For those who are not already in the know when it comes to codeine, it is an opioid-based medication commonly used to treat mild to moderate pain. It is also frequently combined with promethazine, which is a synthetic antihistamine, to combat cold and allergy symptoms. While codeine does provide real therapeutic value, it also ranks as one of the most abused opioids in America. To put this into context, we need only take a look at a study published by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The study revealed that over 33 million Americans admitted to using codeine every year. Of those, 4.7 million stated that they used the drug for non-medical purposes.
It is also worth pointing out that codeine abuse, along with other opioids, is responsible for numerous emergency room visits every year. For reference, the same study published by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that between 2004 and 2008, the most current and relevant statistical data available, emergency room visits linked to codeine and other opioids increased by an astonishing 152 percent.
Who Is Most Likely to Become Addicted to Codeine?
Something to note when it comes to codeine is that it is the chief ingredient in nearly all prescription-based cough syrups. It is also in Tylenol 3, a schedule III pain reliever. The fact of the matter is that since codeine is an ingredient in these seemingly safe medications, most people don’t believe that taking them can lead them down the path of addiction.
According to most physicians, drug counselors, and addiction experts, this thought process is very misguided as the opioids in these medications are every bit as powerful as those found in oxycodone, heroin, and other powerful drugs. That said, the risk of addiction is higher for some than others. And there are several reasons why that is the case. For some, addiction is a byproduct of not taking their medication as prescribed to resolve a legitimate health problem. For others, it is a wanton abuse of the medication for the sole purpose of achieving a euphoric high.
Codeine Addiction by Demographic
According to a study published in Science Direct, an online resource for scientific and medical research, men are far more likely to abuse codeine than women. And of the men who abuse this particular opioid, the overwhelming majority are Native American and Hispanic. Also noteworthy, most of these individuals expressed a preference for consuming codeine in liquid form rather than taking pills that contain it. The study noted that these users often mixed codeine with sodas or, worse yet, alcohol to achieve a desired euphoric high. Coincidentally, this concoction is one that has been, unfortunately, glamorized in pop culture. One hip-hop artists who routinely references “purple drank,” a mix of codeine-containing cough syrup and soda, is a rapper who goes by the stage name Lil Wayne. To put into perspective the dangers of misusing or abusing codeine, Lil Wayne was recently hospitalized due to seizures that he experienced after ingesting too much of the codeine-infused “purple drank.”
What Makes Codeine so Addictive?
While codeine by itself is already highly addictive as it is converted into morphine in the body, many will start to build up a tolerance. As a result, many individuals will start to increase the amount of codeine they consume and may even take it alongside other drugs. Ironically, the very things that make codeine an exceptional medication for relieving pain and combatting cold and allergy symptoms make it very addictive. In short, codeine, much like other opiates, targets the central nervous system to block pain signals that would otherwise travel to various parts of the body. It also helps combat feelings of anxiety and depression. However, when individuals abuse codeine, it targets the central nervous system more intensely, which produces feelings of euphoria. Some individuals also experience the following:
- Shallow breathing
- Constricted pupil
- A suppressed appetite
While codeine may not seem as serious as other opioids, such as oxycodone, heroin, morphine, and others, it is just as dangerous if abused. And coming off codeine is no different than coming off of other opioid-based drugs insofar as doing so often requires seeking the help of a drug and alcohol rehab facility. That said, if you have a problem with codeine, you’re encouraged to schedule a consultation with one of our addiction experts today at 833-610-1174.