Understanding the Long Term Effects of Codeine

Written by Chloe Nicosia

The Long Term Effects of Codeine, and What You can Do About Them

Codeine is a medical narcotic that is prescribed to address moderate levels of pain. Pills containing the codeine narcotic are classified Schedule II for high potential for abuse, and require a prescription; certain other codeine formulations such as cough medications, however, are classified Schedule V for low addictive potential, and are easier to obtain. As with any recreational drug, using codeine beyond certain safe levels can result in addiction. Codeine is particularly high-risk. Compared to other opiate painkillers of similar effect, it is one of the toughest drugs to withdraw from.

How does codeine affect the body and brain?

What does codeine do to your body? The short term effects of codeine include drowsiness and a sense of euphoria — both considered desirable by those who choose to use it in a recreational way. There are dangerous effects, as well — respiratory depression, seizures and anaphylaxis (a rapid-onset allergic condition that can turn life-threatening). These effects are overshadowed by the long term effects of codeine, however.

The specific effects of codeine tend to vary from one person to the next. Some users experience cardiac dysfunction in the form of low blood pressure and a rapid heartbeat, for example; others experience a slowed heart rate, and high blood pressure. In either case, there is risk of cardiac arrest. Similar unpredictability is seen with effects on the health of the kidneys, the liver and the digestive system.

Constant itchiness and yellowing of the skin, general bodyache and a dry, constricted throat are all possibilities.

Many mental effects occur, as well, including depression. The most worrisome mental effect of extended codeine abuse, however, comes in the form of addiction.

How does one help addiction to codeine?

As with any opiate painkiller, the long term effects of codeine abuse include both physical and psychological dependence. Physical dependence occurs because codeine mimics the effects of essential neurotransmitters of the brain. With external chemicals taking over the function of essential neurotransmitters, the brain sees its own control as superfluous, and allows codeine to exercise important areas of control. When the brain learns to depend on codeine, it can be very hard to stop using the drug. Stopping effectively takes away a chemical that the brain depends on; serious adverse reactions show up.

While symptoms of withdrawal from codeine tend to not be as serious as with, say, heroin or alcohol, they can be bad enough. Most people withdrawing from codeine experience unexpected loss of consciousness, breathing difficulties, weakness, nausea, muscle spasms and deep cravings.

It’s important to look for rehab for codeine addiction

Since withdrawal from codeine tends to be far more bearable than other kinds of withdrawal, many people tend to try withdrawing on their own. This isn’t a good idea, however. Codeine may not be as difficult as other substances to withdraw from; it is a serious challenge, nevertheless — it isn’t possible to count on one’s willpower to stay strong through the withdrawal process. The worst of the symptoms can last several days, and most people do see their resolve weaken. Not only can they return to codeine abuse then, they may attempt to return with a very high dose. Fatal codeine overdoses are possible in these circumstances.

Codeine detox treatment is a wonderful way to help stay on course and stay safe. Codeine detox also leads to another important step — codeine rehab. Rehab is important for the way in which it helps the mind with find improved psychological defenses against cravings for life. Cravings are the most dangerous long term effects of codeine; they can last for many years; rehab is the only line of defense available to the user attempting to recover.

Finding quality treatment is important if you’re to find long-term relief from such addiction. Better Addiction Care can help you find the right treatment program to get you started on a successful road to recovery. Call us today at 1 (800) 429-7690.