Codeine - A Gateway to Addiction



Codeine is commonplace in medicine cabinets across the country, as it is an active ingredient in most prescription cough syrups and some painkillers. While most people view codeine as a harmless medication, it is in fact an opiate with similar effects as morphine and hydrocodone. It has strong potential to form a physical dependence after a period of use, and can lead a person to stronger opiates like heroin or fentanyl.


Most patient’s first encounter with codeine is as an ingredient in prescription cough syrup, offered by a physician to treat a particularly violent cough. Codeine is included in the syrup to alleviate the pain caused by the wracking cough and for its sedative properties. While these are valid medical reasons to formulate the medication with codeine as an ingredient, this could inadvertently trigger the addictive nature of the user should they be predisposed to develop a substance abuse disorder. Even in those without addictive tendencies, opiates cause a physical dependence to develop rather quickly when the patient is using them on a daily basis.