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Codeine Detoxification

The detoxification process is the first stage of recovery from codeine addiction, and it presents both psychological and physical challenges for the individual. If you or your loved one is abusing codeine, finding out about the different withdrawal symptoms to expect and the treatments that you’ll need is an important step towards finding the right drug rehab. Generally speaking, the physical symptoms of opiate withdrawal alone aren’t potentially fatal, but they are extremely uncomfortable and often accompanied by cravings. Ideally, both aspects of codeine withdrawal should be addressed by the centre you choose for treatment.

Codeine is an opioid analgesic (painkilling) medication which also acts as a cough suppressant and an anti-diarrhoea medicine. It’s widely prescribed, but as an opiate it shares several features with drugs of abuse such as heroin. The drug’s painkilling qualities cause euphoria, which leads individuals into codeine addiction, even if they begun taking it for a legitimate medical condition. Although it’s similarity to heroin makes it an effective painkiller, it also presents a similar risk of addiction, and doctors should avoid prescribing it for extended periods of time if at all possible.

Recreational use of codeine creates several additional problems. Firstly, there is the phenomenon of opioid-induced pain syndrome, which is where the individual begins to feel pain because of their frequent use of the drug. This generally leads them to take more or gives them a justification for taking more, and could lead to excessive doses. Codeine addicts may show signs of depression, drowsiness, nausea and dry mouth, and if the addiction persists it could lead to respiratory depression, kidney failure or even death. The process of codeine detox might not be pleasant, but any individual addicted to the drug should seek treatment immediately.

The brain’s desire to protect its functioning despite the addition of a new chemical is the cause for codeine withdrawal. The chemical imbalance in the brain causes the euphoric effects of the drug, and the brain changes to avoid being so overwhelmed in future. This leads to a reliance on the substance for “normal” functioning, which creates withdrawal symptoms when the substance is removed. Codeine withdrawal is like most opiate withdrawal, in that it consists of flu-like symptoms which persist for around a week. These symptoms are basically a result of the brain re-adapting to life without the substance.

During codeine detoxification the individual can expect to experience a variety of symptoms. The most common are aching muscles, insomnia, nausea, weakness, headache, fever, sweating and stomach cramps. Although these symptoms aren’t fatal, the combined effect creates a powerful craving for the drug (because it represents a one-stop cure for the discomfort), and may also be accompanied by depression. That’s why psychological support is absolutely essential, and this has to continue after detoxification to tackle the root causes of addiction and help the individual get clean.

Many different medications can help people during codeine withdrawal. These can simply be classified as medications to manage withdrawal symptoms and ones to block the actions of opiates. The most common withdrawal management medicine is buprenorphine, and naloxone or naltrexone can be used to nullify the effects of opiates. Combinations are also used for maximum relief from both withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Psychological counselling and day programmes are generally used to tackle the psychological aspects of codeine addiction and provide emotional support.


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