Alcohol and Codeine
Mixing alcohol and Codeine has become an increasingly popular trend in effort to increase the level of intoxication a person experiences. This is extremely dangerous as the mixture intensifies the effects of the other, increasing the risk of overdose and long-term health damage.
Mixing Alcohol and Codeine
People have abused alcohol and prescription-grade cough syrups such as Codeine for decades; however, mixing and consuming the two has become increasingly popular over the past 20 years, especially among young people. Some individuals are combining Codeine with alcohol simply because they’re unaware of the dangers, but others are doing it intentionally to experience a Codeine and alcohol high.
Due to the ways that the two substances affect the brain, the intoxication that results from mixing them is much more intense than just using one of them on their own. Codeine causes a lowered perception of pain and induces pleasurable feelings in users, and when it is combined with alcohol, these effects are temporarily enhanced. Codeine is not meant to be consumed in high doses or as a recreational beverage, so drinking it in combination with alcohol can cause multiple adverse mental and physical effects, especially if it’s abused for a long period of time.
What Is Codeine?
Codeine is a prescription opioid painkiller and cough suppressant that is similar in structure to Morphine. Codeine increases a person’s tolerance to pain and is available only by prescription. The drug is most commonly used to relieve mild to moderate pain and reduce coughing. When used correctly and as prescribed, it can help patients suffering from cold-related pain and/or chronic disruptive coughing find relief. However, when misused or combined with other substances like alcohol, the effects can be dangerous.
Taking Codeine without a prescription, or in any way that is not directed by a doctor, is considered abuse. This includes taking larger doses than prescribed and mixing the drug with other substances such as alcohol to get a stronger effect. The main reason people abuse Codeine is because of the euphoric high that the drug produces. Codeine is habit-forming and fairly easy to become addicted to. The intense high can cause people to crave the drug past the point of what is prescribed and become increasingly tolerant to the drug’s effects, requiring more and more of the opioid.
Many people that misuse Codeine may then begin combining the drug with alcohol to intensify their high. Although this does increase the level of intoxication, it also makes it easier for users to overdose on the drug, which can be fatal. Despite the potentially dangerous consequences, many people simply can’t resist the high that Codeine produces and will continue to mix it with alcohol to intensify the effects.
Side Effects of Codeine
Although Codeine can be extremely helpful in relieving pain, the drug also has a variety of harmful effects, which are amplified when the drug is not taken as prescribed. Some of the most common negative side effects include:
- Blurred vision
- Nausea and stomach pain
- Slowed breathing
- Mild itching
Despite the fact that Codeine is somewhat weaker than other opioid pain relievers, it is still possible to overdose on the drug, especially when combined with alcohol. Symptoms of overdose are:
- Bluish lips or skin
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Constricted, pinpoint, or small pupils
- Decreased awareness or responsiveness
- Extreme sleepiness or unusual drowsiness
- Slow or irregular heartbeat
Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Codeine
Combining alcohol and Codeine is extremely dangerous as the mixture intensifies the effects of the other, which increases the risk of overdose and long-term health damage. Alcohol can cause narcotic pain relievers like Codeine to rapidly release, resulting in dangerously high blood levels and intoxication. The mixture can also result in extremely impaired judgement, making driving and other daily activities particularly risky. Some of the most harmful side effects of mixing the two substances include:
- Extreme drowsiness or fatigue
- Mental impairment
- Low blood pressure
- Memory loss
- Delayed motor skills and reaction time
- Respiratory depression
- Fainting, coma, and even death
One of the most dangerous and potentially life-threatening effects of mixing alcohol and Codeine is the severe respiratory depression that can occur. Respiratory depression causes irregular breathing in the user, which reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the brain and body. This deprivation of oxygen can then result in long-term damage to major organ systems and even death. Abusing alcohol and Codeine together also increases the risk of liver and kidney damage. Additionally, the combination of alcohol and Codeine can cause damage to the gastrointestinal system, increasing the risk of abdominal bloating, inflammation, ulcers, indigestion, and malnutrition.
It’s also important to note that combining alcohol and Codeine means that in the case of overdose, it will be harder to treat. In relation to normal opioid overdoses, an emergency medical responder will administer Naloxone to temporarily stop the overdose symptoms until the patient can be transported to a hospital. However, when alcohol is added to the mix, Naloxone alone can’t reverse the overdose. Immediate medical attention is required and the person that overdosed will have to have his or her stomach pumped. People that overdose on a combination of Codeine and alcohol regularly suffer from brain damage, seizures, muscle deterioration, and heart issues as a result.
Lean in Pop Culture
Cough syrups have been widely misused for years, however, one of the most common ways that alcohol and Codeine are abused together is in a mixture called lean. Lean is a drink that is made by mixing prescription-grade cough syrup with alcohol, soft drinks, and hard candy for consumption in large doses.
Drinking lean became popular in the 1990s, largely because of its presence throughout rap and hip-hop culture. Houston rappers Pimp C and DJ Screw were the originators of “chopped and screwed” music, a technique where hip-hop songs are remixed and the tempo is slowed to around 60 beats per minute. The two rappers would feature the drink in their lyrics and music videos, inspiring listeners to try the drug for themselves. Since then, countless other celebrities and famous rappers, such as Lil’ Wayne and Three Six Mafia, have partied with mixture and featured it in hit songs. The prevalence of lean within pop culture has encouraged many young users to begin drinking the mixture in an effort to emulate their favorite artists. Lean has been responsible for the deaths of a number of hip-hop entertainers and is currently still a very popular party drink among young people around the world.
Treatment for Alcohol and Codeine Addiction
Mixing alcohol and Codeine is an extremely dangerous habit. Continued use of the narcotic mixture can quickly lead to addiction and overdose. Fortunately, there are many dual-diagnosis rehabilitation programs that can help people struggling with a Codeine and alcohol addiction recover. Contact a dedicated treatment provider to find the rehabilitation center that’s right for you today.
Clinical Reviewer — Last Reveiwed: July 10, 2019
Drug Abuse. (2018). Codeine Abuse. Retrieved on 29th May 2019 from https://drugabuse.com/codeine/
Mayo Clinic. (2019). Codeine (Oral Route). Retrieved on 29th May 2019 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/codeine-oral-route/side-effects/drg-20074022
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2014). Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol With Medicines. Retrieved on 29th May 2019 from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/harmful-interactions-mixing-alcohol-with-medicines
University of Rochester Medical Center. (2019). Cough Medicine Abuse By Teens. Retrieved on 29th May 2019 from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1&contentid=2617
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