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Living With Codeine Addiction - And Withdrawal

Updated on December 10, 2016
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I'm Ian from London. I've suffered from codeine addiction for 10 years, but now I am recovered. I like to write to share my experiences.

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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Codeine Addiction and Detox.

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    • profile image

      MissyR 15 months ago

      I am on day one after 8 years of codeine addiction (neurofen plus and Zapain) only up to 6 of either per day and gradually weaning myself off. Due to see the doctor for some help in a couple of days and hopefully will have reduced my dose even further by then. I want to do this as I am terrified I've damaged myself and I want to be here to see my children grow up. Thanks for your support and good luck to all going through the same xx

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      shaz 17 months ago

      7 weeks clean yesterday ,after taking 20 30mg codeine daily for 8 years ,i went cold turkey ,it was hard but worth it ,the relief is unbelievable .

    • profile image

      kelly 23 months ago

      Im on day 4 after taking 30 co codamol a day for 3 years withdrawal horrendos but hopefuly worth it

    • profile image

      Lone female jogger 2 years ago

      Add Your Comment..been on 30/500 for 3 yrs for bk pain.now abusing 10-15 a day.tapered down to approx 6-8 per day over a week n amazingly i woke up this morn n didnt throw up bile as I'd been doing for the last week.i have another script of 112 pills to collect this wk.these will finish my taper.so ready to be off these life-wreckers.

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      Chicken legs 2 years ago

      Absolutely awesome account Ian. Spot on in your diary and summary. I'm now free after 6 years having tried a number of times to quit. The crucial points from my side (for what it's worth), is a) Ian is right, you have to reach that point where it makes sense to quit, as dependable and important as codeine is, it's not as important as your life and b) this is as much for Mandee (and similar individuals), the key for me this time was talking very honestly to my doctor. I opened up and he very sensitively and logically prescribed me codeine only on a tapered basis to gently wean my system down (no paracetamol). That way, when I did the week of 'cold turkey' the symptoms were massively reduced. I 100% understand how difficult and painful it is, but now I wake up feeling alive and rested and myself again (which sadly I hardly recognise after 6 years but I really like). Good luck everyone. Mandee, I would advise trusting your doctor.

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      pradip bose 3 years ago

      I am pradip & since 2005 i am taking codaine.

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      Mandee 3 years ago

      Idk..ive been taking codeine for over 3-5 years daily. Every day..I have nausea ive actually been getting these weird burst of coughing fits like if a small dust particle or idk how to explain it but from a cough im choking gasping for air I turn red and throw up and most the time I cough up a large amount of phlegm... its clear and warm. . Im tryn to stop my usage but I get really sick and my body hurts and aches... any suggestions

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      Gary 3 years ago

      I started taking Codeine when I had an operation around five years ago, at first I wasn't addicted straight away but after taking Syndol it slowly started eating away at me and ruining my life.

      I'm still addicted but after looking at what most addicted people take now days I find myself pretty lucky as I do no more then 4 tablets a day. I take encouragement in your post here and will push to quit this nasty drug once and for all!

    • profile image

      Marie C 3 years ago

      I am a recovering codeine addict just endured my first week and starting to see the light after many relapses. I am compiling a blog of my journey hints tips etc but it says im not allowed to post a link! Lol just go on wordpress and search me, myself and codeine. I feel your pain :) Good post

      Best wishes MC

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      Shaun 3 years ago

      Im taking 20 500mg paracetamol 10mg codeine a day and have the willpower of a gnat.

      Aches pains and depression always send me back, my body is trashed.

    • profile image

      TheFixer 4 years ago

      Good read .. Similar experience - I think your missing the hardest part of the "withdrawl" process though ... Fighting through the first 6-10 days is extremely tough but do-able for a strong minded individual who is ready for that step .. BUT after only 10 days gone you`ve a massive uphill struggle to get past the feeling that something is missing out of your life, depression in many cases and the realisation that you have to face your problems without your drug of choice .. Your not even close to climbing out of your hole until you`ve hit the 3 months target .. It will only take some bad news or a bad day and your back where you started ..

      I wish everybody the best of luck fighting your demons . Only "YOU" can get yourself "OUT" !!

    • profile image

      Michelle 4 years ago

      Reading your story was like looking at myself.

      I myself was dependant on codeine on and off for 5 years. I knew I had a problem and like yourself I tried several times to kick it. The realisation came when I was downing 15 to 20 tablets a day. I confided in my husband who supported me all the way. I went to my dr and sort help. She put me on codeine and tapered me off. It took me a week to get completely off them, I experienced the horrible withdrawal, head aches, flu like symptoms, depression and was exhausted all the time. I planned my recovery and took a week off work. I have been clean now a whole week and vow like yourself never ever again to take these pills ever again. I still have a way to go but I know I will get there.

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      ASchwartz 5 years ago from Kentucky

      I applaud you for recognizing you have a problem and doing something about it.