Codeine addiction

Codeine, a commonly prescribed opioid medication, is known for its ability to relieve pain and suppress coughing. Codeine works by blocking pain signals in the central nervous system and reducing anxiety related to pain.

While it can be effective when used as directed, excessive use of codeine can lead to addiction. We will delve into the nature of codeine addiction, its potential dangers, and the importance of seeking help for recovery.


Codeine addiction - pill

Codeine abuse and addiction

While codeine is a prescription and over-the-counter medication, it holds serious risks. One study showed that about 17% of people who were taking over-the-counter or prescription codeine showed indications of codeine dependence. Some people will abuse codeine by crushing tablets and snorting them, while others will mix cough syrup with soft drinks.

Codeine addiction can also result in mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Some people may even take it to numb their emotional pain from unresolved traumas or as a coping mechanism during stressful situations.

Signs of codeine addiction – am I addicted?

Knowing codeine addiction symptoms can help you recognise if you or a loved one is suffering and needs support.

Physical and psychological effects of codeine addiction:

Physical signs

  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Sleepiness
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Itchiness
  • Dizziness and vertigo

Behavioural signs

People who have codeine addictions tend to try to hide it, so it can be difficult to recognise the physical and psychological effects. Behavioural signs may be easier to notice in both someone else and yourself.

Behavioural signs may include:

  • Secretiveness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Performing poorly at school or work
  • Trying to quit and not managing
  • Losing interest in things that were once enjoyed
  • Losing control over codeine use
  • Neglecting hygiene, self-care, and responsibilities
  • Going to multiple doctors for codeine prescriptions
  • Risk-taking behaviours such as driving under the influence or mixing substances
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to cut down or quit codeine


Codeine addiction - pills


What makes codeine so addictive?

When consumed, codeine binds to specific receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and other areas of the body, altering the perception of pain and inducing feelings of euphoria and relaxation. While it effectively manages pain under medical supervision, prolonged use can lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction.

Codeine addiction occurs when an individual develops a compulsive desire to take the drug, despite negative consequences. Over time, the body becomes accustomed to codeine, and higher doses are needed to achieve the same effects. This cycle perpetuates the addiction and increases the risk of serious health complications.

Risk factors leading to codeine addiction

Codeine addiction can affect people from any background, but a lot of stigma surrounds it, dictating what we think of people who have addictions and who they are. Some people claim that it is a sign of moral failure. This couldn’t be further from the truth. As mentioned, codeine addiction is a medical condition, and there are risk factors that make it more likely to develop.

These can include:

  • Genetics
  • Environment – exposure to substance misuse at home or among friends
  • Childhood abuse
  • Previous substance use disorder
  • Mental health problems and neurodiversity such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and bipolar.

Codeine overdose

Whether you have been using codeine for one week or ten years, it is always possible to overdose. It is important to understand the signs of a codeine overdose as you can help the person get the support they need.

Signs of an overdose include:

  • Bluish lips and fingertips
  • Clammy skin
  • Weak pulse
  • Difficulty breathing and respiratory arrest
  • Vomiting
  • Pain in upper stomach
  • Losing consciousness


Codeine addiction - stomach pain


If you see someone experiencing these symptoms, call 999 immediately. The emergency services will be able to administer naloxone, which rapidly reverses the effects of codeine.

Codeine detox

Codeine detoxification safely and effectively removes codeine from the body while managing withdrawal symptoms. It is a critical step in overcoming codeine addiction and starting recovery.

Going cold turkey vs tapering off codeine

There are two main ways to detox from codeine, cold turkey and tapering.

Cold turkey

This is where you stop taking codeine all at once without reducing your dose or using substitute medication. With this method, your withdrawal symptoms are not managed, which means that any adverse effects could be dangerous.


This is where you reduce the amount of codeine you are taking until you are no longer taking any. If you go to a treatment centre for codeine addiction, it is likely that you will be given a substitute drug to help with withdrawal symptoms and will be tapered off until you are no longer taking either substance.

It is not recommended to quit cold turkey or to try tapering alone. Codeine withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous, so it is important to have professional support available to treat adverse effects.

Codeine withdrawal symptoms

Codeine withdrawal symptoms will vary from person to person, but common symptoms include:

  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Runny nose
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Muscle spasms
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety and depression


Codeine addiction - depressed woman


Codeine withdrawal timeline – How long does codeine withdrawal take?

The duration of codeine withdrawal can vary depending on several factors, including your level of dependence, the duration of codeine use, the dosage taken, and your overall health. Generally, codeine withdrawal symptoms can begin within a few hours to a few days after the last dose and may last for several days to a few weeks.

However, some individuals may experience more prolonged withdrawal symptoms that can persist for several months.

However, an average timeline is as follows:

  • Days one to two – due to its relatively short half-life, codeine withdrawal symptoms usually start within eight to twenty-four hours. Common symptoms in the first couple of days include shakiness, nausea, and muscle and bone pain. This is the time when cravings are normally most intense.
  • Days three to five – symptoms tend to peak around days three to five, but mild users may find that their symptoms start to decrease by days three to four. Common symptoms at this point include shakiness, headaches, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, and lack of motivation.
  • Days six and onwards – most symptoms will have dissipated by day six. However, some people will continue to experience psychological symptoms such as cravings, mood swings, insomnia, and fatigue. This is known as post-acute withdrawal and can last for weeks and even months.

It’s important to note that the intensity and duration of withdrawal symptoms can vary from person to person. Seeking medical supervision and support during this period is highly recommended to ensure a safe and comfortable withdrawal process.

Codeine rehab

Opting for a codeine inpatient treatment programme is crucial because detox alone does not allow you to overcome codeine addiction fully.

By staying at our rehab centre, you give yourself the best chance of long-term recovery from codeine. Codeine rehab removes you from temptations and lets you focus entirely on your recovery.

Codeine addiction treatment at Oasis Bradford

At Oasis Bradford, we understand the importance of codeine addiction treatment. After the initial codeine detox process, where the harmful toxins left by the drug are slowly removed from the body as our healthcare professionals closely monitor you to ensure your safety, having a structured, comprehensive rehab treatment is essential for long-term recovery.

Some of the treatment options at Oasis Bradford included are as follows:

  • Medical detox
  • 12-step therapy
  • Sound, art, DBT, group, and trauma therapy
  • A programme to help family members
  • Meditation and mindful fitness, such as yoga
  • Games nights and walks
  • Freshly prepared and nutritious meals
  • Relapse prevention


Codeine addiction - meditation therapy


By providing a comprehensive range of treatment options, we aim to address the psychological, physical, and emotional aspects of codeine addiction and guide you towards long-term sobriety.

Oasis Bradford is equipped to provide you with the essential resources and support needed to regain control of your life. With our effective treatment options, overcoming your codeine addiction is within reach.

Take the first step towards recovery by reaching out to us today and together we can start planning your path to healing and well-being.