Living With Codeine Addiction - And Withdrawal
Root Canal Treatment.
How It Started
About 12 years ago I had to have a root canal treatment at the dentist's office. After the procedure, the dentist said that once the anaesthetic had worn off I would feel some considerable discomfort and suggested I buy some paracetamol and codeine to help combat this. I duly popped into my local pharmacy on my way home and bought some. I took my first 2 tablets that evening. They made me feel great. My head was clear, I was full of energy and mildly euphoric. I took them for maybe 3 or 4 days, then stopped and didn't think about them again for a couple of years.
Fast Forward 2 Years
A couple of years later and I found myself at a low point in my life. I was always tired, I was working very hard, a relationship had gone bad and I had some money worries. Out of almost nowhere came the memory of that feeling I'd had when I'd taken codeine two years earlier. Quickly, I went out and bought some. I told myself that I'd take it for a few days and stop.
I didn't stop. I became addicted to the high and took it on and off (but mostly on) for 10 years, until I finally stopped, 10 days ago.
The Problem With Codeine
There are many problems associated with codeine addiction. Firstly of course there's the health issue. Over the counter codeine in the UK is always combined with paracetamol so of course when you're taking codeine you're also taking paracetamol. Your tolerance builds over time and you have to take more to achieve the same effect. In the mornings you suffer a horrible 'hangover' type effect and need codeine to sort it out. When you try to stop you get terrible headaches after a day or 2 and it was always these headaches and feelings of crashing tiredness that made me fall off the withdrawal wagon. Codeine is easily available in chemists and although they now tend to warn you not to take it for more than 3 days you just nod your head and take what they say with a pinch of salt.
Who Was To Blame?
The blame for my codeine addiction lies with just one person - me. Nobody forced me to take it. I admit that initially I was unaware of its addictive properties and maybe I should have been advised about this. However, I soon realised that I was addicted so it was up to me to stop. Do I think that it should be more heavily regulated? No. As adults it is our responsibility to take responsibility for our own lives. The decisions we make are our own and we must live with the outcome of those decisions. Far too much is regulated in society today, and control is slowly being taken out of our hands and placed in the hands of governments etc... We need to be able to think for ourselves and make choices on the information we have.
My Final Withdrawal
I tried numerous times over the years to stop and did on a few occasions stop for several days. I always eventually gave in, however, to the headaches and fatigue. In recent months I found that my dosage was increasing, and I had occasional stomach aches and feelings of nausea. I put this down to my consumption of codeine and made a decision to stop for good.
I knew in my heart that I wasn't doing myself any good and shuddered to think what kind of state my liver was in.
The first 2 days weren't too bad, just a constant dull headaches. Then on the 3rd and 4th day I had diarrhoea. Also on the 4th day I started getting flu-like symptoms: a sore back, chills, a stuffy nose, congestion in my chest. I started to feel slightly delirious and eventually needed a couple of days off work. By day 8 my symptoms were much reduced, and today (which is day 10) my symptoms are almost gone except for a bit of nose blowing and coughing up lovely, dark-green phlegm. I must say, though, that I feel miles better than I did 6 days ago, and I know that my system is nearly back to normal. I just hope I don't have any long-term damage that may later come to light.
Will I Ever Take Codeine Again?
They say that you should never say never, but I will never take codeine again—ever. I never want the feeling of being dependent on something to get me through the day, and I will NEVER go through that withdrawal again. Sometimes something will just click in your mind and a change occurs. Well, I got that click, and I am so glad I did.
If you're currently taking codeine long-term, then you will know when it's right for you to stop. It's no concern of mine. Once you decide to give up, though, I would suggest that if you normally work Monday-Friday, you stop on a Tuesday or Wednesday so that at least you'll be at home for the worst of the withdrawal. It's even better to stop over a long weekend or a holiday.
Are You Codeine Dependent - And If So, For How Long Has This Been The Case?
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