Codeine is a highly addictive prescription drug used as a painkiller. Codeine is part of the opioid group of painkillers, and all of them are very addictive. 

Many people become addicted to codeine as it makes them feel relaxed and euphoric. It’s available as tablets or liquid. Doctors prescribe it to people after surgery, bouts of severe pain, and to treat persistent coughs and migraines. People use it for moderate or severe pain, and it’s meant to be taken for a short time.

picture of pills

Codeine addiction devastates people’s lives; you may have read widespread media reports about the dangers of addiction to opioid drugs such as codeine, Oxycodone (also known as Oxycontin), tramadol and fentanyl. But there is good news: you can get help for your addiction through rehab clinics, your GP and local support services.

How Codeine Affects the Brain

Codeine is a painkiller and works on the central nervous system, sending signals to the brain to stop the pain. When it enters the body, it’s broken down into morphine. Codeine users say that it makes them feel relaxed and euphoric.

Signs Of Addiction  

People become physically and psychologically addicted to codeine if they take it for more than a few weeks. They develop a tolerance, seeking more to feel relaxed or euphoric.

If you start to notice changes in your behaviour or your mental and physical health is suffering, you could be addicted. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Stealing from others or selling your possessions to fund your addiction
  • Buying codeine from illegal ‘back street’ sellers or drug dealers
  • Sleeping more than usual, staying up all night or disrupted sleep
  • Always thinking about buying and taking codeine
  • Troubles with work, relationships or family life
  • Dwindling finances
  • Craving codeine. Feeling anxious and panicked if you run out
  • Feeling itchy or constipated
  • Loss of appetite
  • Skin and hair look dull and lacklustre
  • Runny eyes and nose

Side Effects Of Codeine 

The side effects of codeine use outweigh the temporary effects of euphoria and relaxation. They include feeling dizzy and drowsy, blurred vision, a dry mouth, seizures, stomach aches, low blood pressure, feeling sick and constipation.

You take the drug for between three days to two weeks. If you take codeine for longer than recommended, you will feel itchy, irritated or nervous, have problems urinating, mood swings and headaches. You’ll also have problems with coordination and balance, dilated pupils, shallow breathing and find it hard to concentrate.

The long-term side effects of excessive or prolonged codeine use are extreme. If you’re addicted to codeine for years, you could feel depressed, tired or anxious. Long-term use also leads to liver and kidney damage, memory loss, muscle spasms, and death.

Codeine Abuse 

People become addicted to codeine if they take it for longer than the recommended timescale and if they take more than prescribed. When people are addicted, they often source it illegally from drug dealers.

The effect of codeine is similar to the euphoric ‘high’ effects of cocaine. Reports of young people abusing the drug to get high by mixing it with juices or fizzy drinks are common. Others crush, snort or swallow tablets to get high.

You can buy low-dose codeine and paracetamol tablets at chemists, and you don’t need a prescription to buy them. Sometimes people become addicted to this type of medicine; even a low dose can cause dependence.

Overdose Symptoms

You may have visited this page because you’re concerned about your addiction. A codeine overdose can lead to death. If you know that a friend or family member is addicted, you can help them stay safe by watching for signs of overdose.

An overdose can happen due to breathing problems resulting from codeine changing to morphine in the body. When people have trouble breathing, oxygen can’t reach the brain, leading to brain damage and death. Overdose can also lead to heart attack and stroke if left untreated.

Here are the signs to look out for:

  • Unconsciousness or falling asleep
  • Clammy skin
  • Being sick or fainting
  • Seizures

If you’re with someone and they overdose, you must call 999 immediately.

Seeking Help For Codeine Addiction

If you’re struggling with codeine addiction, a specialist residential rehab clinic can help. Rehab clinics provide codeine detoxification, followed by residential counselling and treatments, and support for up to a year. You could stay at a rehab centre for a few weeks to a few months, but it depends on how severe your addiction is.

Withdrawing from any drug is challenging, and the whole process can last anything up to a week. When you arrive at a rehab centre, one of the first things you’ll do is complete a codeine detox. Detox is when you stop taking drugs, and they slowly leave your system, and it’s always supervised by qualified medical staff.

What are the side effects of codeine withdrawal?

  • Codeine cravings
  • Muscle aches
  • Vomiting and feeling sick
  • Diarrhoea
  • Runny noses and eyes
  • Sweating
  • Restless legs or feeling agitated
  • Anxiety or depression

After detox, you will start intensive counselling and a range of therapy. Counselling looks at the reasons behind addiction and helps you address any issues that lead to addiction. You may try talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy, which looks at thoughts, feelings and actions, giving people tools to manage challenging situations.

You’ll attend group therapy, where you will mix with other recovering addicts. Group therapy is effective in helping people learn from others and gain new perspectives on how to live a life free from drugs.

Most rehab clinics, such as Asana Lodge, provide free aftercare for up to a year: rehab doesn’t end when you go home. Leaving a rehab clinic is challenging, and patients are at high risk of relapse when they return to everyday life. External support groups, family therapy, and individual counselling help patients stay off drugs and get the support they need for long-term recovery.

If you’re looking for help with codeine addiction and would like to , call us TODAY on 01908 489 421.


John Gillen - Author - Last Updated: 20 May 2022

John has travelled extensively around the world, culminating in 19 years’ experience looking at different models. He is the European pioneer of Nad+ (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) treatment to Europe in 2010; and recently back from the USA bringing state of the art Virtual Reality Relapse Prevention and stress reduction therapy. his passion extends to other metabolic disturbances and neurodegenerative diseases.

The journey continues, in recent times john has travelled to Russia to study and research into a new therapy photobiomudulation or systemic laser therapy working with Nad+ scientists and the very best of the medical profession in the UK and the USA, together with Nadcell, Bionad Clinics own select Doctors, nurses, dieticians and therapists, Johns’ passion continues to endeavour to bring to the UK and Europe new developments with Nad+ therapy in preventive and restorative medicine and Wellness. In 2017 John Gillen was made a visiting Professor at the John Naisbitt university in Belgrade Serbia.

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