Codeine is a common medication in pain relievers and cough syrups. It is converted into morphine in the body. Like morphine, codeine is highly addictive and overdoses can be deadly.
What is Codeine?
Codeine is a narcotic (opiate) pain-relieving and cough-suppressant medication that is similar to morphine. In fact, a small amount of codeine is converted into morphine by the body.
What Products Contain Codeine?
Codeine is sold in dozens of cough syrups, oral medications, and generics for pain and cough-relief. Some of these products include:
- Tuzistra XR® (as a combination product containing Chlorpheniramine, Codeine)
- Brontex® (containing Codeine, Guaifenesin)
- Guiatuss AC® (containing Codeine, Guaifenesin)
- Nalex® AC (containing Brompheniramine, Codeine)
- Phenergan® VC with Codeine (containing Codeine, Phenylephrine, Promethazine)
- Robitussin® AC (containing Codeine, Guaifenesin)
- Vanacof® (containing Codeine, Dexchlorpheniramine, Phenylephrine)
How Does Codeine Work?
Codeine helps relieve pain and coughing, but does not cure the underlying problem or speed up recovery. Codeine treats pain by changing the way the brain respond to pain. Codeine treats coughing by decreasing activity in the part of the brain that causes coughing.
What is the Problem?
If codeine is used continuously for more than a few days, it may become habit-forming, causing mental or physical dependence. Addiction is not likely to occur when codeine is used as directed, but physical dependence is very common — even when codeine is used properly. Physical dependence may lead to withdrawal side effects if codeine is stopped suddenly. Severe withdrawal side effects can usually be prevented by gradually reducing the dose of codeine.
When a person is experiencing symptoms of codeine withdrawal, they may also experience intense cravings to take higher doses of codeine. This can spiral out of control and lead to a life-threatening or deadly overdose of codeine. Overdoses can also occur if a person combines codeine with other medications that slow down the nervous system.
Symptoms of Codeine Overdose
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive drowsiness
- Loss of consciousness
- Loss of muscle tone
- Cold and clammy skin
- Slow heartbeat
People who become psychologically and physically addicted to codeine are not able to stop taking codeine on their own. They need professional help and treatment in a facility with experts who specialize in managing the symptoms of withdrawal and rehabilitation. Left untreated, addiction to codeine can cause devastating side effects on a person’s health, finances, relationships, employment, and more.