May 5, 2023

Is Codeine a Narcotic?

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Is Codeine a Narcotic? Yes, Codeine is a naturally occurring opiate derived from the opium poppy plant, and it is classified as a Schedule II narcotic under the CSA (Controlled Substances Act) in the United States.

This guide is aimed at those who have questions like “Is codeine a narcotic”, “what is codeine used for” “does codeine help pain”, and “is codeine a drug”. We’ll get started with some codeine facts.

What is Codeine?

Codeine is a narcotic opioid pain reliever that is indicated for the treatment of mild to moderate pain. Codeine may also help reduce coughing.

You can find codeine in single-ingredient tablets or multi-ingredient products that also contain OTC pain relievers or cold medicines. There are many drugs with codeine.

Like all Schedule II controlled substances, codeine has some medical applications, but it also has a high potential for opioid abuse and addiction.

a woman is holding a tray with cough syrup on it to represent the question: is codeine a narcotic?

What’s in Codeine?

Codeine is an opioid painkiller that is prescribed to treat mild or moderate pain. Codeine is derived from the seed pods of the opium poppy plant and belongs to the class of drugs known as opioids.

Codeine is an alkaloid that occurs in opium, the dried latex taken from opium poppy plant seed pods. Codeine drugs are available in the form of tablets, capsules, or syrups. Codeine is frequently combined with other medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen to enhance its pain-relieving properties.

What does codeine do, then, and does codeine help pain?

What Does Codeine Do?

What is codeine prescribed for?

Codeine works by binding to specific receptors in the brain and nervous system, which reduces the perception of pain. Additionally, codeine can produce a sense of relaxation and mild euphoria. Codeine is a controlled substance and is classified as a Schedule II narcotic in the United States due to its high potential for abuse and addiction despite legitimate uses of codeine for pain.

In addition to its pain-relieving effects, codeine can also cause drowsiness, dizziness, and a feeling of well-being or euphoria. These effects can make codeine a popular drug of abuse, especially when used in higher doses than prescribed or when used without a prescription for codeine.

How is codeine used beyond pain relief?

Codeine is also used as a cough suppressant and as an antidiarrheal medication. In cough suppression, codeine works by reducing the activity of the cough reflex in the brain, while in antidiarrheal use, codeine slows down the contractions of the muscles in the digestive tract, which can reduce the frequency and intensity of diarrhea.

Codeine Addiction

Codeine addiction can develop when someone starts to misuse the drug by taking it in higher doses or more frequently than prescribed by a doctor, or without a prescription altogether. This can lead to the development of physical and psychological dependence on the drug, which can cause withdrawal symptoms when the drug is suddenly stopped.

Over time, someone who is addicted to codeine may require higher doses to achieve the same effects, which can increase the risk of overdose and other adverse effects. Addiction to codeine can also be fueled by a desire to avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, which can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, insomnia, and anxiety.

Other factors that can contribute to the development of codeine addiction include genetics, environmental factors, and mental health issues. People who have a family history of addiction or who have a history of trauma or mental health disorders may be more susceptible to developing an addiction to codeine or other substances.

a man is looking out at a valley to represent codeine addiction.

Signs of Codeine Addiction

The signs of codeine addiction can be grouped as follows:

Physical Signs

  • Respiratory depression
  • Seizures
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Urinary retention
  • Dry mouth
  • Itching
  • Constipation
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Blue tinges on the lips and fingernail beds
  • Rashes

Behavioral Signs

  • Fixation on codeine
  • Lying to hide the amount of codeine being abused
  • Doctor shopping, or visiting a number of doctors in order to obtain greater amounts of codeine
  • Ordering codeine on the internet
  • Interpersonal relationship problems
  • Healthcare fraud
  • Stealing or borrowing codeine from friends and loved ones
  • Legal problems
  • Social isolation
  • Frequent ER visits for vague complaints of pain
  • Financial problems
  • Forging prescriptions in order to obtain more codeine
  • Apathy
  • Indifference toward loved ones, job, and social activities
  • Faking illnesses to obtain more codeine
  • Withdrawal from loved ones

Psychological Signs

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Worsening of mental health
  • Increased mental illness symptoms
  • Decreased memory
  • Lack of emotions
  • Psychosis

Mood Signs

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Emotional numbing
  • Euphoria
  • Sense of well-being and calmness

The diagnostic criteria for codeine addiction outlined in DSM-5-TR are as follows:

  1. Taking more codeine than intended or for longer than planned.
  2. Making unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control codeine use.
  3. Spending a lot of time obtaining and using codeine or recovering from the effects of codeine use.
  4. Craving codeine.
  5. Failing to fulfill commitments at home, work, or school due to codeine use.
  6. Giving up or reducing important activities because of codeine use.
  7. Using codeine in physically dangerous situations.
  8. Continuing to use codeine despite knowing that it is causing or inflaming physical or psychological problems.
  9. Developing tolerance – needing to take larger amounts of codeine to achieve the desired effect or experiencing less of an effect with the same amount of codeine.
  10. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when codeine use is stopped or reduced, or taking codeine to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
  11. Continuing to use codeine despite persistent or recurring social or interpersonal problems caused or worsened by codeine use.

 While there is no cure for codeine addiction (opioid use disorder), it is a treatable condition.


While codeine addiction can be damaging, there are several evidence-based treatments that typically produce favorable outcomes. Here are some options available for those looking to initiate their recovery from opioid use disorder:

  • Detox: The most effective treatment will begin with a supervised medical detox. Detoxing at an inpatient or outpatient treatment facility enables you to address the issue of physical dependence on codeine with access to medications, clinical care, and emotional care around the clock. Codeine detox should act as a bridge into ongoing treatment.
  • Medication-assisted treatment: MAT (medication-assisted treatment) is proven effective for treating opioid use disorders. MAT involves the administration of FDA-approved medications – buprenorphine, naltrexone, and methadone – in combination with psychotherapy or talk therapy like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). Suboxone is the most common medication used to treat codeine addiction. Suboxone is a combination medication that contains naloxone and buprenorphine, and may help minimize cravings, but without creating physical dependency. MAT can be beneficial during codeine detox and throughout ongoing treatment.
  • Behavioral therapies: Behavioral therapies like CBT, DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), motivational interviewing, or contingency management can be an effective component of a codeine addiction treatment plan. Working with a therapist, you will identify and alter any problematic patterns of thoughts or behaviors that contribute to your codeine addiction. You will also develop healthy coping techniques, enabling you to deal with stress more effectively.

Get Treatment for Codeine Addiction at Gratitude Lodge 

If you have developed an addiction to codeine, you can initiate a sustained recovery at Gratitude Lodge’ rehab center in Newport Beach and rehab center in Long Beach, CA.

Begin opioid addiction treatment in Southern California with a supervised medical detox program at our pet-friendly treatment centers. Take advantage of FDA-approved medications and 24/7 clinical care to streamline codeine withdrawal. You can then transition into one of these ongoing codeine addiction treatment programs:

  • Intensive outpatient program
  • 30-day inpatient program
  • Dual diagnosis treatment program

All Gratitude Lodge treatment programs combine science-backed and holistic interventions that include:

  • Psychotherapy
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Holistic therapy
  • Aftercare

When you are ready to move beyond codeine addiction, call admissions at 800-994-2184 for immediate assistance.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox, facilitating the beginnings of a successful recovery at our rehab addiction centers in Orange County, CA.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse. Alcohol detox may not take as long or produce severe withdrawal symptoms, but it is still an essential beginning to your recovery.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse.
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Holistic Therapy

Our holistic therapy treatments offer a full-scope approach to recovery, addressing your mind, body, and emotions as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. This therapy is designed to help address underlying issues and integrate alternative therapies to promote overall health and well-being.
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An essential part of your treatment experience, we offer individual (CBT and DBT talk therapy) and group addiction treatment counseling to help you explore and address the emotional component of addiction, providing you with the tools, self-awareness, and empowerment you need to maintain recovery.
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Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis is a highly effective addiction treatment that addresses substance use and mental health disorders simultaneously. Often co-occurring, these disorders are best managed when treated together with specific and targeted therapy.
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Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-Assisted Treatment provides you with FDA-approved medications to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal while you’re in treatment. This makes the detox process easier and safer, as well as increasing the chances of a successful recovery.
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Sober living provides a supportive and substance-free living environment for your ongoing recovery. We partner with a number of upscale and carefully vetted sober living homes that are available to our clients after inpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment.
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Outpatient Treatment

Once detox and inpatient are complete, we provide an easy transition to outpatient care through our hand-selected partners. This program offers a more flexible approach, allowing you to ease back in to daily life while still receiving frequent & effective care.
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Inpatient treatment provides an intensive and comprehensive addiction treatment program in a structured environment. You will receive 24/7 expert care, therapy, and support as you build your foundation for long-term recovery.
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Drug & Alcohol Detox

A crucial first step in the recovery process, our detox program provides a comfortable, medically supervised environment that addresses the physical aspect of addiction and eliminates substances from your body.

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