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Codeine is one of the few opiate-type drugs that’s marketed in both prescription and over-the-counter forms. Codeine produces pain-relieving effects and also acts as an effective cough suppressant agent.
In spite of its wide range of medicinal uses, the effects of codeine can be detrimental when used for nonmedical purposes. When ingested, the initial experience of sedation and euphoria does a good job at masking the effects of codeine on brain and body processes.
According to the Institute for Substance Abuse Treatment Evaluation, the short-term effects of codeine on the brain release large amounts of neurotransmitter chemicals, offsetting the brain’s natural chemical balance. Over time, these short-term effects produce potentially long-term problems for people who abuse codeine on a regular basis.
The primary effects of codeine work to sedate or slow down brain and body processes. Codeine does this by causing the release of endorphin chemicals at key brain cell receptor sites. Endorphins produce a calming effect on their own and act as the body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals.
Codeine’s ability to stimulate endorphin production accounts for it’s pain-relieving properties. Codeine’s chemical make-up is quite similar to the brain’s endorphin chemicals, which further enhances the drug’s sedating effects.
Feelings of euphoria are an aftereffect of codeine’s intended purpose as a pain reliever. Dopamine, one of the brain’s main endorphin chemicals, naturally produces feelings of well-being and elation when high levels are present in the brain.
This short-term effect of codeine accounts for the drug’s high potential for abuse. In cases where a person has an existing depression or anxiety disorder, the potential for abuse increases considerably. When an underlying psychological disorder is present, codeine abuse can quickly become a means for self-medicating distressing symptoms.
3. Increased Tolerance Levels
As codeine closely resembles the brain’s own pain-relieving endorphin chemicals, the brain can interact with codeine in the same way it interacts with its own natural chemicals. As a result, the brain’s tolerance for codeine will continue to increase with ongoing drug use. As a short-term effect of codeine, increasing tolerance levels become the driving force behind the drug’s addictive potential as users must ingest larger doses to experience the same desired effects of the drug.
4. Withdrawal Effects
The short-term effects of codeine have a cumulative effect that inevitably results in physical dependency. Since codeine over-stimulates brain cell receptor sites, repeated stimulation causes brain cells to break down and deteriorate.
According to Elmhurst College, these damaging effects weaken the cells’ ability to regulate chemical processes in the brain. When this happens, users experience withdrawal effects, some of which include:
- Mood swings
- Depression symptoms
- Anxiety symptoms
5. Brain Chemical Imbalances
Any drug capable of altering brain chemical levels can cause brain chemical imbalances to develop.
Codeine’s ability to interfere with brain chemical processes not only produces pain-relieving effects, but also offsets the brain’s natural equilibrium.
Overall, the short-term effects of codeine can be of great benefit when the drug is taken as prescribed. Otherwise, users open themselves up to the drug’s cumulative effects with each successive dose when taken in excess amounts.