Codeine use crosses the line into abuse and addiction (referred to clinically as opioid use disorder) whenever it’s taken to get high rather than for relief from pain and coughing. Consuming it over time causes the body to become physically dependent, which means users need to take more and more to get the same effects.
When someone who is physically dependent stops taking the drug, they will experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, which is why opioids like codeine are so difficult to stop using.
Addiction often leads to psychological addiction as well, meaning users experience anxiety, cravings, and other effects when they aren’t taking the medication.
Codeine addiction behaviors include:
• Taking more than the prescribed dosage
• “Doctor shopping” for multiple prescriptions
• Tampering with codeine before taking it
• Taking codeine in any way other than orally
When a person’s cravings for codeine get bad enough or they cannot get more of the medication, they may look for relief in a cheap and accessible alternative – heroin. This is a common scenario in the modern opioid epidemic.