minor headaches or other ailments
  • Refilling prescriptions beyond the normal timeframe
  • General addiction signs such as secretive behaviour, a change in personality or losing interest in other things

If you are concerned that someone you love may be addicted to codeine, the best thing to do is talk to them about it. Approach the conversation with care and concern and be prepared to listen to what they have to say.

It is also very important to make sure that you are not enabling their addiction. This means not giving them money or access to codeine, as these will only perpetuate the cycle of addiction. Instead, focus on getting them the help they need so that they can recover from their addiction and lead a healthy and happy life.

If they are resistant to talking about it, get in touch with our addiction professionals and we will be able to advise you on the best course of action.

Is there a “cure” for codeine addiction?

At their core, all addictions are very similar. They usually result from an attempt to self-medicate and cope with difficult emotions or situations. This is why it is so important to address the underlying issues that are causing you to turn to codeine in the first place.

While there is no miracle cure for codeine addiction, it can absolutely be treated as long as you are ready to make the necessary changes in your life. Codeine rehab will usually involve some form of detoxification, followed by therapy to address the underlying issues that led to addiction. This will then enable you to develop the tools you need to live a codeine-free life.

If you are ready to get started on your journey to recovery, get in touch with us today and we will be more than happy to help you.

Five important facts about codeine

  • Codeine is an opiate drug from the same family as heroin.
  • It can be highly addictive, especially when taken regularly in high doses.
  • Codeine is a Class B drug and it is illegal to have without a prescription.
  • Mixing codeine with alcohol strengthens the effects and can be extremely dangerous.
  • A codeine overdose can lead to serious health problems and even death.

What to do next

If you or someone you love is struggling with codeine addiction, it is important to get help as soon as possible. The sooner you get help, the better the chances of a full recovery. At UKAT, we have helped hundreds of people overcome codeine addiction and start a new journey completely drug-free. Contact us to find out more about how we help you overcome codeine addiction today.

Call us now for help


Myths about codeine addiction

  • Codeine addiction is not as serious as other addictions…

Codeine addiction can be just as harmful as any other addiction. It can lead to health problems, issues with relationships and finances and potentially even death.

  • You can only become addicted to codeine if you take it regularly for a long period of time…

As with all drugs, you can become addicted to codeine very quickly, even after just one set of prescription medicine.

  • Codeine addiction is not as harmful as other addictions because it’s not a Class A drug…

Codeine addiction is just as harmful as any other addiction, regardless of its legal status.

  • It is easy to overcome codeine addiction on your own…

Codeine addiction is a serious condition that often requires professional guidance and support.

  • You cannot become addicted to codeine if you only take it when you’re in pain…

Codeine addiction can develop even if you are only taking the drug for pain relief. If you find that you are using codeine more frequently or in higher doses than prescribed, this is a sign that you may be developing an addiction.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is codeine addictive if bought over the counter?
Yes, over-the-counter codeine is an opiate and can be highly addictive. That is why you should always follow the recommended dosage and seek medical advice if you are unsure about how much to take.
Is codeine addiction dangerous?
Codeine addiction can be very dangerous as it can cause a number of health issues. Also, because codeine is an opiate, it can sometimes act as a pathway to the abuse and addiction of other opiates, including heroin.
How does codeine make a person feel?
In addition to its pain-relieving qualities, codeine can give you a general sense of calm and help you feel less anxious or stressed. However, you can develop a tolerance very quickly, which means you need to take more and more codeine to maintain its effects.
How does codeine addiction affect your mental health?
Codeine addiction can lead to a number of mental health issues, including acute anxiety and depression. If you stop taking codeine after prolonged use, these feelings can be extreme and, in the most serious cases, can result in chronic depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

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