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Codeine Addiction: 5 Signs You May Have a Problem

By Kyle Kirkland
While prescribed for treating pain or coughing, Codeine can lead to severe dependence if not used correctly. Learn the signs of codeine addiction so you can help prevent it.

Codeine is an opioid—a type of medication with similar effects as morphine—that is often prescribed to treat pain or coughing. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers it a drug that has a high potential for abuse that may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. We talked to experts to find out the signs that may mean you have a codeine addiction.

Lack of Social Interaction

“For individuals facing addiction, the general warning signs include frequency of ignoring commitments or responsibilities, like social interaction with friends and family,” Anton Bizzell, MD, CEO of the Bizzell Group, tells WebMD Connect to Care. An increasing dependency on codeine can cause you to lose your desire to interact with others and spend your time instead trying to get back the feeling you had when you were using codeine. This type of behavior is an early sign that you may be developing an addiction.

Sudden Weight Loss

“Sudden weight loss usually comes later in the addiction process,” Jason Reed, PharmD, tells WebMD Connect to Care. This weight loss can either be a result of eating less due to a decreased appetite or vomiting, a common side effect of using codeine.

Lack of Focus

“Individuals facing codeine addiction can also find it challenging to concentrate while at work or school,” Bizzell says. This trouble focusing could be due to lightheadedness or dizziness, two common side effects of codeine.

Drowsiness

Both Bizzell and Reed say drowsiness is a common sign of codeine addiction. According to the Mayo Clinic, even using codeine as prescribed by a doctor can cause drowsiness. When abusing codeine, you may often feel drowsy and sleep more than usual. Sleeping more than normal can be connected to eating less and avoiding social situations.  

Using Products with Dextromethorphan

Dextromethorphan is a cough suppressant found in many over-the-counter cough syrups. Reed says people addicted to codeine may turn to products that contain dextromethorphan since it is a similar chemical to codeine (although not as powerful), and it can be bought without a prescription.

If you’re worried about the risk of codeine addiction, there are steps you can take to prevent addiction. Take your medication exactly as prescribed and discuss any concerns you may have with your doctor.

Don’t Wait. Get Help Now.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.