Megan’s 16-year-old daughter Nancy was behaving strange since last few days. After college, she would simply retire to her room and not engage in any family activity or conversations. One day when Nancy was out, Megan set out to search her daughter’s room. She saw at least 20 empty bottles of cough syrup in Nancy’s cupboard and she immediately understood the reason behind her daughter’s lethargy, loss of appetite and agitation.
Like Nancy, millions of Americans abuse codeine. Codeine is a prescription opiate, which is available in tablet, capsule and syrup form. Codeine is primarily used to treat moderate to severe pain, and is highly addictive in nature. For many people, it is a gateway drug as people start exploring other highly addictive opiates after this. It is important that one knows the drug’s characteristic features to prevent and deal with its abuse.
Some of the important facts related to codeine are:
- Codeine is mixed with cold drinks to prepare a drink known as Purple Drank which is consumed for recreational purposes in very high amounts. It is also known as lean, sizzurp and syrup. Rapper Lil’ Wayne used to endorse this drink and have even referenced it in his compositions. In 2013, Wayne was admitted because of seizures and unconsciousness resulting from excessive consumption of codeine. His stomach had to be pumped thrice to eliminate the drug from his system.
- Common side effects of codeine include noisy breathing, shallow breathing, agitation, confusion, hallucinations, lightheadedness, feelings of euphoria or dejectedness, urination problem, seizures, sweating, itching, constipation, menstrual troubles, infertility, impotence, dip in cortisol levels, slow heart rate and weak pulse.
- Nearly 70 to 80 percent of codeine is metabolized by the liver into multiple active and inactive metabolites. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of codeine is converted into morphine with the help of the enzyme CYP2D6, which has analgesic properties. Many people have rapid metabolism of codeine, which results in early side effects.
- An overdose or an interaction with other medicines might result in serotonin syndrome which is characterized by hallucinations, agitation, delirium, coma, rapid heart rate, flushing, dizziness, rigidity, muscle tremors, diarrhea, vomiting and
- An individual who has breathing problem, stomach or intestine blockage, hyperventilation or asthma should refrain from using codeine. If used during pregnancy, the infant could become addicted to it and might suffer from serious withdrawal symptoms. Since codeine can pass through breast milk, lactating females should also not consumed
FDA toughens warning on cold and cough medicines with codeine
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently imposed restrictions on the labeling of cough and cold medicines comprising codeine and hydrocodone. The agency now forbids their use for children under 18 years. The labeling changes also address the adults through an expanded box warning citing the dangers of using such type of drugs. In an announcement on the FDA’s website, its Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb wrote, “Given the epidemic of opioid addiction, we’re concerned about unnecessary exposure to opioids, especially in young children. We know that any exposure to opioid drugs can lead to future addiction. It’s become clear that the use of prescription, opioid-containing medicines to treat cough and cold in children comes with serious risks that don’t justify their use in this vulnerable population.”
Recovery from prescription drug abuse
Addiction to any opioid is bound to create adverse effects. Opioids are meant to treat pain only for a shorter duration but the relieving effect can make one susceptible to continue abusing the drugs. Doctors and pharmacies should stay on the alert and report any suspecting behavior in users to the concerned authorities. It is equally important for patients to follow their doctors’ advice and do not attempt to self-medicate.
If you or your loved one is addicted to any prescription drug and suffering from its aftereffects, contact the Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline of California to find some of the renowned prescription drug rehab centers in California offering evidence-based recovery programs. You can call our 24/7 helpline 855-738-2770 or chat online with one of our representatives for complete guidance.