What Is Codeine?
Codeine is an opiate drug, and as with other opiates, it does have the potential for addiction, which will be discussed below. It’s available by prescription and is used to treat pain and also as a cough suppressant. Many different medications are prescription-only and include codeine. A few of these include:
- Fioricet with codeine
- Colrex Compound
- Tylenol with Codeine #3
- Fiorinal with Codeine
- Phenflu CD
- Maxiflu CD
Of course, this is just a sample of the prescription medicines that contain codeine. There are many others.
Codeine is part of a class of drugs called narcotic analgesics which means it treats pain by acting on the central nervous system, and it can be used for the treatment of pain ranging from mild to moderate. It’s considered less potent than a lot of other opiates, so people tend to falsely believe they won’t become addicted, but that’s not the case.
Is Codeine Addictive?
So what if you’re a person in Colorado, whether it be Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs or anywhere statewide, and your doctor has prescribed codeine to you? What should you know about the addiction potential that comes with this drug?
When you’re prescribed codeine in any form, it comes with a warning. Codeine has the potential for addiction, abuse, and misuse, and this misuse can result in overdose or death. As with other opioids, when you take codeine it can depress your respiratory system to the point you enter a coma or die. If you take codeine when pregnant, you’re also warned that it can lead to neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome.
In order to avoid the risk of addiction that comes with the use of codeine, people are warned to take it only as instructed by their doctor. This means not taking larger doses than what’s instructed, or taking it more often than you’re prescribed. It’s also imperative that people never take codeine without a prescription because that is automatically considered abuse.
While the side effects of codeine abuse may be less pronounced than what’s seen with other opioids, they can still include dilated pupils, apathetic behavior, slurred speech, drowsiness, impaired judgment and coordination problems.
Why Is Codeine Addictive?
As was touched on above, codeine is an opiate, so while it may be less strong or seem less risky as compared to other opiates, it does have the potential for abuse. Codeine can be more problematic than many people even realize because since people see it as less potent, they also see it as harmless and that’s simply untrue. Codeine, like other opiates, impacts the central nervous system and that’s how it uniquely attacks pain.
At the same time, when you take a drug like codeine that affects the CNS, it floods the brain with dopamine at a higher level than what could be naturally produced. The result is that your brain wants to continue seeking out the substance that triggered that response because it affects your brain’s reward center. That’s what leads to the potential for abuse and addiction of codeine and other drugs that act on the brain in a similar way.
Opiates impact the brain in a way that makes it relatively easy for an addiction and physical dependence to develop, and it’s difficult to break that addiction once it occurs because these drugs change the brain and the interaction of neurotransmitters in the central nervous system.
What happens with codeine since it is less potent than other opioids but still addictive is that people will take this drug, and then they will move onto more stronger opioids once they’ve developed an addiction and a tolerance. In many ways and for many people codeine can be seen as a weaker gateway to other opiates.
Codeine Addiction Facts
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription medications for cough and cold that contain psychoactive or mind-altering properties are often used at doses that are higher than recommended, and they are also commonly abused. When these drugs contain elements like expectorants or antihistamines, they’re abused at even higher rates.
Some other facts about codeine addiction include:
- Codeine can depress breathing and other essential bodily functions
- When someone takes codeine, it is naturally converted to morphine, which is how the mind-altering and euphoric effects are felt, and in general, about 10 percent of codeine becomes morphine
- When someone takes codeine, the effects start around 10 to 30 minutes after they ingest it and last anywhere from four to six hours
- A physical and psychological addiction can develop even after just two weeks of continual use
- Opioid abuse is a significant problem in Colorado, and state lawmakers have been working to combat the opioid epidemic happening in metro areas like Colorado Springs, Boulder, and Denver, and throughout the state
- Certain areas in Colorado are seeing big spikes in not only prescription opioid abuse, but also heroin addiction and addiction to the two drugs are often related to one another
- Recently in Colorado state legislators passed new measures that will establish a research center at Colorado University to look at various prevention and treatment options
- Some lawmakers have said opioid abuse, which includes codeine abuse, is one of the number one problems facing the state of Colorado regarding severity
- Drugged driving is on the rise in Colorado, along with overdoses and related deaths
So, to sum up, codeine is a prescription drug that’s often included in cough and pain medicines. While it is only intended to be available by prescription, it is abused, and it is an addictive drug. As with other opioids, codeine is a problem in Colorado, and it’s currently something that’s being looked at by lawmakers and medical professionals as the state tries to curb this kind of drug abuse.