Codeine Addiction - Rehab Guide

Codeine Addiction

Codeine Addiction

If you are worried you or a loved one might be addicted to codeine, find out the signs, why it is so addictive and what you can do to help. You can learn about detox, withdrawal and codeine rehab in the UK.

Codeine Addiction Signs and Symptoms

  • Taking codeine without symptoms such as pain
  • Anticipation for the next dose of codeine
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking codeine (insomnia, sweating, aches, nausea, stomach cramps and cravings)
  • Needing increasing amounts for the same effect
  • Taking more than you are prescribed
  • Unusual behaviour to get codeine, e.g. visiting multiple pharmacies, lying to the doctor
  • Buying codeine illegally online or from an illegal supplier
  • Continuing despite medical problems caused by codeine
  • Losing interest in relationships, hobbies and activities apart from codeine
  • Financial problems as a result of codeine: job loss, buying codeine illegally
  • Mixing codeine with alcohol or other drugs

Codeine Pill

What is Codeine?

Codeine is an opiate, a prodrug of morphine. It is weaker in painkilling than other opiates such as morphine, hydrocodone and dihydrocodeine.

It is available on prescription for pain and stomach problems such as diarrhoea. However, it is available over the counter as a syrup for throat problems and coughs. Much weaker forms of codeine are available over the counter but often mixed with paracetamol or ibuprofen.

Although it is considered safer than stronger opioid painkillers, codeine is addictive.

Why Is Codeine Addictive?

Codeine is an opiate painkiller, and while it is not as strong as its fellow opioids (heroin, morphine and oxycodone), it does work the same way and therefore, you can become addicted easily. You can become dependent on codeine to reduce pain, but opioids also give a pleasurable, even euphoric, feeling when you take them.  They have many of the features that lead to addiction.

  • Reduce pain and manage symptoms.
  • Have pleasurable effects
  • Tolerance increases, needing more for the same effect.
  • Severe withdrawal symptoms

Although there is no single motivation for drug addiction, it is widely accepted that interfering with opioid receptors in the brain, as codeine does, leads to people compulsively needing more.

Many people who take codeine think it can’t be addictive when taken according to their prescription, but this is not the case. Codeine is much weaker and less addictive than other opioids, but it has the same characteristics, especially if you are not careful about dosages.

Names for Codeine

It may come as a surprise that this drug is in some over-the-counter medicines. You may be exposing yourself to the risk of codeine addiction without even knowing.

Co-codamol – combination of codeine and paracetamol

Linctus – Sold in liquid form for throat pain over the counter without a prescription

Migraleve – migraine-focused medication also helps with nausea and pain

Neurofen Plus – combination of ibuprofen and codeine

Syndol – a combination of codeine, paracetamol and doxylamine succinate for headaches and insomnia

Medical Detox for Codeine Addiction

Symptoms of Codeine Withdrawal

Withdrawal from codeine can happen even when you aren’t addicted, but it is more likely to happen when you have misused your prescription.

People who take codeine normally can be dependent on it physically. However, if you develop an addiction, you may continue using codeine even though it affects you negatively.

Codeine is an opioid, one of the most addictive drug types. This group includes heroin, morphine and hydrocodone. Below are the most common but not the only symptoms of codeine withdrawal:

  • Intense cravings can overpower you and make you take extreme actions to attain codeine
  • Gastric side-effects: nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhoea and constipation
  • Insomnia, headaches, anxiety and difficulty concentrating
  • Sweating and chills, aches and pains
  • Shaking
  • Depression, anxiety, mood swings, irritability

Withdrawal Timeline for Codeine

You may start to experience some symptoms of withdrawal as soon as 8 hours after stopping codeine. You will find most people are in withdrawal 24 hours after stopping taking the drug.

The symptoms may be mild, but if you have been abusing codeine and taking more than your doctor recommended, it will likely be worse.

If your withdrawal is serious, it can take weeks to detox fully. For some with PAWS post-acute withdrawal syndrome, it can be up to six months before you are symptom-free.

Mixing Codeine and Other Drugs

You are statistically more likely to turn to other drugs when you become addicted to codeine or any other drug. Codeine is a gateway drug similar to other addictive prescription medications.

It can lead to other opiates such as heroin, hydrocodone, opium and morphine.

Certain drugs can increase the effects of codeine, which is tempting if you struggle to get the same effects after long-term use.

Alcohol, in particular, is commonly mixed with codeine despite medical advice that it is unsafe. It can lead to extreme drowsiness, which can be dangerous.

Codeine Rehab and Detox

For those with severe withdrawal, detoxing from codeine can be dangerous and unpleasant. Medical detox can ease these symptoms and keep you comfortable. This makes it easier to deal with physical dependence.

In turn, treating the psychological compulsion that comes from addiction is also easier. Without suffering the draining experience of a ‘cold turkey’ detox, you have more time and energy to put into therapy.

Medical detox is given by a rehab doctor and varies depending on your physiology, length and severity of addiction and mental health needs.

Codeine detox can include pain relievers (non-opioid), antinausea and diarrhoea medication, Buprenorphine, Lofexidine, and Methadone. It is worth noting that Methadone is most commonly used as an outpatient.

The reason for this is that Buprenorphine is safer and more effective. It is more commonly misused when given on a prescription to people in the community. People in rehab have little or no opportunity to misuse Buprenorphine as the staff gives the doses.

Lofexidine is the only drug that is not an opioid. It is most effective in mild to moderate withdrawal cases.

Rehab for Codeine Addiction

If you have a physical dependence on codeine, a detox will help you. In most cases that are this severe, psychological addiction is present, too.

There are many reasons for codeine addiction. Overuse due to chronic pain is common. The mental health issues that come with chronic pain, associated PTSD and trauma can be a trigger point for addiction.

Codeine can also be used for its sedative effects, particularly when combined with alcohol. This can be abused by those with anxiety, insomnia and depression.

The temporary relief from physical and mental anguish from taking codeine leads to longer-term problems. In codeine rehab, you will talk daily with addiction counsellors and in group therapy. You may also receive a dual diagnosis if you have a mental health problem.


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Getting Help for Codeine Addiction

If you or someone you care about is struggling with an addiction to codeine, our expert team can advise you on getting help today.



Buprenorphine vs methadone treatment

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