What are the Symptoms of Codeine Abuse?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2019
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Some of the telltale symptoms of codeine abuse are lethargy and sluggish responses because the drug can slow breathing, heart rate, and respiration. Eye problems are also common signs of codeine abuse as the pupils shrink. Some abusers have trouble seeing well at night, which might affect their ability to drive. Blurred vision is also a common side effect of codeine abuse, along with agitation, depression, or disorientation.

Codeine is an opiate that is converted to morphine by the human body, and is related to heroin. It is one of the most common prescription drugs used for pain and anxiety. Codeine is typically combined with aspirin, acetaminophen, caffeine, or barbiturates, and is prescribed for back pain, migraines, and after dental work. Some cough syrups contain codeine, and addicts abusing codeine sometimes abuse them when they cannot get the drug in pill form. The addiction might drive the addict to drink several bottles of cough medication each day.

Teens might abuse cough syrups to get high or ease anxiety in social situations. Codeine abuse in adults might lead them to buy the medicine illegally on the street or visit doctors to obtain several prescriptions. People who abuse codeine and use it recreationally can become addicted in as little as two to three weeks. Abuse is defined as using more than 60 mg of the drug at once. Doctors routinely prescribe between 10 and 60 mg per dose.


Side effects of codeine include nausea, vomiting, and constipation. A person caught up in codeine abuse might have a decreased sex drive and retain too much urine. Others may become sleepy and suffer from itchy skin and dry mouth. Serious abuse of codeine could cause death because it depresses breathing, especially if used with alcohol or other drugs.

Other dangers have been linked to ingredients added to the medication. Too much aspirin sometimes causes stomach bleeding, while excess acetaminophen can damage the liver or kidneys. These conditions may be irreversible in people who are heavy recreational users of codeine.

Codeine abuse withdrawal symptoms last between two weeks and several months. The severity of withdrawal discomfort depends on how long the drug was used and dosages. A patient might feel weak, anxious, and lose his or her appetite while recovering from codeine abuse. Clammy skin, tremors, or body aches are other common ailments during the withdrawal phase.


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