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Codeine Abuse and Addiction

Codeine is a popular drug commonly prescribed by the doctors to manage different levels of pain: mild, moderate or severe. It is also available in the syrup form as an ingredient of the cough suppressants and painkillers. Codeine belongs to the class opiates, also known as a narcotic drug. The other opiates include oxycodone, morphine, and heroin. It was first found in small concentrations in the opium plant, which was then isolated in 1832 by the scientist ‘Robequete’. Discovery of codeine was a revolution in the field of analgesics and antitussives. The addictive potential of Codeine was soon noticed and the pharmaceutical companies and drug manufacturers started adding the warning labels on the over-the-counter medicines containing the drug. Cough syrups containing codeine are available under the brand names ‘Robitussin’ ‘Maxiflu CDX’ and ‘Maxiflu CD’. The drug has a significant addictive and toxic potential, the misuse or taking inappropriate doses of Codeine can lead to addiction, overdose or even death. A proper  rehabilitation program becomes mandatory in cases of addiction.

What is Codeine?

It is an opiate drug which is used as a painkiller or a cough medicine. Tablets, syrups, and injections are the three forms in which the drug is available in the markets. Low doses of codeine are present in many OTC drugs which makes it one of the highly abused drugs by the general population. It forms a major ingredient of the cough syrups, commonly in a codeine and promethazine combination. It is also used for the treatment of diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome. The doses of Codeine prescribed by the doctors may vary according to the patients’ needs of pain management. It is highly abused by the people due to an easy availability as the OTC preparations. The common street names given to Codeine include:

  • Cody
  • Loads
  • Schoolboy
  • Syrup
  • Pancakes
  • Doors
  • Foors
  • Sizzurp
  • Purple drank
  • Captain Cody

How does codeine work?

The exact mechanism of action of codeine isn’t known but the researched data is available which shows its similarity with morphine. The drug binds to the receptors in the brain that are responsible for transmitting the pain signals. By binding to those receptors, the pain signals transference gets reduced and a tolerance to pain is developed by the use of Codeine. The drug also causes drowsiness, sedation and depressed breathing.

What are the uses of Codeine?

The drug has the following medicinal uses:

  • Pain management
  • Cough treatment
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain relief of cancers.

What are the dosage amounts for Codeine?

The dosage of codeine varies according to the patient’s needs.

  • For the pain management, 15-60 mg is given every 4 hours. The dose is not exceeded above 360 mg in the 24 hours.
  • For a cough, 15-30 mg every 5 to 6 hours is prescribed. The dose is never exceeded above 120 mg in the 24 hours.

Is it possible to overdose on Codeine?

The use of Codeine usually begins with the smaller doses but some people keep extending the dose beyond the prescribed limits given by the doctor. The overdose of Codeine can be quite dangerous. The overdose isn’t a problem occurring just in the cases of severe addiction but many times, it also happens while casually abusing the drug. The overdose can be fatal as the drug also acts on the respiratory centers and depresses the respiratory rates. The state of hypoxia develops which can be severe enough to the level of no oxygen supply to the vital organs and eventually death occurs. The various signs and symptoms of Codeine overdose are as follows:

  • Slowed breathing
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Depressed brain activity
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations

Is Codeine addictive?

Like the other opioid medicines, codeine is very addictive. It works by reducing the transmission of pain signals through the different body parts, and suppresses a dry cough. Codeine high can occur if the improper doses are taken. This effect is similar to the high produced by the use of heroin and other similar opioids. This makes the user keep abusing the drug till the level of addiction develops: the brain keeps craving for the similar euphoric effects produced by the use of Codeine. The addiction develops slowly with some people and much quicker with others. A mental addiction can even develop after the first consumption of an improper dose of Codeine. It is also classified as the Schedule 2 drug, which means it has a medical use but there is a high potential for the abuse and addiction. The exact classification of Codeine depends on its composition. Syrups containing Codeine in combination with other substances can fall in the category of schedule 3 and schedule 4 drugs.

Common Codeine drug combinations:

The drug is often prescribed with other pain relievers to effectively manage pain in severe cases. Codeine is illicitly combined with other drugs by abusers to achieve the intensified effects. This is a very dangerous thing widely practiced by many addicts. The common drug combinations of Codeine include:

  • Cough syrups along with alcohol intake.
  • Cough syrups along with marijuana intake.
  • Cough syrup and purple drank.

American statistics on Codeine abuse:

Codeine abuse is a very common problem in the United States.

  • Every year about 33 million individuals abuse Codeine.
  • According to the Natural Survey of drug use, approximately 4.7 million reported the non-medicinal use of Codeine.
  • An increase of 152% emergency visits was reported from the year 2004 to 2008.
  • Many users reported having abused the drug for the first time at the age of 21.
  • More than 50% people received the drug from their friends and family members.