Cough Syrup Addiction Treatment: Do You Really Need It?

When you think of commonly misused drugs, you might think of heroin or cocaine. But, cough syrup with codeine is one of the most commonly misused drugs. Unfortunately, an addiction to cough syrup often begins in the teen years.

Prescription cough syrup contains both alcohol and codeine. Although codeine is thought to be a pain reliever, it’s incredibly effective for coughs. However, there are various negative side effects of codeine cough syrup. The most significant side effect, addiction, can have you seeking cough syrup addiction treatment.

Why an Addiction to Cough Syrup?

It surprises many parents and caretakers that teens misuse a common substance in the medicine cabinet. But, some cough syrups contain codeine, dextromethorphan (DMX), promethazine, and other narcotics. As a result, people may feel relaxed and even high. 

Common brands include:

  • Tylenol-Codeine Elixir
  • Robitussin
  • Phenergan
  • Dimetapp DM
  • Nyquil
  • Robitussin
  • Theraflu
  • Vicks Formula 44

Even store brands such as Wal-Tussin and Wal-flu may produce a high. A study in 2017 by the University of Michigan found 3 percent of teens misuse cough syrup with codeine. But, an addiction to cough syrup is dangerous. Side effects of codeine cough syrup can include damage to the brain, heart, nervous system, and other organs. 

What are the Symptoms and Side Effects of Codeine Cough Syrup?

Taking cough syrup with codeine in high quantities may make you feel euphoric, happy, and relaxed. However, it may ultimately have you seeking cough syrup addiction treatment. Cough syrup with codeine also has adverse side effects, which may include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Poor coordination
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Weakness

However, frequent high doses can lead to severe side effects, including slowed or stopped breathing. Unfortunately, people often misuse cough syrup with codeine by mixing it with alcoholic drinks, making it even more dangerous.

Cough Syrup Addiction Treatment

What is Purple Drank?

Although the main ingredient of cough syrup with codeine is a mild opioid, people seeking a high often misuse this prescription drug. However, cough syrup with codeine no longer contains alcohol. 

So, people mix it with alcohol to enhance the buzz. Often called Purple Drank because of the color of cough syrup with codeine, other street names include:

  • Purple Drank
  • Sizzurp
  • Syrup
  • Lean

How Long Does Cough Syrup with Codeine Stay in Your System?

Although many factors determine how long cough syrup stays in your system. These factors include how much and how often you use codeine, your age, weight, and metabolism, among other factors. 

While there is no exact time, estimates include:

  • Urine – 2 to 3 days
  • Blood – up to 24 hours
  • Saliva – 1 to 4 days
  • Hair follicles – up to 2 to 3 months, but it may take a few weeks after use to register

The Side Effects of Codeine Cough Syrup Mixed With Alcohol

Misusing cough syrup with codeine by mixing it with alcohol can produce dangerous and even fatal side effects. Some of these side effects include:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Sedation
  • Memory loss
  • Dissociation
  • Seizures
  • Cravings and dependence
  • Withdrawal symptoms

Both alcohol and codeine are central nervous system depressants and can slow breathing while you sleep. So, by mixing the two, the effects are enhanced, which can lead to an overdose. 

What Are the Signs of an Overdose?

If you suspect a cough syrup with codeine overdose in you or someone else, call 911 immediately. An overdose can quickly turn fatal. Signs of an overdose may include:

  • Breathing problems – slow, shallow, labored breathing or no breathing
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Coma
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Muscle twitches
  • Tiny pupils
  • Weakness
  • Weak pulse

What is an Addiction to Cough Syrup?

When medication containing codeine is taken as prescribed, they’re generally safe. However, if you start to misuse or take more than prescribed, you build a tolerance to the drug. So, you take more cough syrup with codeine to get the same effects.

Eventually, the tolerance turns to dependence. Now, your brain can’t function without codeine. At this stage, you develop a substance use disorder which means you:

  • Take the drug more often 
  • Take higher doses than prescribed
  • Take medicine just to get high
  • Keep using to avoid withdrawal symptoms

What are the Withdrawal Side Effects of Codeine Cough Syrup?

If you’re misusing cough syrup with codeine frequently then suddenly stop or cut back, you may go into withdrawal. As the body tries to adjust to not having the drug, you can have noticeable symptoms. The side effects of codeine cough syrup can be mild to severe, which may affect you physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Physical Side Effects of Cough Syrup with Codeine Withdrawal

  • Stomach discomfort
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dehydration
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive yawning
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Muscle aches
  • Rash
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue

Severe physical signs may include:

  • Chest pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Seizure
  • Shortness of breath

Mental and Emotional Side Effects of Codeine Cough Syrup Withdrawal

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Restlessness
  • Cravings

Severe mental and emotional side effects include:

  • Psychosis
  • Thoughts of self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
Break free from addiction

Is Cough Syrup Addiction Treatment Necessary?

Because of the side effects of codeine cough syrup withdrawal, some people give up and go back to using it. Plus, withdrawal symptoms from an addiction to cough syrup can last up to 30 days. For these reasons, entering a cough syrup addiction treatment center can help you achieve and maintain recovery.

Treatment for an addiction to cough syrup with codeine often begins with detox. The safest and most effective way to detox is in an inpatient cough syrup addiction treatment center. Inpatient facilities like Sana Lake Behavioral Wellness Center help you through the physical and mental struggles of addiction to cough syrup.

Medication-Assisted Treatment in Cough Syrup Addiction Treatment

Depending on the person and their addiction to cough syrup, the use of medication in treatment may be necessary. Medications can help ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings for cough syrup with codeine and include:

  • Buprenorphine
  • Lofexidine
  • Methadone
  • Naltrexone

These medications block codeine’s euphoric effects, which may help prevent further use. However, medications alone cannot treat addiction to cough syrup. 

Behavioral Therapies for an Addiction to Cough Syrup

Like all substance use disorders, an addiction to cough syrup begins for many reasons. Whether it’s because of peer pressure or trying to cope with mental health struggles, it changes our behaviors and thought patterns. So, your treatment plan will likely include various behavioral therapies.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for an Addiction to Cough Syrup

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a form of talk therapy. It’s designed to help members change harmful and negative thoughts. In CBT, therapists help you focus on the present and not the past. Staying present is essential in treating many mental health disorders. 

CBT helps treat addiction to cough syrup by helping members:

  • Manage mental health disorders
  • Learn the skills to cope with stress
  • Manage emotions
  • Learn healthy communication skills
  • Manage chronic symptoms
  • Prevent relapse

Multidimensional Family Therapy in Cough Syrup Addiction Treatment

Often an addiction to cough syrup begins as adolescents. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported in 2008, over 3 million teens and young adults used cough syrup with codeine and other cold medicines to get high. And that number continues to grow today.

Unfortunately, when a teen struggles with an addiction to cough syrup with codeine, it affects the whole family. Multidimensional family therapy, or MFT, is essential in rebuilding healthy family dynamics and lasting recovery.

Motivational Interviewing in Cough Syrup with Codeine Addiction Treatment

Motivational interviewing, or MI, is talk therapy designed to motivate members to make healthy, positive changes. For example, a person may want to change their behavior. However, they don’t think they are ready to change. 

In motivational interviewing, the therapist does not impose their views. Instead, the therapist helps members uncover the true motivation for recovery from addiction to cough syrup with codeine.

Long-Term Recovery Support for an Addiction to Cough Syrup with Codeine

Depending on your addiction to cough syrup and any co-occurring disorders, lasting recovery often requires long-term treatment. Substance use disorder is a chronic disease that changes the brain. For this reason, it’s not uncommon to struggle with a recurrence of use. 

So, to encourage lifelong recovery, members must treat the disease for life. This doesn’t mean you have to be in therapy and group meetings every day (unless you’re having an exceptionally challenging time in your recovery). Attending 12-step meetings and staying involved in the recovery community are great therapeutic ways to maintain your recovery.

Get Help Today at Sana Lake Behavioral Wellness Center

Are you or someone you love struggling with drug or alcohol addiction? Have you been to treatment for an addiction to cough syrup and then relapsed? Our Continuum of Care approach to treatment means we are with you every step of your recovery journey. Contact us today to find out more.

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