Why people abuse Codeine


For ages , man had always found solace in whatever took his mind off his problems . People used different products or sub-stances that got them high. The substances used changed with times but the results achieved are same. 


For instance, in the olden days, our ancestors used palm wine to get high, but in recent times, more products and substances have emerged, some with terrible effects on the body. Popular substances in this category include codeine , vicodin, morphine, diazepam , oxycontin etc. 


Codeine is a prescription pain reliever that is used to treat mild to moderate pain; it is an opiate just like morphine and heroin. It is also used as an ingredient in cough syrup and for treating other cough related symptoms. According to Dr Gabriel Omonaiye, “codeine is an opiod pain medication used to treat cough, diarrhea. In treating pain it is usually combined with paracetamol or any nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug such as aspirin. Codeine is an analgesic drug that has the ability to relieve pain having quite a number of actions in the body, apart from being used in cough mixtures; its primary function is to relieve mild to moderate pain in any part of the body. It could be used for postoperative pain like muscular pain and injuries. 


“When codeine is used as a mixture in cough syrup preparation it is meant to have some relaxation effect on the respiratory system, this is because when people have cough they may have sore throat or pain in the chest with it, so apart from helping to expectorate, that is to bring out the sputum, it has a soothing effect to relieve some of the discomfort the individual may experience in the chest. 

“In a simple and concise way, codeine is an opiod analgesic that is relatively short acting used essentially for the treatment of mild to moderate pain, a prescription drug occasionally used as a part of cough mixture.” 


In recent times, there has been an increase in the abuse of codeine, statistics shows that about 33 million Americans use codeine each year for non-medical purposes. This is because it is less regulated than some opiates considered to be more dangerous such as morphine. According to Omonaiye “there are a number of reasons as to why there is an increase in the abuse of codeine, one of which can be linked to the easy accessibility of the drug, this is because codeine can be gotten over the counter. Ordinarily codeine is a prescription drug, it is a controlled drug but you can still get it over the counter as in cough mixture but ordinarily you shouldn’t be able to get it without a prescription but in our environment the reverse is the case. People can go to any pharmacy and buy it as they like and this pose a problem. Some people go out to steal the drug; some even take the prescription of either their relatives or friends and impersonate them just to get the drug to feed their addiction. 


“It is available as a single ingredient drug as DIHYDROCODEINE and in. combination with aspirin that aims to relieve pain or in mixtures for treatment of cough. Another reason is that most people enjoy the euphoric effect that they get from codeine which is generally associated with opiates and this is a common practice among young people wish to obtain a take an over dose of cough syrup.” 


Aside from accessibility and the euphoric effect that can be derived from codeine, Dr Omo Bello opines that there are certain factors that can cause one to abuse the use of codeine. He said that the majority of those who abuse codeine particularly the youths just want to relieve themselves from stress of different forms. 


“in Nigeria, you find that majority of those who are engaged in substance abuse are those in their youthful age mostly students and they usually start to abuse codeine due to factors such as curiosity, frustration, stress, rejection, failure, peer pressure, excitement just to mention a few. 


They get themselves roped in it this due to the stress that comes with being a student, being on their own away from the preying eyes of their guardians or parents. They take solace and relief in codeine cause of its short effect which typically starts working after half an hour with maximum effect at two hours, lasting for about two to six hours. In reality they have no idea what they are doing because they don’t think or understand that they are abusing the because to them it is not the same as o opiates like morphine.. 


As an appetite stimulant 

For Adesina Lanre (not real name), a student at the Universi of Lagos, his reason for indulg-ing in the abuse of codeine has nothing to do with stress or getting high, according to him, he eats better when he takes large quantity of codeine. 


For him, codeine is simply a food stimulant, “I find it difficult to eat but anytime I take about five spoons of cough syrup, within a couple of minutes I have the urge to eat and I feel fine. My friends sometimes worry that I may get high but I don’t, my head is strong for codeine, it can’t get me high.”. 


Despite his testimony regarding codeine as a food stimulant, research has shown that codeine is actually a depressant, it sup-presses the urge to eat because it is an opiod. However, there is the tendency for one’s appetite to increase when anxiety is less because opiods are known to reduce anxiety, this perhaps is why in some people codeine stimulate appetite. 


Omonai ye affirmed this, “It is not a food stimulant, it is the abuse of the drug that results to it been a stimulant to people who use them, in some people it could even cause the appetite to be reduced but essentially codeine works in the brain, no whether it is movement, speech, respiration all these activities are controlled by the brain. So, it is possible that in some„ it could stimulate the need to eat and in others it could sup-press it.” 


Aids digestion, frees the bowel and increases sex drive 

“I usually mix igbo (marijuana) with cough syrup after eating, it helps my food digest well and it allows me to use the toilet well. Sometimes I mix dry gin with igbo. Aside from digestion I take it whenever I want to be with my woman, it works well from night till the morning, I don’t get tired, ” said Onyeka Ugwu. 


This attestation is a sharp contrast to what studies have shown about codeine, Omonaiye disagressed, “codeine is known to stop diarrhea, it is possible that something else is causing the person to empty his or her bowel, it is definitely not the codeine that the person has taken, codeine happens to slow the movement and elimination of waste.’


“There is a possibility that his body has developed some form of tolerance to the drug but other than that, codeine causes constipation in fact it is used to stop diar-rhea, it 11,4.s also been known to reduce sex drive and decrease libido.’ 


Symptoms and effects 

The symptoms vary among addicts and it is dependent on the length of time and the frequency of usage. The symptoms could manifest in different ways and can affect the individual psychologically, physically, behaviouraly, sociologically and even the person’s mood. The individual may experience depression, mood swings, withdrawal from friends, family and society at large, legal problems, stealing or borrowing codeine from friends and family, financial problems, faking illness to obtain codeine, poor performance at work, constipation, itching, urinary retention, decreased sex drive, seizures etc. 


Codeine works by acting on the central nervous system, although it is less potent when compared to other opiates, the effects is still the same. As an opiate, the individual that abuses codeine usually develops tolerance to the drug and eventually gets dependent on the drug this perhaps explains why most individuals that abuse it take loads of it as their tolerance increases. They take to codeine to relieve them of their pains both physical and emotional and to also get high as the case of other opiates. 


Like most substances the effects of getting abused can be very devastating and it can create a number of problems on the individual, according to Omonaiye “it can lead to death which is the ultimate.” `


The effects of codeine are numerous and It can affect the brain chemistry, biologically, psychological wellbeing and behavior of such an individual. This largely is dependent on the length of time that the individual has been addicted to codeine such effects include liver and kidney damage, acute pancreatitis, impaired social relationships, depression, job loss, loss of productivity at work or school, seizures, decreased muscle tone, pain, coma to mention a few.’


Way out 

For most people the first step is to admit that they are abusing the drug and they are addicted, most people, especially the youth are not aware of the fact that a form of medication can be abused which can lead to an addiction.


Making up your mind to stop using the drug is another big step because people who are addicted are usually afraid of what will happen if they stop taking codeine, they have become so dependent on it and feel like without it they may not be able to achieve whatever it is codeine helps them to achieve. They are also afraid of how their body will react will if they stop they use of codeine. 


Adesina confirms this, ” I don’t believe I am abusing codeine, I don’t get high, I believe to the best of my knowledge that I still relate with my friends and loved ones well, my family hasn’t laid any complain yet, no one has mentioned anything to me suggestive of being weird. I just need codeine to eat well; I don’t want to look emaciated. I most definitely don’t have an addiction problem.” 


Experts agree that addressing the problems of abuse and addiction requires a great deal of collective efforts, setting up institutions like the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), establishing rehabilitation centres, having counselors at place of work and school, also drug education should be added to students courses in school.


Parents and guardians should also watch their wards as these cases of addiction start early, they should monitor their wards activities, from the friends they keep, the programme they watch, to the sites they visit on the interne. 


Where there is a rehabilitated addict, he or she has to learn how to live without using codeine , concentrate on working on the problems that the use of codeine may have created, understands what triggers the need for the use and how to avoid it and get treatment. 


By: Ogechukwu Agwu and Sarah Akinlose

Daily Sun News


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.