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What Is Codeine? — Uses, Benefits, and Side Effects

what is codeine

When it comes to pain relief and cough suppression, codeine often plays a crucial part. But what exactly is codeine, and what should you know about its uses, risks, and benefits? In this informative journey, we'll explore the world of codeine, shedding light on its properties, potential side effects, and even its role in the realm of addiction.

What Is Codeine?

Codeine is a naturally occurring compound found in the opium poppy plant. It's classified as an opioid, making it part of the same family as drugs like morphine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone. What sets codeine apart is its relatively mild potency compared to its opioid cousins.

Codeine is primarily used as a pain reliever and cough suppressant. It works by binding to specific receptors in the brain and spinal cord, altering the way we perceive pain and suppressing cough reflexes. You'll commonly find it in prescription medications, often combined with other drugs like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to enhance its effectiveness.

How Is Codeine Taken?

​​Codeine is typically taken orally, and it is available in various formulations, including tablets and capsules. Codeine can also be found in liquid form and is often a component of high-strength cough syrups. More rarely, codeine may be administered via injection. This method is typically reserved for severe pain management and is administered by healthcare professionals.

Side Effects of Codeine

As a gentler alternative to opiates like morphine, codeine can offer relief from moderate pain and coughing. But like any controlled substance, it's not without its side effects. These can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Constipation
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Itching
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Mood changes (e.g., euphoria or dysphoria)
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Rash or skin reactions (less common)

It's important to note that not everyone will experience these side effects, and the severity of side effects can vary from person to person. If you experience severe or persistent side effects, seek immediate medical advice. Additionally, misuse or abuse of codeine can lead to more serious health issues and side effects, including addiction and overdose.

Codeine Addiction

Codeine has a significant potential for addiction, primarily due to its opioid nature. When used over an extended period or in higher-than-prescribed doses, it can lead to physical and psychological dependence.

In fact, while codeine is commonly considered milder than opiates like oxycodone, it is still classified as a Schedule 2 drug with a high risk of addiction or abuse. This categorization and high risk of addiction underscores the importance of following medical advice and using codeine only as directed. 

Codeine Abuse and Misuse

Codeine misuse can have severe consequences. Still, some individuals may fall into the habit of taking larger amounts of codeine than prescribed or using codeine more often than required. Why do they run this risk? People may misuse codeine for various reasons, such as:

  • Pain Management: Some individuals misuse codeine to self-medicate and alleviate physical pain, often without a prescription or medical guidance.
  • Euphoria: Codeine can induce feelings of euphoria and relaxation when taken in higher doses than prescribed, making it attractive to those seeking a recreational high.
  • Stress and Anxiety Relief: Some people turn to codeine to self-soothe and manage stress, anxiety, or emotional distress, as it can provide a temporary sense of calm.
  • Peer Pressure: Social and peer influences can play a significant role, with friends or acquaintances introducing codeine for recreational purposes. Young people, especially, may succumb to social codeine use as a way to bond or fit in.
  • Ease of Access: In some cases, codeine-containing medications are readily available without a prescription, making it easier for individuals to misuse them.
  • Previous Substance Use: People with a history of substance misuse may be more inclined to misuse codeine as part of their ongoing pattern of substance abuse.
  • Addiction: Individuals who have developed a dependence on codeine may misuse it to avoid withdrawal symptoms or to satisfy cravings.

It's essential to recognize that misuse of codeine can lead to addiction, adverse health effects, and legal consequences. Seeking professional help and support is crucial for individuals struggling with codeine misuse or addiction.

Does Codeine Show Up on a Drug Test?

Yes, codeine can be detected in drug tests. Standard drug tests, such as urine screens or blood tests, can reveal the presence of codeine. Employers, medical professionals, and law enforcement agencies may use these tests for various purposes, so it’s vital to be aware of potential codeine levels in your system.

How Long Does Codeine Stay in Your System?

How long codeine remains detectable in your system can vary based on factors like dosage, frequency of use, and individual metabolism. In general, codeine may show up in a urine test for one to two days, in a blood test for up to 24 hours, and in a hair follicle test for up to 90 days after use.

Get the Answers You Need with Countrywide Testing

Codeine is a valuable medication when used responsibly and under medical guidance, offering relief from pain and coughing. However, this drug should be approached with caution due to its potential for addiction and side effects. Understanding what codeine is and how it affects your body is the first step in using it safely and effectively.

If you are concerned that a friend or loved one may be using codeine inappropriately, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. For many recovery journeys, the first step is confirming what kind of addiction or misuse you’re dealing with.

Countrywide Testing has the answers you need. We offer discreet, at-home drug testing kits that will help you identify illicit drug misuse and help them on the road to recovery.

Countrywide offers various drug testing products for workplace testing, healthcare emergencies, law enforcement purposes, and individuals trying to stay clean after rehab. Our test kits are convenient and affordable and ship to you quickly. Plus, our lab is accredited by SAMHSA, so you can rest assured that your test results are handled according to the highest industry standards.

Want more information on how Countrywide can support drug and medication safety? Just contact our team today.