top of page
Substance Abuse - Codeine

Commonly Known As: Codeine is typically used as a painkiller in combination with Tylenol, Acetaminophen, Empirin with Codeine, Soma with Codeine and cough syrup, such as Phenergan with Codeine and Robitussin AC.

Access to Drug: In the United States, codeine is purchased through a prescription in the form of Tylenol 3 and those listed above. However, access to codeine without a prescription is fairly easy through the internet, dealers, and in Mexico and Canada over the counter. It is addictive and arrests can be made for possession without a prescription, sales and transportation.

Scientific Name: C18H21NO3. Codeine is a narcotic analgesic derived from Opium. It is used alone and in combination products to treat mild to moderate pain, as a cough suppressant and as an anti-diarrhea agent.

Interesting Facts: Codeine was isolated from opium in 1832, during an attempt to find an alternative to morphine which was found to be highly addictive. It’s name comes from the Greek word kodeia, meaning poppy head. However, because it was found to be one fifth the strength of morphine, it’s use became popular medically, in cough syrups and patent medicines. Codeine is also the starting material for the production of dihydrocodeine and hydrocodone (Vicadon). Because prescription medications are more widely abused by teenagers, Codeine abuse has seen a dramatic increase.

Methods of Use: Taken orally in pill form, liquid cough syrup, and intramuscular or subcutaneous injection. Often abused with alcohol.

Common Effects When Intoxicated: Codeine creates a sense of euphoria, drowsiness, dry mouth, constricted pupils and nausea. It also commonly causes gastrointestinal upset when taken on an empty stomach. Depending on the dose, there may be dizziness, confusion, impairment of motor skills and impaired judgment. When taken in high doses, Codeine abuse can lead to restlessness, itching, overdose or death from suppressed respiratory system. Also, high doses of acetaminophen with codeine can cause liver or kidney damage.

Duration of Intoxication: Effects can be felt within 20 to 30 minutes, depending on stomach content. The euphoria lasts about one to two hours and subsides after about 6 hours.

Withdrawal: As with any opiates, withdrawal can range from minor irritation to severe symptoms, depending on the amount used and the duration of use. Tolerance develops quickly to codeine and more of the drug is required to achieve the effects. Withdrawal includes flu like symptoms with aching muscles, hot and cold flashes, anxiety, sleep disruption, loss of appetite and diarrhea.

Effects of Long Term Use: Opiate based drugs affect every part of the body; heart, lungs, brain, eyes, muscles, digestive system, reproductive system and the immune system. Long term use can bring on an insensitivity to pain, lowered blod pressure, and confusion. Codeine commonly begins as a single abuse drug but because it’s effects are considered relatively mild, long term use also includes the use of other drugs/alcohol.

Abuse, Dependence, and Addiction: Abuse is common through cough syrups and may stop there with the uncomfortably of drinking cough syrup and the side effects. The body does quickly develop tolerance and more of the codeine is required to achieve the desired effects. Codeine is addicting, physically and psychologically and requires treatment to aid in stopping use.

Associated Risks: More often, Codeine tends to abused in combination with alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and/or speed which can be lethal. Most codeine abusers will start with experimentation and anywhere from 15 days to a year, can develop an addiction that leads to the abuse of other opiates, especially heroin.

bottom of page