Codeine is an opiate drug that is prescribed as a pain reliever and cough suppressant. However, some people choose to misuse codeine to get feelings of elation and euphoria. When someone becomes addicted to the drug, it can have serious consequences on their health, finances and relationships.

Dr Syed Omair Ahmed, consultant psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Woodbourne, has looked at the long-term effects that codeine misuse and addiction can have on a person's mental and physical health. He has also outlined the support that is available to help someone get on the road to recovery.

How can long-term codeine misuse or addiction impact your health?

For someone misusing or addicted to codeine, the long-term effects can include the following:

  • Pain
  • Insomnia and nightmares
  • Liver damage
  • Seizures
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Kidney damage
  • Confusion or delirium
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Lethargy

Other consequences of long-term codeine abuse

Developing a dependency

When using codeine repeatedly, a person can develop a dependency to the drug. As they build up a tolerance from taking it regularly, more codeine is needed to prevent withdrawal symptoms. The person will physically and psychologically need the drug to be able to function.

Risk of overdose

Taking higher doses of codeine regularly comes with a risk of overdose. An overdose can cause respiratory failure, which is the most common cause of death from opiate addiction. Non-fatal overdoses can also be incredibly dangerous.

Respiratory depression

When high doses of codeine are taken, dangerous side effects can occur from respiratory depression including slowness in breathing, heart rating dropping and blood pressure falling.

Breakdown in quality of life

Codeine addiction can have a serious impact on a person’s work and home life. They may be unable to keep down a job as a result of their dependency, and suffer from financial problems as a result of their ongoing drug misuse or addiction. 

Relationships can also become strained, as a person concentrates on getting the drug. They can also fall into criminal activity as a way to source the codeine that they need.

Steps to take when worried about codeine use

If you are concerned about your codeine use, or are worried that someone you care about is addicted to the drug, it is important to know that there are multiple avenues of support available.

You can see a GP to get advice and information on the next steps. Drug counselling and rehab are also available to help someone recover from addiction.

Specialist addiction treatment available at Priory

Priory has specialist treatment available for prescription drug addiction, where detoxification and psychotherapy are among the options available. If inpatient treatment is needed for medical detox or rehabilitation, our hospitals can offer 24-hour care and support in a safe, secure environment with private rooms. Co-existing mental health and physical symptoms will be assessed and treated so that recovery can happen as safely and comfortably as possible, while also helping to reduce the likelihood of relapse.

Our compassionate, caring specialists will offer state-of-the-art intensive therapy, which can include group, individual and family sessions. Priory also provides aftercare and maintenance support, to help connect you to a supporting community network.

If you would like to learn about the addiction treatment available at Priory, please call us on 0800 840 3219 or click here to enquire online so that we can recommend the right support for you.

Tags: Addiction