Warning Signs, Symptoms and Side Effects of Codeine Abuse

Warning Signs, Symptoms and Side Effects of Codeine Abuse

Codeine belongs to the opioid class of painkillers. The drug produces euphoric effects due to which it is commonly abused. Though it is not as addictive as the other opioid drugs, its habit-forming potential is still significant. According to a survey, there are about 1.9 million Americans who have a prescription medicine use disorder involving painkillers and Codeine is one of those painkillers. Abuse of the drug is common among masses. When the person starts taking the illicit or improper doses of Codeine, an addiction develops that can be very hard to control unless medically supervised. The drug stimulates the reward centers in the brain that create a sense of euphoria and intense feelings of pleasure. The abuse of Codeine can lead to physical and psychological dependence. After a prolonged use, a tolerance is developed for the substance and the user requires more of the dose to achieve the similar effects. A person’s addiction to the drug develops with the increasing levels of tolerance. In some people, the addiction to Codeine can be set very quickly. An overdose can also occur, which is a life-threatening condition unless promptly treated.

Signs and Symptoms of Codeine Abuse

Codeine is mostly administered in a syrup form, often in combination with acetaminophen. The drug is safe to use in the prescribed doses. The higher doses or frequent doses, other than the medically prescribed ones, may lead to many harmful side-effects of the drug. The Codeine Abuse has a high potential for converting into severe addiction. Codeine is capable of damaging every system of the body. Some of the signs and symptoms associated with Codeine Abuse include:

Physical signs and symptoms:

  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Blue tinge to skin
  • Fainting
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rashes
  • Itching
  • Hypotension
  • Urinary retention
  • Respiratory depression
  • Seizures

Psychological signs and symptoms:

  • Delusions
  • Memory loss
  • Hallucinations

Mood Symptoms:

  • Euphoria
  • Calmness
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Drowsiness
  • Sleepiness
  • Apathy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Prescription forgery
  • Irresponsible attitudes
  • Healthcare fraud
  • Secretive behavior
  • Relationship issues
  • Crime

Side effects of Codeine Abuse:

The side-effects produced by Codeine Abuse are somewhat similar to the ones produced by the other opioids. The euphoric effects caused by the drug make the user keep abusing the higher amounts of the drug. The usage of it begins as a normal medical prescription but the person starts abusing the drug, which then evolves into addiction before the user even realizes the severity of the matter.

Physical Side-effects

  • Acute pancreatitis
  • Liver Damage
  • Kidney Damage
  • Muscle spasms
  • Bradycardia
  • Hyperaesthesia
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Seizures
  • Coma

The behavior of an addicted person is changed. He can’t live a normal life as the drug dependency, cravings and side effects make him unable to look after the daily life matters. The drug addiction and the intense cravings make him unable to stop the drug, even after he has become well aware of the disadvantages. Rehabilitation centers can help cure the addiction by utilizing the different techniques. In the absence of a proper treatment, various other problems faced by an addict include:

  • Domestic problems
  • Loss of jobs
  • Financial problems
  • Legal issues
  • Poor work performance

Health Effects of Codeine: Short Term and Long Term

The abuse of Codeine develops the psychical and psychological dependence. The body then needs the drug to continue its function because the level of dopamine and other chemicals are reduced due to the disturbed feedback mechanism. Without these chemicals inside the body, the addict starts feeling the withdrawal symptoms. The abusers will then seek Codeine to produce the high. The doses prescribed by the doctors are the lowest possible doses and are for a limited duration. If the user is taking the inappropriate amounts of Codeine for the purpose of its euphoric effects, harmful effects start appearing. These are divided into short term and long term effects.

Short term effects of codeine:

At lower doses:

  • Euphoria
  • Altered consciousness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dysphoria
  • Dry mouth
  • Allergic Reaction
  • Constipation

At higher doses

  • Bradypnea
  • Bradycardia
  • Hypotension

Long term effects:

The long-term effects of Codeine abuse are:

  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Nightmares
  • Liver damage
  • Seizures

Codeine Overdose and treatment:

Codeine Overdose can pose serious consequences; permanent brain death is one of them. There has been a dramatic increase in the Codeine related deaths. Codeine is a central nervous system depressant which slows down the respiratory and the heart rate. A Codeine overdose can immediately lead into the state of unconsciousness because the respiratory system becomes depressed and the body enters into a hypoxic state. The hypoxia can cause the permanent end-organ damage. Some other effects include impairment of vision, hearing, memory loss, and loss of coordination. Severe mental retardation, vegetative state, and death can also occur. The extent of damage is based on the duration of hypoxia. Only 3 to 5 minutes are enough for causing a permanent brain damage. Codeine Overdose can be identified by the following signs.

Signs of Codeine Overdose:

  • Cyanosis
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Feeble pulse
  • Depressed or shallow breathing
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Extreme Fatigue

The most vital step in the cases of Codeine overdose is the rescue breathing. Immediately perform the rescue breathing until the proper medical help care services arrive. The various procedures like endotracheal intubation are performed in the hospital settings to secure the airway of the patient and initiate the proper respiration. The GI decontamination is done by administration activated charcoal and whole bowel irrigation.  Naloxone (Narcan), which is an antidote used for opioids is immediately administered to reduce the effects of respiratory depression.