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Dr Syed Omair Ahmed

Blog reviewed by Dr Syed Omair Ahmed (MBChB, FRPsych, Dip. CBT, Dip. EMDR, Dip. Addictions Medicine), Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Woodbourne

Codeine is an opiate drug used for pain relief and to suppress coughs. People can develop a tolerance to the drug which can lead to them taking higher dosages.

When higher dosages are used over a long period, a person can become addicted. This can begin a dangerous path into opiate abuse, where other highly addictive drugs such as oxycodone or hydrocodone are used.

Here, we look at the symptoms that someone suffering from codeine addiction may exhibit, and the drug addiction treatment that is available to help them.

Codeine addiction symptoms

A person may have feelings of elation, euphoria, and drowsiness when taking codeine. However, when addicted, they are unlikely to get the associated high, as they just need the drug to function.

If you are worried that someone you care for may be addicted to codeine, there are signs and symptoms that they may display, which include:


  • Confusion or delirium
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions


  • Dizziness
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Slow breathing
  • Blue lips
  • Itching
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Lethargy


  • Using codeine for small ailments like headaches
  • Regularly visiting a doctor to obtain more codeine
  • Being secretive about their codeine use
  • Isolating themselves socially
  • Running into financial difficulties due to money spent on codeine
  • Faking or exaggerating illness or injury to get more codeine
  • Drop in performance at work, or increase in days taken off sick
  • Sourcing the drug illegally if they can no longer get it via legal routes
  • Signs of increased tolerance - needing to take more codeine to get the same effect

Someone with codeine addiction may appear sedated and even suffer from stomach pain and constipation. They may also experience vision changes, while heavy users can suffer from seizures.

The user's relationships will also likely become heavily strained with family members and loved ones. Often, those who are addicted to a substance will seem obsessed with it, sacrificing the relationships they have to get more codeine. if they try to stop using the drug, they might experience uncomfortable and painful codeine withdrawal symptoms

What makes codeine addictive?

Codeine is a member of the opioid medication family, frequently prescribed to alleviate pain. Its addictive potential stems from its ability to induce feelings of euphoria, offering users a temporary respite from discomfort. Upon consumption, the body transforms codeine into morphine, which then acts on the brain’s pleasure and reward centers.

This interaction can initiate a cycle of dependency, as individuals may repeatedly use the drug to recapture the pleasurable sensations. The continuous quest for these feelings can lead to an increased tolerance, meaning higher doses are required to achieve the same effect, further fuelling the cycle of addiction.

Initially, many people may begin to use codeine in response to long-term or chronic pain. Using the drug relieves that pain, giving the user a short-term boost to their well-being and physical health. If not managed properly by a medical professional, this can also contribute to a cycle of addiction.

If the pain isn't cured, it might drive the user to continually use the drug. Over time, they'll likely need to take more at more regular intervals to get the desired effect - putting them in greater danger of addiction. Over time, the effects of codeine addiction can be severe. 

Support for codeine addiction is available

Recovering from codeine addiction can be difficult. A person may not understand why they have become addicted, or what steps they should take to no longer be dependent on the drug.

Seeking the medical advice of a GP can be a first port of call. They will be able to advise on the withdrawal symptoms, detox process, and routes to recovery that could be taken.

Specialist addiction treatment at Priory

Priory also has specialist addiction services that can help a person identify and remedy their addiction. Detoxification and psychotherapy are among the treatment options that can be used for people dependent on prescription drugs. In some cases, when a person is addicted to an opiate drug and cannot stop taking it, inpatient treatment may be needed to help cleanse the mind and body within an environment of maximum safety and comfort.

During treatment for codeine addiction, group work and individual counseling can be used to help a person learn strategies for life without codeine, by building self-esteem and positive attitudes. Priory also offers support for family and friends, while helping a person open up and talk to those closest to them.

Get in Touch Today

For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding addiction treatment and rehabilitation, please call 0330 056 6023 or click here to book a FREE ADDICTION ASSESSMENT. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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