Codeine is a prescription pain medication which is used to treat pain. It primarily comes in tablet form and in the main ingredients in prescription-grade cough suppressants. Codeine is an opiate. Some of the other well-known opiates include heroin, oxycodone, and morphine. Street names for codeine include cough syrup, schoolboy, coties and t-three’s amongst others.
In South Africa, “Lean” or “double cupping” is the lingo used on South African streets and rappers around the world. it refers to a commonly abused codeine cocktail consisting of different codeine mixes and liquids
How did codeine become so prevalent?
Any drug or addictive substance which is readily available is going to become dangerously popular. Codeine in South Africa is easy to access, in fact, all you need to do to get your fix is have some money and a nearby pharmacy or medicine dispensary nearby and you are sorted. No prescription is needed and codeine is sold almost everywhere. Combined with pop culture’s recent obsession with the glamourizing effect of lean and other forms of codeine, it’s a no-brainer that it would go on to become as prevalent as it is.
How is codeine made?
It’s a bit of a technical explanation so hold on tight. Codeine (methyl morphine) is a naturally occurring alkaloid of opium, the dried milky exudate of the unripe seed capsule of the poppy seed (Papaver somniferum), that is used in medicine as a cough suppressant and analgesic drug. First isolated in 1832 by French chemist Pierre-Jean Robiquet, codeine may be extracted directly from opium, but most codeine is produced from morphine, another opium derivative.
What are the effects of codeine?
Codeine, in its true use is an opioid medication prescribed to reduce physical pain. When abused as a cocktail drug mix and as a drug for recreational use, it can cause feelings of relaxation, drowsiness, confusion, nausea, itchiness and constipation, especially if taken in large doses. The drug can sometimes make people feel drowsy and nauseous. People may look out of it or like they’re falling asleep.
How long does codeine stay in your body?
There are different levels to this answer. It takes around one hour for codeine to take effect on the user. The effect of the drug is roughly 3 to 4 hours depending on the dose taken and it will remain detectable in a urine test for up to two days.
What are the signs that someone is using?
Some of the common signs of abuse include:
- Impaired judgment
- Slurred speech
- Short attention span
- Lack of coordination
- Apathetic behaviour
- Dilated pupils
Long term effects of codeine use
The long-term effects of codeine addiction can impact nearly every area of an individual’s life. These effects may include:
- Muscle twitches, cramps, spasms and pain
- Cold and clammy skin
- Kidney damage
- Increased sensitivity to pain
- Job loss
- Lack of muscle tone
- Legal problems
- Major depression
- Domestic abuse
- Respiratory depression
- Liver damage
- Acute pancreatitis
Why is codeine so addictive?
As a result of the majority of codeine’s interaction with society being as a result of prescriptions, many people begin taking the drug in small doses. There are some people who take codeine without becoming addicted to the drug because they only have a prescription for a short amount of time and a low potential for addiction. However, as with any opioid, a tolerance can develop over time as taking the drug changes how the brain and central nervous system work.
If someone takes codeine consistently over a long period of time, or in high doses, their body develops dependence. Sometimes this occurs alongside a doctor’s prescription, while other people become addicted through recreational misuse. The combination of access, probability of addiction and chemical make-up of codeine is a good answer as to why it is so addictive. It’s a clever drug. It changes the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain and coughing. Codeine converts back to morphine when it enters a person’s brain and then binds to the central nervous system’s opioid receptors. This is a highly addictive action within the human body, often leading to full-blown addiction.
Like many opioids and opiates, the feel-good effects of codeine are the main contributor to addiction. People who take codeine experience a euphoric high similar to heroin. Additionally, people who suffer from chronic pain might rely on codeine consistently to ease their suffering quickly rather than letting the body heal over time. How addictive is codeine? (And more broadly, opioid addiction) Well, in the US alone between 1999 and 2015, 183,000 people died from overdoses related to prescription opioids – 59,000 in 2017 alone.
Is there a cure for this addiction?
Codeine is one of the most heavily prescribed and easily accessed drugs globally. It’s used by millions of people nationwide. Addiction is therefore a massive problem and so too is the ability to quit using it. It is however possible. Therapy and other forms of support can help addicts recover. For those with a serious addiction to codeine, a change of environment can lead to higher chances of recovery. The main thing to remember is that codeine, like any drug which is abused, is fully curable, with dedication and the correct treatment.
What are the Withdrawal Symptoms?
Although not as potent as the “more powerful” opiates like heroin, codeine it still produces uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms ranging from sleeplessness to depression. Other symptoms of withdrawal may include:
- Muscle cramps
- Cold flashes
- Nervousness and anxiety
Types of Addiction Treatment
Inpatient treatment centres provide a medically managed programme which will ease the stress of withdrawal.
Aside from the mental dependence that often develops, the biggest challenge facing codeine abusers are withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawals are made less severe through closely supervised medical detox. Houghton House group of treatment centres offers 24 hour monitoring and is an ideal solution to a complex issue like codeine addiction. Although codeine is far less potent than other opiates such as heroin, it still produces uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Side note: In order to avoid developing a new addiction, it is recommended not to use any other drugs beyond what is absolutely necessary for recovery.
Codeine treatment usually starts with detoxification at an inpatient treatment centre like Houghton House . These centres also provide group counselling and support which assist recovering addicts with everyday tasks such as re-learning to live healthy lives without the shadow of codeine. Also, those suffering from co-occurring disorders, such as mental health issues and addictions to multiple substances will receive specialised care at these centres, to ensure their treatment is well-rounded. Inpatient rehabilitation gives addicts the opportunity to receive uninterrupted care without the stress and temptations of the outside world. Inpatient rehabilitation programmes are between 30 to 90 in length (depending on the severity of the addiction.)
For more information on Codeine addiction or other substance or alcohol abuse. Getting yourself to start a new life, call Houghton House now:
office hours: 011 787 9142
24/7 emergency help line: 079 770 7532
Click on the green envelope below and fill in our contact form, and one of our professional staff members will get back to you via email or phone, respecting your anonymity at all times.