Codeine, an opiate commonly used to treat mild to moderate pain symptoms, can be obtained with a prescription as well as from any store that stocks pain relief remedies. Codeine also works well as a cough suppressant. As the first opiate drug approved for over-the-counter sales, codeine remains one of the most commonly prescribed drugs …
The Dangers of Codeine Abuse and Knowing When Treatment Help is Needed
Codeine, an opiate commonly used to treat mild to moderate pain symptoms, can be obtained with a prescription as well as from any store that stocks pain relief remedies. Codeine also works well as a cough suppressant. As the first opiate drug approved for over-the-counter sales, codeine remains one of the most commonly prescribed drugs of all time, according to Dickinson College.
The dangers of codeine abuse are really not that different from those associated with other opiate drugs, such as morphine, oxycodone and even heroin. Granted, compared to other more powerful opiates, codeine produces a considerably weaker effect; however, the same mechanisms that drive heroin addiction come into play when codeine abuse starts to take shape. Understanding the dangers of codeine abuse may well help you or someone you know take the necessary steps to get needed treatment help when a codeine abuse problem spins out of control.
Codeine Mechanism of Action
Unlike many of the other opiates, codeine exists as a natural derivative of the opium poppy plant. This plant in particular houses substances that have similar chemical make-ups to the chemicals that regulate the human body’s own pain relief system.
Consequently, codeine’s chemical make-up allows for easy integration within the brain’s chemical system. This relationship lies at the heart of most every danger associated with codeine abuse. With frequent codeine use, codeine effects offset the brain’s natural chemical balance creating a state of dependency on the drug’s effects.
Codeine Health Effects
The effects of codeine abuse on the brain’s chemical system interfere with a range of major bodily functions. According to Columbia University, health effects from codeine abuse can take any one (or more) of the following forms:
- Low blood pressure
- Slowed breathing rates
- Liver and/or kidney damage
- Slowed heartbeat
Codeine’s ability to offset the brain’s chemical balance causes a considerable degree of damage to chemical-producing brain cells. In effect, codeine forces cells to secrete large amounts of neurotransmitter chemicals and in the process, these cells undergo structural damage from the strain. Over time, codeine abuse causes the brain to become physically dependent on codeine effects to regulate the body’s systems.
Psychological dependence results from codeine’s having taken control of the brain’s reward system. This system determines a person’s motivations, drives and priorities and depends on stable levels of dopamine to function normally.
With codeine abuse, dopamine levels surge with each dose of the drug. Over time, these effects reconfigure the brain’s reward system functions. Once psychological dependence takes hold, a person has developed a full-blown addiction to the drug.
One of the greatest dangers associated with codeine abuse has to do with the high potential for overdose that comes with long-term drug use. In effect, codeine slows down the body’s major functions, which accounts for its pain-relieving properties.
After months or years of codeine abuse, the brain’s tolerance for the drug increases considerably as a result of the ongoing damage to brain cells. Once tolerance levels reach a certain point, users have to take incredibly large drug doses in order to experience the desired effects of the drug. With a high enough dose, codeine effects can easily shut down the body’s respiratory system leaving a person unable to breathe.
When left untreated, the dangers of codeine abuse pose a considerable threat to your physical and psychological well-being. Ultimately, the sooner a person gets needed treatment help the better as codeine’s effects only work to cause more damage over time.
If you or someone you know struggles with codeine abuse and have further questions about codeine abuse and addiction, please feel free to call our toll-free helpline at 800-934-1582(Who Answers?) for more information. Our phone counselors can also help connect you with treatment programs in your area.