Codeine is a common component of many prescription drugs usually used to manage mild to moderate pain. Aside from being an effective painkiller, it’s also antitussive, meaning it can relieve or suppress a cough.
For this reason, it’s typically the main ingredient in prescription-grade cough syrups. In fact, that’s its primary use in the United States.
Unfortunately, codeine-based cough syrup abuse has recently become quite rampant in the country in recent years. It’s prevalent among teenagers who want to get high but can’t access alcohol or illegal drugs. And they disguise it in soft drinks and call it “lean” or “purple drank.”
Consequently, the DEA classified it as a Schedule III controlled substance, with its use in drug manufacture strictly supervised.
Can You Get Addicted Codeine Cough Syrup?
While codeine can relieve pain and cough, it’s not meant to be used long-term or in high doses as it is an opioid, a class of drugs that includes illegal substances like heroin and fentanyl. Being an opioid automatically makes it highly addictive.
Typically, a medicine containing codeine is prescribed for just a few days or a bit longer. If long-term pain management is needed, a different type of medication is usually given. So, if you use codeine cough syrup longer than instructed, you may become dependent on it. With abuse, that is, consumption in high doses and more frequently than is safe, addiction can happen much faster.
Once addicted and you try to come off the lean, you start to experience withdrawal symptoms like:
- Muscle cramps
- Flu-like symptoms
The Dangers of Codeine Addiction
Aside from the risk of addiction, codeine abuse is highly dangerous and can cause all manner of issues, including:
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of consciousness
- Dental problems
In severe cases, it can cause vision loss, acute pancreatitis, organ failure, bowel damage, brain damage, and overdose, among other serious side effects.
How to Detect Codeine Addiction
Like many other drug addictions, there are tell-tale signs of a codeine dependency. And being able to recognize the symptoms is the first step to making a recovery. So, if you suspect that your child or someone you love is addicted to codeine, here are some signs to watch out for to be sure:
- Blue lips
- Abnormally small (pinpoint) pupils
- Poor sleep cycles
- Seclusion/ isolation from other people
- Mood swings, irritability, anxiety and a deep sadness
- Loss of interest in things they previously enjoyed doing
- Constantly exhausted/ lethargy
- Severe itching
Get Treatment to Overcome Codeine Addiction and Live a Full Life
While codeine-containing medicine can be codeine cough syrup used safely to treat cough and pain, it’s often abused for the high it gives when used in higher quantities. Unfortunately, the substance is not illegal, which makes it accessible to even teenagers who take it in a sugary drink.
The repercussions of abusing codeine, even for the first time, are severe. With repeated use, an addiction that is hard to shake off will develop. So, if you suspect your teen, close family member, or friend has a lean habit, seek help immediately from a specialized treatment center.