Codeine is one of the main narcotic opioid alkaloids extracted from the opium poppy plant,Papaver somniferum, and used in many medications for the treatment of pain and coughs. Codeine products containing less than 90mg per dose are Schedule III drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence, according to the DEA drug scheduling.
How Does Codeine Work?
Codeine works to relieve pain and coughs by changing the way the brain and nervous system respond to stimuli. As a central nervous system depressant, it slows down activities of brain and bodily functions and as an opioid, it increases dopamine to make the person feel better. Dopamine is the naturally occurring chemical our brains produce as a “reward” to pleasure and with rapid increase, it produces euphoria.
Short Term Side Effects
Codeine can cause confusion, impaired judgment, memory problems, dizziness, and reduced cognition and motor coordination. Although codeine is less potent then morphine it is dangerous to abuse in high amounts, frequently, or to use long term. Lethal combinations with alcohol or other CNS depressants have been linked to a growing number of overdoses and deaths involving codeine abuse.
Long Term Side Effects
Chronic and long term use of codeine can cause serious physical and mental health problems because of the repeat neurotransmitter disruptions between the brain, CNS, and every other bodily system which the CNS controls. Additionally, there are warnings of codeine cough syrups and tablets being responsible for liver and kidney failures, poisoning overdoses, and sudden deaths from analgesic contents they contain.
Repeated abuse can lead to tolerance, dependency, and addiction. It can increase the potential of abusing other drugs, developing mental health disorders, or cause serious physical impairments
Recognizing Codeine Dependence
Tolerance to the opioid content of codeine can develop quickly requiring the user to take more to get desired effects. Over time, the brain and body become reliant on codeine use and goes into shock when usage stops. This shock is known as withdrawals. Mixed confusion in the signals between the brain and CNS tell the body that it is “sick” and combined with the opioid cravings, these symptoms can become overwhelming. These “sick” feelings may be physical or psychological and of course, the severity of them will depend on many factors regarding the person and their usage levels.
Withdrawals may include; nausea, restlessness, insomnia, stomach pains, irritability, agitation, anxiety, sweating and fatigue.
Codeine dependence also causes behavioral changes such as:
- becoming overly anxious for the next dose
- fear of running out of codeine
- hiding or denying amounts used or frequencies
- obtaining codeine through fraudulent means
- isolation or social withdrawal
- need to use codeine to enjoy activities or be ok with others