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What is Codeine?

What is Codeine?

Many people recognise codeine for its use in treating mild to moderate pain. This opiate drug is either prescribed by a doctor or can be obtained – in lower dosages – over the counter (think Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Aspirin, etc.). However, there are many saying that codeine should not be available over the counter at all.

Codeine is given when other painkillers just won’t do. However there is growing evidence that many people are becoming too reliant on codeine.

Codeine is generally found in syrup or tablet form. However, some people, intent on misusing codeine, will crush the tablets so they can snort or inject it. Codeine tablets can cost £1 a tablet on the black market.

What Are The Risks Of Using Codeine Prescriptions?

The problem with codeine is when it’s used more than the recommended amount to get a more powerful effect. In fact, it can cause fatalities when taking more than prescribed or advised.

Medications with codeine warn of the possibility of addiction and advise users not to use it for more than three days without talking to a doctor first.  What other issues should arise from taking prescriptions with codeine in it?

Codeine can really wreak havoc on your body, but how so? Why is it so dangerous to use?

  • The drug can cause your blood pressure to drop and hinder normal breathing. It also raises the chance for respiratory arrest (not breathing at all). If you’re taking an excessive amount of medicine with codeine in it, it can lead to an overdose and possibly death. Do not use drink alcohol and take opiate drugs, as this can be a fatal combination.
  • When you take an excessive amount of codeine (using a tablet with codeine then using a painkiller with the ingredient), there’s a possibility of experiencing serious side effects from the painkiller drug. While normal doses don’t generate side effects, overdoses can cause an array of problems – liver failure, kidney failure, stomach bleeding, etc.
  • Opiates, when used during pregnancy, can cause new babies to experience withdrawal symptoms.

What Kinds Of Effects Does Codeine Generate?

Codeine’s effects are similar to other opiates you can be prescribed including:

  • Relaxation
  • Sleepiness
  • Warm feelings
  • Calm feelings

However, with the good also comes the bad such as:

  • Appetite loss
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Itching
  • Lethargic
  • Nausea
  • Mood swings
  • Vomiting

Addiction Is A Real Possibility With Codeine

Codeine is highly addictive, especially if abused.  It can generate cravings and the desire to continue using it. The body builds an intolerance to it, which means users have to take more and more to get the same effects they used to get at lower doses. If they fail to do this, they can experience a withdrawal. What are the common symptoms of opiate withdrawal?

  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Goosebumps
  • Muscle spasms
  • Nausea
  • Nervous tremors
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Stomach cramps
  • Sweating

The Law Regarding Codeine Use

Codeine is classified as Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act. You cannot legally have, sell or give away in drug with codeine in it. Codeine is only available through a prescription, and if you’re found to illegally possess codeine-containing drugs, you could spend up to five years in jail and face a steep fine.

If you’re found to have distributed codeine, even to friends, you can spend up to 14 years behind bars and be subjected to a huge fine.

A drug-related conviction could hinder your ability to travel to certain countries and ability to get certain kinds of jobs.

If you’re caught driving under the influence of medicines with codeine in it, you could face a steep fine, have your license revoked and spend time in jail or prison for the offence.


Picture Credit: “migraine buster” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by Neil Tackaberry

Zoom Testing is a leading UK drug testing company and a supplier of Drug Test Kits.

This post was originally published in September 2017 and has been updated regularly since.


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