Codeine Misuse Can Lead to Bigger Problems
When you think about the opioid epidemic in the United States, the odds are pretty good that codeine does not immediately jump to mind. Instead, you may think of codeine as a mild cough suppressant and source of pain relief.
That is entirely understandable. Codeine has been around for a long time and is an effective way to battle a cough or ease pain. But though mild when compared to an opiate like heroin, codeine is still an opiate–and it can become a problem for a person who misuses it. Codeine can also become a “gateway drug,” leading a person to use more powerful and dangerous opiates over time.
Building Up a Tolerance Is Building Up a Problem
As is true with many different drugs, codeine starts to become more problematic as a user develops a tolerance to it. Building up a tolerance for the drug means that you have to take ever-increasing amounts of it in order to get the same results.
As the amount of ingested codeine increases, so does the risk. Indeed, at high doses codeine can lead to respiratory failure, coma, or even death. All of these dangers are heightened if the user is also taking other drugs like additional opioids and/or alcohol.
Now, you may be scratching your head trying to figure out why anyone would be tempted to take too much of a cough suppressant. Sure, they sometimes taste reasonably good, but not good enough to risk, say, falling into a coma. So what gives?
That is a fair question and the answer has to do with the sense of relaxation—or even euphoria—that the drug can provide. A person can easily come to enjoy those pleasant, relaxing feelings and seek to enhance them by taking the drug in larger doses or long after the prescription ends. To procure more of the drug, they may attempt to get prescriptions from multiple physicians or even buy the drug illegally.
As tolerance increases, a person may seek a stronger drug. That is how codeine becomes a gateway drug and can lead to the development of a substance use disorder.
A Painful Problem Adding, Well, Injury to Injury
Misuse of codeine can lead to an additional problem. As you develop a tolerance for codeine, it can start to lose its effectiveness as a pain reliever. This, in turn, may result in other opioid pain relievers being less effective for you. So if you have surgery or find yourself struggling with chronic pain issues, it may be significantly harder to find an effective way to manage that pain.
Worse still, misuse of codeine can lead to increased sensitivity to pain. It is a terrible irony that misuse of a pain reliever can, in the end, lead to significantly more pain that is significantly less manageable.
Stick to the Program with Codeine
In the end, our advice for avoiding all of the dire things we have discussed above is pretty straightforward and commonplace: use codeine only as directed.
We know you have heard and read those words more times that you can count. But they remain extremely important, whether the medication is codeine or another drug. Sticking to the guidance provided by your doctor and pharmacist is the single best way to avoid developing an issue with a prescription drug.
But what should you do if you haven’t, in fact, followed the label instructions and are now struggling with an addiction to codeine? The answer is: get help right away.
Get the Help You Need at Bel Aire Recovery Center
At Bel Aire Recovery Center, we are committed to helping you—not judging you. We understand that you might be reluctant—even embarrassed—to reach out for help if you have been misusing codeine. But a substance use disorder is always serious, and getting help with detoxification and rehabilitation is the best way to get yourself on the road to recovery and long-term sobriety.
Because every individual’s situation is different, we will take the time to listen to you and to personalize your plan of treatment. We will also address any co-occurring mental health disorders that may be contributing to (or be worsened by) your substance use disorder. Good mental health and lasting sobriety go hand-in-hand—and we can help you build resilience in both areas.