Codeine is an opioid drug that is commonly found in cough syrups, pain medications, and limited injections. If codeine is taken in limited doses under the careful watch of a doctor, it may not lead to addiction. However, this drug is highly addictive and can lead to both a physical and mental dependence that can be difficult to overcome.1,2

Many people begin taking codeine as a prescription, but may struggle to stop use once the prescription runs out. Other people misuse this drug recreationally. The use of codeine for any non-medicinal purpose is known as codeine abuse. Many people who misuse this drug go on to take other addictive opioids, such as hydrocodone, fentanyl, or even heroin. All opioid drugs are controlled substances that can lead to overdose, illness, or death.

If your loved one abuses codeine and is in need of treatment, we’re here to help. At Black Bear Lodge, we offer a range of substance abuse and treatment options for those ready to learn how to live drug-free. Contact us today to learn more.


Codeine Abuse and Dependence

Cough syrup containing codeine are often prescribed to those who struggle with cold and flu symptoms. It is also often prescribed in pill form for pain management. Though cough syrup containing codeine is rarely sold on the street, the pills are not hard to access on the black market.

Sometimes, codeine dependence develops after a legitimate prescription. In other situations, people abuse codeine to achieve a temporary high feeling. Once dependence sets in, codeine is one of many substances used by individuals who are already addicted to opioids to stave off withdrawal symptoms.

Codeine is not necessarily as strong as other opiate drugs, but it does have the same properties as drugs like morphine or heroin. Like all narcotic drugs, it can have the temporary analgesic and euphoria-inducing effects that quickly develop into a dependence.

How can you tell if your loved one is under the influence of codeine?

Often, people who have abused codeine will:

  • Appear more peaceful and content than usual (e.g., sedated)
  • Be fatigued
  • Have enlarged pupils
  • Have glassy eyes
  • Be unable to carry on a conversation or stay focused
  • Appear to be high
  • Be nauseous
  • Seem confused

In large doses, codeine may cause you or your loved one to struggle to stay awake or periodically fall asleep in the middle of conversations. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) also reports that those who use codeine may experience weakness, itching, constipation and more.4

Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms

People who have become dependent on or addicted to codeine experience physical withdrawal symptoms when they are deprived of opioids. Many people remain addicted to opioids for many years because these incredibly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms begin as soon as the drug is no longer available.

Opiate withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Profuse sweating
  • Watery eyes
  • Sleep disruption
  • Runny nose
  • Agitation
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Cramping and diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chills and/or goose bumps1

Symptoms can begin within a few hours of the last use of codeine, peak within 36 to 72 hours, and last for up to a week or more. Everyone’s experience with opiate withdrawal symptoms will vary; not everyone will experience all the symptoms listed above or experience them intensely. Others may experience a medical emergency due to opiate withdrawal symptoms, especially if there are previous physical or medical conditions.

“After those eight days, withdrawal was far from over. I felt horrible for 22 long days, but every day I would wake up– or more accurately, I would start a new day without a wink of sleep and tell myself, ‘Today will get a little better.’ Each day got a little better and with a bit of help from non-addictive medication, I started to sleep at night.

Now, I feel GREAT! I can’t believe I let a drug control my life for so long! While on it, I became very anxious, irritable, and antisocial. I rarely laughed, I was just on autopilot. What a sad existence! I am back to the old me! I am happy and I enjoy the little things in life again. Thank God for another chance!”Amy J. of Heroes in Recovery

Recovery from Codeine Abuse and Addiction: Timeline

It takes time to overcome dependence from an addictive drug like codeine. Though each person’s situation is unique, you may anticipate the following steps in opioid recovery5:

  1. Stabilization. The first step of treatment is to stabilize the physical and mental health of the recovering person. Because those struggling with opiate addiction will experience significant withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug, addressing initial withdrawal symptoms and mental distress is a primary concern.
  2. Therapeutic evaluation. Once stabilized, the patient can partner with the treatment team to identify issues that contributed to the addiction to codeine. Perhaps opioid use began due to a chronic pain problem, or perhaps stress, trauma or a mental health disorder contributed to codeine use. Whether physical or mental, all issues related to codeine abuse must be addressed during treatment.
  3. Intensive therapy. Therapeutic intervention can be founded on a wide range of traditional therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, family therapy, 12-Step meetings, and more. Additionally, a number of optional therapies may round out the program, such as outdoor and experiential therapy, art therapy, or dance therapy. Holistic treatments such as nutritional therapy, yoga, and meditation skill-building may also take place.
  4. Practical assistance. Life stressors often contribute to addiction relapses, so many treatment programs offer practical skill-building and targeted relapse prevention planning to address these stressors before they arise. Practical assistance may also include referrals, legal assistance, case management, job training, parenting classes, resume assistance, and more.
  5. Treatment for co-occurring disorders. Because substance abuse and mental health disorders are often deeply entwined, it is rarely effective to treat first one issue then the other. Most people benefit from a program that treats both mental health and substance use disorders.
  6. Ongoing assessment. Throughout the course of treatment, progress will occur at varying rates on different fronts. Patients will need to have regular check-ins with a case manager or counselor in order to identify progress and adjust treatment goals accordingly, updating their treatment plan to ensure that their needs are continually being met.
  7. Aftercare. Continued treatments and therapeutic intervention are recommended for at least a year or more after rehab is complete. Continued engagement with recovery could ensure that the principles learned in treatment become lifestyle choices as the patient rebuilds a new life in sobriety.

Opiate Addiction Treatment Options

You have a number of treatment options for codeine dependence. Detox is only the first stage in a comprehensive codeine addiction treatment program. The real work comes through the therapy that follows. Your treatment choice will make a difference in your outcome, continued support, and family recovery.

You can find out more about codeine treatment options for you and your family here at Black Bear Lodge today – simply pick up the phone. We’re standing by to take your call at 706-914-2327.


Medline Plus. Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal. 20 April 2016. Web. Accessed 18 Oct 2017.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Cold and Cough Medicine Abuse. May 2014. Web. Accessed 18 Oct 2017.

3 National Institute on Drug Abuse. Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs. Oct 2011. Web. Accessed 18 Oct 2017.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Misuse of Prescription Drugs. 26 Oct 2017. Accessed 18 Oct 2017.