Codeine High | What Does A Codeine High Feel Like?

Fikret Terzic

Written by: Fikret Terzic MD, MS

A codeine high can make you feel warm, fuzzy, and relaxed.

Codeine is a natural analgesic (pain reliever) produced in the sap of opium poppies. Codeine is converted inside the body to form the opiate drug morphine.

Despite being less potent than other opioid pain relief medications like hydrocodone and oxycodone, codeine is an important medication for treating mild to moderate pain, coughing, and diarrhea. It is also widely used to get high, often with harmful or even lethal consequences.

What Does A Codeine High Feel Like?

High doses of codeine have been described as providing warm, relaxed, or fuzzy feelings of peace and pleasure. The drug can relieve anxiety and pain in favor of euphoria and a strong, though artificial, sense of well-being.  

What Does Prescribed Codeine Use Feel Like?

Different people will react differently to codeine medications, and these reactions can also vary depending on dosage, hydration, and overall physical health and metabolism.

When codeine is taken as prescribed, many people feel very little except pain relief and mild drowsiness while the drug is active in their body, especially if they’ve had time to adapt to its effects.  

Others may feel slightly or severely relaxed, drowsy, confused, nauseous, itchy, or constipated, all of which are well-established side-effects of codeine.

Codeine Abuse

All codeine medications are controlled substances. Use, possession, sale, or distribution of codeine products outside of the medical system is considered a crime.

Nevertheless, codeine medications are a frequent target for drug abuse, either being obtained from valid prescriptions before being diverted or misused, purchased legally without a prescription in certain states, or smuggled over international borders.

Codeine cough syrups in particular are sometimes mixed with promethazine, hard candy, soft drinks, and alcohol to form a substance known as lean, purple drank, or sizzurp. 

Lean is highly addictive and has been responsible for the deaths and hospitalizations of a number of musicians and other celebrities since its popularization.

Side-Effects Of Codeine Abuse

Codeine use is associated with a variety of potential side-effects and adverse reactions that often improve as your body adapts to the drug. Adverse reactions are also more common when the drug is abused in higher doses.

Common codeine side effects may include:

  • drowsiness
  • constipation
  • itching
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • headache
  • dry mouth
  • constricted pupils
  • changes in blood pressure
  • stomach pain
  • urinary retention
  • euphoria (pleasure and excitement)
  • dysphoria (unease and discomfort)

Codeine Overdose

The amount of codeine required to cause an overdose can vary from person to person, as some are very effective at converting codeine to morphine, increasing the drug’s overall potency.

Life-threatening overdoses are also much more likely when codeine is taken with other drugs of abuse, including stimulant drugs, alcohol, and benzodiazepines like clonazepam (Klonopin) and diazepam (Valium).

Symptoms of a codeine overdose may include:

  • severe sedation
  • blue colored fingernails and lips
  • respiratory depression (breathing problems)
  • cold clammy skin
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • pinpoint pupils
  • unresponsiveness/loss of consciousness

If you believe an overdose has occurred, immediately contact your local emergency department and provide first aid until they arrive. If you have access to the opioid antidote naloxone (Narcan), use it.

Long-Term Effects Of Codeine Abuse

Chronic use of codeine to get high can cause severe and lasting physical and mental health effects, which may include:

  • severe constipation and intestinal blockage
  • liver damage or failure, if the codeine medication also includes the over-the-counter pain reliever acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • tooth decay
  • amnesia and permanent memory dysfunction
  • brain damage and cognitive dysfunction
  • damaged / impaired vision
  • lasting sleep problems
  • increased sensitivity to pain
  • physical dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms
  • codeine addiction

Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms

Using codeine, or other opioid drugs, regularly over a long period of time may also cause the body to adapt to the drug. 

This reduces its effects at your regular dosage and causes you to experience uncomfortable and sometimes severe withdrawal symptoms when you drop your dosage or stop taking codeine altogether.

These withdrawal symptoms are often compared to a serious case of the flu, and can include:

  • codeine cravings
  • depression, irritability, and/or anxiety
  • difficulty concentrating
  • headaches
  • congestion
  • digestive problems
  • nausea
  • chills or hot flashes
  • muscle or joint aches
  • tremors
  • insomnia

Codeine Addiction Treatment

Ohio Recovery Center offers a variety of services to support Ohio residents who are struggling with prescription medication abuse, such as:

  • medical detoxification, a professional service that can help support you during the codeine withdrawal process with counseling, medical supervision, and medications
  • medication-assisted treatment (MAT) using FDA-approved medications like buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone to suppress codeine cravings and withdrawal symptoms, or block the reward of codeine and other opioid drugs
  • inpatient care, which offers you 24/7 care, intensive behavioral therapy, and alternative treatment options in a comfortable residential treatment setting

If you or a loved one have been misusing codeine or other prescription painkillers, contact us today to learn how we can help.

  1. National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) — Resurgence in Abuse of ‘Purple Drank’
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Prescription Opioids DrugFacts
  3. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Codeine

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: December 5, 2022

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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