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While codeine works well as a cough suppressant and overall pain reliever, abusing this drug can bring about more than a few unwanted effects. Like most all opiate-based drugs, codeine carries a high risk for abuse, dependence and addiction.
According to Elmhurst College, codeine withdrawal symptoms can develop in cases where a person tries to cut back on dosage amounts or stops using the drug altogether. Codeine withdrawal symptoms can also develop in long-time users who’ve built up a high tolerance to the drug’s effects.
With ongoing use, brain cells become less and less sensitive to codeine’s effects. As this progresses, a person must take increasingly larger doses to experience the same desired effects. After a certain point, no amount of the drug can ward off codeine withdrawal symptoms.
At this point, a person will most likely experience withdrawal symptoms on a regular basis. For many people, continued drug use becomes a means for gaining relief from these uncomfortable symptoms. With continued drug use, codeine withdrawal symptoms will grow more intense and occur more frequently.
The sooner a person can identify potential withdrawal effects the better the chance of stopping this cycle before it gets worse. Here are the seven most common codeine withdrawal symptoms to watch out for:
1. Drug Cravings
As the body’s tolerance level for codeine continues to rise, a person will experience ongoing drug cravings that grow in intensity. In effect, the brain and body have become physically dependent on codeine’s effects. When needed dosage amounts are lacking, the body starts to crave the drug much like it craves food when hunger strikes.
2. Excess Sweating
Codeine’s can cause brain chemical imbalances to develop when taken for longer than prescribed. These imbalances inevitably impact the brain’s ability to regulate bodily functions. As regulating body temperature is one of the many processes handled by the brain, excess sweating may likely result when the body goes into withdrawal.
3. Gastrointestinal Problems
Codeine interacts with cell receptor sites in the brain, spinal cord and gastrointestinal tract. With ongoing use, the drug disrupts cell functions and damages cell structures.
Once cells in the gastrointestinal tract start to break down, codeine withdrawal symptoms may take the form of:
- Stomach cramps
4. Muscle Spasms
Codeine’s pain-relieving properties stem from the drug’s ability to interfere with pain signal transmissions throughout the central nervous system. Once brain chemical imbalances develop, nerve signals start to misfire and cause random muscle spasms.
The brain has an “auto self-correct” mechanism that tries to restore equilibrium when chemical imbalances exist. As a codeine withdrawal symptom, agitation results when the brain secretes high levels of excitatory chemicals, such as norepinephrine.
6. Confused Thought Processes
Codeine’s effects in the brain interfere with the areas that regulate cognitive function. Repeated codeine use can skew a person’s cognitive abilities to the point where it becomes difficult to think clearly or exercise good judgment.
7. Psychological Dysfunction
Once brain chemical imbalances reach a certain point, areas that regulate cognition and emotion start to malfunction and cause psychological problems to develop. Psychological dysfunction can take the form of:
- Depression disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Psychotic-like behaviors
Of all the codeine withdrawal symptoms, psychological dysfunction is the most serious. At this point, a person will likely require profession drug treatment help in order to recover from codeine’s effects.