Codeine Side Effects (Short and Long-Term)

For a long time, codeine was available in over-the-counter medications in the United States, and in some places, it can still be found in OTC medications in very small doses. However, due to a rise in codeine misuse related to the opioid epidemic, codeine is not widely available in the US without a prescription. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has codeine listed as a Schedule III medication, due to the potential addictive nature of the substance, although medicines with up to 200 milligrams of codeine are less regulated and listed as Schedule V.

This article will go more in depth about what side effects codeine can cause, withdrawal symptoms, overdose, and how to get help.

Codeine Misuse

Codeine misuse is similar to that associated with other opiate drugs, such as morphine, hydrocodone, and heroin, because it is a CNS depressant. The drug, in large doses, can initially produce sensations of relaxation, euphoria, calmness, pleasant sleepiness, a sense of wellbeing, and a loss of inhibitions. However, codeine can also produce a number of serious side effects, including:

  • Slowed or reduced heartbeat.
  • Depressed or stopped breathing.
  • Seizures.
  • Hallucinations or delusions.
  • Suicidal ideation or violent aggression toward others.
  • Cardiac arrest.
  • Inability to wake up or coma.

Short-Term Effects of Codeine Abuse

Side effects of codeine misuse can become physically harmful, even when they wear off, or occur without long-term misuse of codeine. These short-term side effects may include:

  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Pinpoint pupils.
  • Fatigue or loss of consciousness.
  • Changes in heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Reduced or depressed breathing.
  • Memory loss.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Dizziness.
  • Constipation.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Sweating.
  • Headaches.

Long-term Effects of Codeine Abuse

If a person chronically misuses codeine, or develops an addiction to or dependence on this drug, the body can be harmed for a long time due to these problems.

Long-term effects of codeine misuse include:

  • Intestinal blockage.
  • Liver damage.
  • Amnesia or memory problems.
  • Brain damage due to reduced oxygen flow.
  • Cognitive difficulties.
  • Kidney problems.
  • Changes to vision.
  • Difficulty sleeping.

Physical dependence, tolerance, addiction, and overdose are also potential problems with codeine misuse, especially long-term misuse.

Overdose

When a person takes a large amount of codeine specifically for nonmedical reasons, they put themselves at risk of overdose. This can especially be true in people who are developing a tolerance to the drug and begin to take larger doses to achieve the same euphoria they felt with their initial dose. Symptoms of codeine overdose include:

  • Blue tint to the lips or skin, or under the fingernails.
  • Changes in consciousness, such as stupor or inability to wake up.
  • Chest pain.
  • Slowed, shallow, or irregular breathing.
  • Slowed heart rate or lowered blood pressure, or loss of pulse.
  • Seizures.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Coma.

It is critical for people suffering from a codeine overdose to receive immediate, emergency medical attention. Call 911. In some cases, it may be appropriate to also administer naloxone, which can temporarily reverse the effects of narcotics like codeine, so the person will temporarily stop suffering the overdose. However, this medication should only be administered in conjunction with emergency medical help, not in place of emergency responders and medical treatment.

Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms

man sitting on steps with head in his hands

When a person misuses codeine for a long time, they will likely begin to develop a tolerance to and then dependence on the drug. If the person attempts to stop taking codeine, or cannot get codeine for a period of time, they may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms.

Codeine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Insomnia.
  • Anxiety or agitation.
  • Cravings for the drug.
  • Runny nose or watery eyes.
  • Sweating.
  • Excessive yawning.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Goosebumps.
  • Dilated pupils.

Although unpleasant, withdrawal from narcotics like codeine is rarely fatal. However, due to the discomfort associated with withdrawing from codeine, it is important to seek medical help to overcome this addiction or substance misuse problem. Attempting to overcome codeine addiction alone can lead to relapse and overdose.

Addiction Treatment in Mississippi

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