True Codeine Addiction Stories & Recovery

Last Edited: November 20, 2020

Madison Kimberlin

Clinically Reviewed
Edward Jamison, MS, CAP, ICADC, LADC

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and certified by an addiction professional.

Codeine may feel like a warm and cozy high at first, however, like any opiate this pain-relieving medication leads to physical dependence and addiction. Generally, codeine is prescribed by a doctor for mild pain or respiratory infections and it comes in two forms.

The first form is a pill that contains both Codeine with Tylenol to treat minor pain symptoms. The second form is a cough syrup that consists of promethazine and codeine and is used to treat the symptoms associated with respiratory infections. Codeine is an opioid that for some may only have little effect. However, for others taking codeine will feel like a magic carpet ride.

Shirley’s Opiate Abuse Began with Codeine

Like many children her age, Shirley craved acceptance from peers; however, coming from a family of immigrants, she found it difficult to fit in. Shirley was an adolescent in the 1970s era. In the 1970s, drugs and alcohol were easy to come by for people of all ages. Shirley found her niche of friends shortly after her first hit of marijuana at 11 years old.

Later in life, Shirley experienced a severe addiction to opioids. She was issued continuous prescriptions from her doctor for the treatment of pain. Prescription painkillers she received every month were 80 OxyContin and 240 Lortab tablets. As her tolerance grew and her cravings for the medication increased, she found that her monthly supply wasn’t enough.

“I used to go to my pharmacist and tell her ‘I have a doctor appointment and he’s going to check my bottle and I need like 5 pills to put in my bottle to show the doctor that I’m taking them the way I’m supposed to be, you can just take them from my refill when I get it’ and she would do it.” Her addiction evolved into heroin and eventually crack cocaine use, as well. Opioid addiction took Shirley’s 30-year marriage, her home and her ability to drive.

Clarity about her opioid dependence came to her after she spent her entire paycheck on drugs. Meanwhile, her brother was on his way to pick her up and take care of her in his home. She knew he wouldn’t bring her to his home if he knew, but she couldn’t bring herself to tell him. At this time, she realized that if her brother didn’t come as scheduled, she would soon be dead.

Through all the ups and downs, Shirley committed herself to rehab. She admits that her life isn’t perfect; however, she’s tremendously happy. She understands that substance abuse treatment is the first step toward building a new life. “Because most of the people I’ve met that are using and are broken…don’t need to repair the life they had, the need to find a new way of living.” Shirley’s story illustrates that it’s never too late to seek treatment for addiction and begin a healthy, happy life in recovery.

Narcotics Almost Killed Lauren

In the United States, honor societies recognize students with academic excellence or outstanding leadership among peers. As an honor society student, Lauren had the world at her feet with no sign of a prescription painkiller addiction in sight.

Then she was diagnosed with endometriosis. Endometriosis is a painful condition in which one or more growths appear on the outside of the uterus. After 16 surgeries to relieve her chronic pain, including an opioid prescription after each surgery, Lauren was addicted. She realized that she had developed a pill addiction that was so severe, she was simply unable to function without them.

Other methods of pain relief were explored, which were unsuccessful. One of the methods actually worsened her pain. This method was as an injection in her spine that went wrong. Following this, she had several more surgeries, which resulted in additional damage to her spine. All the spinal damage and pain she experienced kept her confined to a wheelchair for a year. Feelings that came with being unable to walk on her own were encouraging to her pill addiction. Addiction to opioid pain-relivers is all consuming and often causes isolation.

Soon, Lauren lost hope that she would ever beat the excruciating pain and get better. She found herself grateful for the numbness the prescription opioids brought her. Through the pain of her medical conditions and struggles with addiction, Lauren didn’t notice anyone around her. She was unable to recognize the heartbreak that her opioid abuse was causing her loved ones. Coincidentally, it was this heartbreak that inspired her loved ones to seek family intervention services.

With the help of a skilled interventionist, her family hosted a warm, loving meeting. In the intervention they voiced their concerns about the severity of her addiction and explained how it’s affecting those around her. Lauren accepted the help and leaned on her intervention specialist for strength in moments of doubt on her way to the drug rehab center.

Her rehabilitation program educated her on how addiction was affecting her brain. Also, the rehab introduced her to the 12-step program and provided recovery support. Lauren had a support system of peers that reminded her to forgive herself and be patient as she started her journey to recovery.

Today, Lauren’s recovery has revealed to her that the family intervention saved her life from addiction. She shares her story with anyone who can benefit from hearing it.

Ronny’s Prescription Painkiller Addiction

Like so many people who realize they’re not heterosexual at a young age, some of Ronny’s identity began to depart from his Mexican and Catholic upbringing. When his mom had a negative reaction to his honest confessions about his sexuality, his stress level increased substantially. Despite this confusion, Ronny began a relationship with someone very special to him at the time.

After a car accident and he received an ongoing prescription of an opioid painkiller called Percocet. In taking Percocet continuously, an addiction developed. Unexpectedly, his boyfriend’s family was struggling with addiction, as well. Many of the arguments he was present for centered on pain pills, which he didn’t understand at first. The importance of painkillers to an addicted person became clearer to him, as his own addiction to them deepened.

When Ronny’s doctor stopped renewing his prescriptions of Percocet, he experienced withdrawals. Percocet and other opioid withdrawal often include symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, muscle pain, nausea and vomiting, insomnia, increased heart rate, restlessness, chills, watery eyes or nose, and shallow breathing. Ronny thought he was sick until his boyfriend’s mother gave him one of her personal painkillers.

When he took the pill, his symptoms vanished. This left a lasting impression on Ronny, that Percocet would always make him feel better. Shortly after this occurred, his relationship became emotionally and physically abusive. To cope with his broken heart, Ronny started taking Oxycontin, another prescription Opioid, similar to Percocet. This expensive drug addiction led him to sell all of his treasured and valuable possessions. His addiction to Oxycontin resulted in the loss of his most important relationships.

Ronny’s addiction took over his life. Then one day while he was at school someone gave him a flyer that discussed removing the stigma of addiction. Turns out – this was what he needed to turn his life around. As an advocate for his own health, Ronny searched out community resources to understand his options for substance abuse treatment. Upon entering treatment, he came to understand that the addiction didn’t have to control his life. He realized that the essence of who he is remained present after overcoming active addiction.

Feelings of hopelessness, denial, and defeat are some of the effects of addiction. Treatment allows one to break down these feelings into symptoms of addiction that can be treated. Today, Ronny believes that attending a drug treatment program relieved his suffering. Treatment helped guide him through goals and put his life back on track. You can do it, too.

Lydia Fought Back Against Her Prescription Opioid Addiction

For many people, the path to addiction can start as early as childhood. For example, Lydia began drinking Alcohol very early in her life, citing her responsibility to clean up after her parents’ parties. She would combine all of the Alcohol left in the guests’ drinking glasses in one glass for her to drink.

Earlier than that, her old-fashioned father believed in the ability of whiskey to treat a sore throat or a toothache. By adolescence, Lydia was helping herself to her father’s beers in the family refrigerator. Lydia finished high school and achieved her childhood dream of becoming a chef. However, her endeavors in adulthood placed her in risky circumstances with people five to ten years older.

She was more than happy to accept Alcohol and a variety of illicit drugs from these more experienced adults. Soon, Lydia found herself unable to function without the help of these substances including Marijuana, Cocaine, Methamphetamines, Shrooms, and LSD.

As her addiction intensified, Lydia became promiscuous in her attempts to make real connections with other adults. Soon she became pregnant and gave birth to a healthy baby. Her baby’s father insisted that she stay home and take care of their child and he would go out to find substances to get them high.

Despite being new parents, Lydia and her baby’s father made getting high their first priority. Eventually, her baby’s father was arrested and suffered severe withdrawals while in jail. Despairingly, he committed suicide behind bars. Soon after Lydia began working the 12-step program to overcome her Alcohol and drug addiction.

After nine years in recovery without relapse, Lydia was injured and received prescription Painkillers. Her doctor gave her Percocet, a prescription Opioid medication for pain. She was ashamed and embarrassed at 12-step meetings while she was taking her prescribed pain medication. This compelled her to quickly stop going to meetings and she soon detached from her recovery.

After losing control of her recovery, Lydia began abusing the Narcotic Painkillers. Feeling hopeless, she confided in her husband, who supported her way back to a healthy life in recovery from addiction. Today, Lydia enjoys her daily life. She even tries to avoid sleeping during the day because she doesn’t want to miss a moment. Her self-image and outlook on life are positive and wholesome these days. This can happen for anyone with an addiction, even you or a loved one.

For those who become addicted – codeine is like being wrapped in a warm blanket of euphoria, everything feels right and good in the world. At first the drug seems to help stress and anxiety melt away. When feeling like your problems are left behind – it’s common to feel like you can accomplish anything. For some people, using codeine feels a lot like hope, as if life is better on codeine – at least for the first few times it’s used.

After using codeine, a handful of times, a tolerance starts to develop. When your drug tolerance starts to build up, you’ll have to take more to feel the same effect. The times when you’re not mentally and physically influenced by the codeine high – life seems dull. In addition to life being dreary – you find yourself unmotivated, anxious, irritable and obsessing about getting or using more.

If you’ve reached the point of tolerance development, it is likely that physical dependence is setting in. Once physically dependent on opioids such as codeine, withdrawal or “coming down” feels like you have the flu and your body aches. At this point all you want is codeine in your system. This is where codeine become a gateway to other opioids. Many people acquire an addiction to opioids from a doctor prescription to codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and/or morphine, etc.

Addiction to any opioid is a long, desperate and hopeless existence. It starts off being the solution to every problem and soon becomes your only desire. Long-time friends and family fall away and are replaced with drug dealers and using buddies. The people you surround yourself with often share the same feelings of shame about drug use and frees you from having to feel any judgment.

Lying, stealing and manipulating become second nature. When addicted to codeine and other opioids, the light that was once behind your eyes is replaced with a desperation to get high. All you want is to feel that warm euphoria again and again. If you haven’t tried heroin by this point in your opioid addiction, it’s not far off. The cost of using prescription painkillers is exorbitant, costing several dollars per pill. With a physical dependence and ever-increasing tolerance, taking multiple pills at a time, several times a day is common.

In comparison to opioid painkillers, heroin becomes the easier and cheaper option. Although the heroin high is a little different, it is very much the same. Saving money may cause you to feel like you’ve got a handle on the problem. However, there is no such thing as safe or manageable opioid addiction. feeling like you’re in control on your opioid use is simply an illusion. You may want to stop the cycle of self-loathing and shame that comes with addiction. However, many find themselves unable to get more than a day or two without getting high.

It gets to a point where all you can focus on is staying well and avoiding the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Dealers and friends create a stigma around coming down and some even convince you that you can die from opiate withdrawal. While death is always a possibility, it only occurs in certain rare circumstances. For many people addicted to opioids, detoxing is a non-fatal, uncomfortable and necessary process.

There is Hope for Codeine Addiction

If you feel like all hope has been lost – it’s not. Your addiction may have you convinced that getting clean from Codeine and other prescription Opioids is impossible. You may feel like you don’t deserve to get clean after all the things you’ve done in the name of drugs. Relationships with family members may be damaged, but for most these relationships are not totally lost.

Often, families are just waiting to hear in your voice a sincere readiness to get help and that this time you mean it. Addiction as a way of life can end and you deserve to give yourself a chance. Staying in the same old patterns of drug use will only cause you more and more pain. At some point there will be an intervention, it may be the legal system, your family or death. Every time you go back out and start using Opioids you risk not coming back.

There is hope, the road to recovery is long and difficult, but the rewards are immeasurable. Looking in the mirror and seeing the light in your eyes, getting a job, mending relationships, and making amends make life worth living. Many people with addiction to codeine and other prescription Opioids have left their hopeless lives behind them – which means you can too. If you feel like you are afraid to take that first step, listen to Shirley’s story.

Finding Joy in Recovery from Codeine Addiction

Despite feeling lost, numb and ashamed while battling drug addiction, accepting help and going to treatment can be an unnerving time. Sometimes, it can feel easier to fight the addiction by simply surviving life hour by hour. Doubt, denial, and anxiety tend to infiltrate the addicted brain. The brains dysfunctional process is designed to protect and continue the supply of illicit drugs and other substances it has become addicted to.

The first step to finding joy in recovery from a codeine addiction is to remain committed to detox, treatment, and recovery. Getting throughout the adverse cerebral reactions that often result during this time is important for success. Giving permission to yourself to go through the recovery process can make a huge difference in your journey.

Be patient through the ups and downs of drug cravings, individual or family therapy and other treatments you receive. Assist in your recovery by getting plenty of exercise, eating a variety of healthy foods and repairing and strengthening important relationships. Perhaps the best way to find joy in a life of recovery is to serve others. Participate in community service events, charity runs or walks, or another cause that you feel connected to.

Many people in recovery from addiction find that helping others on the same path is extraordinarily meaningful. If you’re ready to put the past and your addiction behind you and look forward to a brighter future, you’ve come to the right place. Give us a call (866) 578-7471 – we can help you figure out the best treatment options if you or your loved one’s unique needs.