Codeine, probably best known as the main ingredient in prescription-strength cough syrup, is the most commonly used opiate in the world, according to the World Health Organization. It is also used to treat mild to moderate pain and is one of most over-prescribed medications in America. It is frequently used improperly or illegally, with more than 30 million Americans using codeine each year for recreational or other unapproved purposes, according to the CDC.
Like all opioids, codeine can be very addictive, which is why cough syrups that contain the drug have been taken off the shelves and are now only available with a prescription. Still, because codeine is less regulated than other opiates such as morphine or hydrocodone, it is relatively easy to obtain. And even though it is less potent, codeine provides effects that are similar to morphine, including euphoria, relaxation or drowsiness.
Most codeine addicts begin using the drug as a prescription medication for pain relief or a legitimate condition such as a cough. But users run a high risk of developing tolerance and dependence on codeine and may start using it to treat any type of physical or emotional pain they have. Many people think of it as a harmless drug because it is not as strong as other opioids, but with high doses and continued use, codeine can cause comas, respiratory failure and even death, especially when it is combined with other opioids or alcohol.
Codeine can also be a gateway drug that leads to other opioids such as heroin or morphine. As users become tolerant of codeine, they may try mixing it with other substances to attain the same high they experienced when they first started using it. This is especially dangerous when they combine codeine and alcohol. Because they both act on the central nervous system, the combination of codeine and alcohol can cause respiratory failure and dangerous levels of depression in the brain.
One of the most popular misuses of codeine is a recreational drug called “purple drank.” Its signature color comes from cough syrup.
Also known as “sizzurp,” purple drank is typically served in a Styrofoam cup. It is mentioned frequently in pop culture and has been referenced on TV shows and in songs by artists such as Lil’ Wayne and Three 6 Mafia. It creates what is sometimes called a “swooning euphoria” and the effects can last up to five hours. It is often called “lean” because people who use it appear drunk and literally have to lean on something to stay upright.
This potent combination can cause dizziness, impaired vision, memory loss, hallucinations and seizures. It has been responsible for hospitalizations and even death. Lil’ Wayne was once admitted to intensive care with seizures and unconsciousness caused by extremely high levels of codeine. And the rapper Mac Miller, who later died of a drug overdose, spoke often about his addiction to purple drank.
Signs of use include irritable behavior, a change in sleep patterns, disinterest in social activities or school, and new friends who may also abuse codeine. Signs that someone may be overdosing on purple drank include:
Codeine is less potent than many other opiates, but withdrawal symptoms during drug detox is still difficult. You may experience muscle cramps, tremors, anxiety and sleeplessness, and possibly more serious side effects such as vomiting and dehydration. With our detox program at Harbor Village, we can alleviate many of those symptoms with medications such as Suboxone and around-the-clock supervision that ensures your recovery is as safe and comfortable as possible.
Suboxone has been proven effective in helping overcome addiction to codeine and other opioids. It contains buprenorphine, which helps reduce cravings, and naloxone, which blocks effects of the codeine if you have a relapse.
After detox, our team of therapists and counselors employ holistic, evidence-based therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, group, and recreation therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and more as part of your individualized addiction treatment program. These are the core of your recovery plan, and they are used to identify and treat underlying mental health disorders that may be at the root of your substance abuse. These psychotherapies equip you with new life skills and coping mechanisms for dealing with situations that may trigger your addiction to codeine.
We offer ongoing support through a series of aftercare programs that help you stay clean and sober after your rehab treatment ends. This includes support groups, counseling, and other therapy sessions as needed to keep you on the road to recovery.