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Understanding the Short Term Effects of Codeine: A Comprehensive Guide


If you have clicked on this blog, we are assured that you are looking for short-term effects of codeine. With the advancement of medical science, there is a medicine or a drug for every disease, illness, and discomfort.

Codeine is one such opiate drug that is used as a painkiller, a treatment for persistent cough, problems related to the digestive system like diarrhea, and even sleeplessness. However, codeine is a potent drug that can lead to codeine abuse and codeine addiction. It is crucial to understand that once addicted to codeine, an individual might face several long-term and short-term effects of codeine addiction.

The usefulness of codeine can be determined by the fact that in recent research, it was observed that 46% of the patients feel relief from persistent cough after taking codeine.

On the other hand, another research concluded that 19.8 million of the adult population of the United States has been using codeine since the age of 12. Out of these, a total of 1.8 million people misuse codeine to attain a recreational ‘high’.

In this blog, we will discuss the long-term and short-term effects of codeine on individuals who use codeine on prescription and on those who abuse it. Read on to find out more.

What is codeine?

Codeine, derived from the opium plant, serves as a pain reliever and remedy for diarrhea, sleeplessness, and cough. Despite its medicinal benefits, widespread misuse of this drug is a global concern. It is imperative to emphasize the importance of adhering to medical advice when using codeine.

When codeine is abused for recreational purposes, there are inevitable consequences. Its misuse can result in addiction, tolerance, and dependency, both in the short and long term.

Short Term Effects of Codeine

What are the short-term effects of codeine?

The use of codeine can lead to physical and psychological dependency as one of the short-term effects of codeine. This can pose some nasty withdrawal symptoms that may make the journey to sobriety challenging.

The following are some of the many short-term effects of codeine:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Soreness in muscles
  • Perspiration
  • Sleeplessness
  • Flu
  • Feeling drowsy during the day
  • Stomach cramps and diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness and inability to concentrate
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Lethargy
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps, chills, and shivers
  • Difficulty in breathing


Understanding the variability in short-term responses to codeine is essential, as its effects can differ significantly from person to person. Codeine operates by binding to neurotransmitters in the brain, resulting in a numbing sensation that alleviates pain.

Individual differences in body chemistry contribute to the diverse experiences with codeine. Moreover, factors such as personal history of substance abuse, familial predisposition to addiction, physical fitness, and overall health status also influence the effects of codeine.

Occasionally, individuals may experience severe short-term consequences of codeine use, including hypotension, digestive complications, and even seizures.

What are the long-term effects of codeine?

Long-term effects differ from the short-term effects of codeine. Long-term effects are a result of prolonged codeine tolerance, dependency on codeine, addictions, and substance use disorders.

Unlike the short-term effects of codeine, long-term effects may cause permanent damage to the physical and mental health, psychology, and chemical composition of the brain of the users. The following are the long-term effects of codeine:

  • Development of insomnia and disturbed sleep due to recurring nightmares
  • Damage to vital organs like the kidneys and the liver
  • Seizures
  • Forgetfulness or amnesia
  • Permanent damage to the digestive system
  • The onset of episodes of depressive disorder
  • Onset of mental health issues such as anxiety disorder and panic attacks

If an individual suffers from negative long-term effects of codeine, they require immense support and medical intervention to conquer those effects.

Short-term Effects of Codeine vs. Long-term Effects

The effects of codeine vary between short-term and long-term durations, each presenting distinct characteristics. Short-term effects, as implied by the name, are temporary and do not result in lasting harm to one’s physical or mental well-being. Nevertheless, they can be unpleasant and uncomfortable experiences.

Unlike the short-term effects of codeine addiction, long-term effects lead to the following complications:

Codeine Dependency

Codeine dependency can arise even when individuals are following the guidance of a certified medical professional. In a state of codeine dependency, individuals may find themselves reliant on having codeine in their system to maintain normal functioning.

This dependency occurs as prolonged use of codeine leads to alterations in the brain’s chemical makeup, causing it to adapt to functioning with codeine present. Consequently, a significant dependence may develop. Unlike the short-term effects, long-term codeine usage can result in various health complications. Those dependent on codeine often experience emotional and psychological addiction to the substance.

Codeine Overdose

Codeine overdose is one of the most fatal side effects of codeine abuse. When an individual uses codeine regularly, they are not aware of the amount and strength of the doses that they are putting in their body. A single overdose of codeine can lead to a failure of the respiratory system. This can result in fatality and immediate death.

Respiratory Failure

Unlike the short-term effects of codeine, its long-term effects can include depression in the respiratory system. This depression affects the heart rate by decreasing it. As a result, breathing becomes difficult and blood pressure falls.

Deteriorated Quality of Life

Misuse of codeine can result in addiction, which can significantly diminish one’s quality of life by adversely affecting both professional and personal spheres. Codeine dependence and addiction can impair an individual’s performance in their career, hampering concentration, critical thinking, and analytical abilities. Consequently, maintaining steady employment becomes challenging, often leading to unemployment.

Furthermore, relationships with others may suffer due to codeine use, as addictive behaviors may emerge in the pursuit and abuse of the drug, straining interpersonal connections.

Adrenal Insufficiency

This condition often arises among individuals who misuse codeine for more than a month. It involves a deficiency in hormone production by the adrenal glands, leading to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, and reduced blood pressure.

Neonatal Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal (NWOS)

The immediate impacts of codeine are notable, yet its prolonged usage can pose significant risks to both pregnant women and their unborn babies. Consistent consumption of codeine throughout pregnancy may lead to withdrawal symptoms in newborns, impeding their development. These symptoms often include irritability, excessive crying, malnourishment, vomiting, hyperactivity, and diarrhea, thereby underscoring the potential harm posed by codeine use during pregnancy.

How to manage the short-term effects of codeine?

Managing the short-term effects of codeine is typically more feasible than handling its long-term consequences, especially when it is administered under the supervision of a licensed medical practitioner. This is primarily due to the thorough evaluation that a qualified doctor conducts, which includes assessing the patient’s vital signs, medical history, and potential risk of substance abuse before prescribing codeine.

Healthcare professionals are well-informed about the potential risks associated with high doses of codeine, thus they tend to prescribe conservative amounts. However, even when codeine is prescribed by a doctor, short-term side effects may still occur. In such instances, medical interventions such as medications to alleviate symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, and headaches may be recommended.

Furthermore, adopting healthy lifestyle practices such as regular meditation, mindfulness exercises, and maintaining a balanced sleep routine can contribute to mitigating the short-term adverse effects of codeine.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the duration for taking codeine as a treatment?

Due to the addictive nature of codeine, it is not prescribed for more than 3 days. However, the duration of the treatment depends entirely upon the doctor.

2. What is codeine used for?

Codeine is used for alleviating the symptoms of pain, diarrhea, sleeplessness, and persistent cough. Codeine is also useful when painkillers with a lower potency like paracetamol and ibuprofen are not effective.

3. What are the short-term effects of codeine?

Short-term effects of codeine include aggressiveness, anxiety and panic attacks, soreness of muscles, perspiration, sleeplessness, drowsiness, stomach cramps and diarrhea, and nausea

4. How are the short-term effects of codeine compared to its long-term effects?

The long-term effects of codeine differ from the short-term ones. Short-term effects cause discomfort and affect the health for a brief period. However, the long-term effects of codeine include codeine dependency, codeine addiction, and tolerance,

5. How can an individual manage the short-term effects of codeine?

Short-term discomfort of codeine can be managed with the help of medications, meditation, and mindfulness.


Codeine, due to its narcotic properties, is classified as a controlled substance and is obtainable solely with a valid prescription to prevent misuse. Despite being less potent than other opioid narcotics such as morphine and fentanyl, codeine carries a potential risk of addiction.

When an individual demonstrates signs of addiction or substance abuse disorder, effective management can involve various approaches including medication, interventions, and therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and motivational enhancement therapy.

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