Codeine is a prescription pain medication and cough suppressant. It’s a member of the opioid family of drugs — placing it in close relation to drugs like Oxycontin, morphine, fentanyl, and heroin.
Compared to these other medications, Codeine is relatively mild, however, like all opiates, it remains highly addictive.
Codeines more mild nature makes it a popular ingredient used in over the counter pain medications, such as Tylenol 3 — which is a combination of acetaminophen and codeine. It’s also a common ingredient in over the counter cough syrups.
The fact that codeine is both common in pharmacies and easy to buy without a prescription makes it a primary trigger for opiate addiction.
Many people take the drug for headaches, menstrual cramps, or chronic coughs, and find themselves developing a tolerance to it. This forces them to seek stronger opiates to achieve the same results, eventually leading to addiction if allowed to progress.
Purple Dank/ Sizzurp/ Lean
Purple drank is the name of an illicit recreational application of codeine. It involves mixing pharmaceutical-grade cough syrup containing codeine with soft drinks like 7-up or Dr. Pepper. It causes those who drink it to lose control of their arms and legs, causing them to “lean”, fall over, and walk like a robot.
Lean was made popular through hip-hop culture, especially the likes of Lil Wayne, Tyler the Creator, and Three 6 Mafia.
In 2013, Lil Wayne was reported to have been hospitalized for excessive codeine consumption. He suffered from seizures and fits of unconsciousness — he almost died from it.
Codeine vs. Other Opiates
Some people are under the false impression that because codeine is milder in its effects than many of the other opiates like morphine, fentanyl, or heroin, it’s non-addictive.
This is certainly not the case and there are many people addicted to codeine around the world. The effects are much the same as addiction to other opiates.
In fact, codeine is often considered a gateway to other opiate addiction.
After taking the drug for prolonged periods of time, it produces something commonly referred to as tolerance. When this happens, the body starts to resist the effects of the drug, and larger and larger doses are needed to achieve the same results.
If the drug isn’t weaned off, it will eventually lead the user to seek out stronger opiates to achieve relief from their pain and discomfort.
The Effects of Codeine
- Itching or rash
- Constipation and stomach cramps
- Dry mouth
- Blurred vision
- Low blood pressure
Codeine Addiction vs. Addiction to Other Opiates
Codeine has the same effect on the brain as other, more addictive opiates like heroin.
It causes both behavioral addictions through the dopamine system in the brain, and physical addiction through the opioid pain receptors in the brain and spinal cord.
Someone who is addicted to codeine will go through the same withdrawal symptoms as other opiate addictions.
Withdrawal Symptoms of Codeine include:
- Severe pain and discomfort
- Inability to regulate body temperature
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
- Suicidal thoughts
Long-Term Side-Effects of Codeine Abuse Includes:
- Impaired memory
- Liver damage
- Kidney damage
- Muscle spasms
How to Identify Codeine Addiction
Codeine addiction is very similar to other opiate addictions, though there are some differences to be aware of.
The most common form of codeine abuse is in the form of lean. This can be identified by frequent consumption of soft drinks that smell like cough medicine. It’s a strong smell, easily identifiable by the layperson.
Signs and Symptoms of Codeine Addiction
- Low motivation
- Slurred speech
- Increased doses of pain or cough medications
- Frequent lapses in memory or judgment