Codeine is a commonly prescribed opioid. According to the FDA, Codeine taken alone helps relieve mild to moderate or severe pain. In many cases, codeine is paired with acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) to treat and relieve painful coughing. It is a standard prescription pill for pain relief from dental procedures and to help suppress painful coughing. Like all prescription medications, it is illegal for the drug to be used by anyone whom it is not prescribed.
Codeine prescribed in liquid form, known as Promethazine/Codeine, mixes antihistamines with the codeine opioid to treat and suppress more extreme coughing from illnesses such as the flu, bronchitis, etc. Promethazine/Codeine is commonly referred to as “Lean,” “Purple Drink,” “Dirty Sprite,” “Syrup,” and “Texas tea.”
Popularized through music, movies, and TV shows by characters drinking from white Styrofoam cups, the codeine-based liquid medication mixed with Sprite is often seen as a less-severe addiction or drug than heroin, morphine, or OxyContin. While overdose from liquid codeine is less frequent than opioids that are injected, Promethazine/Codeine abuse and addiction can lead to overdose and death, especially when mixed with alcohol.
In the News
Like other opioids, codeine has received more national attention because of the addiction epidemic that has swept the country in the last decade. While the pain-killing concoction has become a mainstay in hip-hop thanks to songs by artists like Lil’ Wayne and shows like Power, it has become popular in adolescents, teens, and young adults. It’s not all glamour, though, as codeine is one of the opioids responsible for the record-setting overdose deaths caused by opioids in 2017—49,000+.
Codeine is receiving more serious attention after the overdose and death of popular music producer and artist Mac Miller in September 2018. Born Malcolm McCormick, the musician had reportedly been battling an addiction to liquid codeine for years, was sober for some time, before relapsing earlier in 2018. He was 26, and his story is all too familiar to those of us who have loved ones who are addicted to opioids in any form.
In 2017, the FDA changed the regulations that affect codeine. It issued new labeling guidelines to limit the number of prescriptions, especially for those under the age of 18. The latest information makes the dangers of misusing codeine very clear:
- Slowed or difficult breathing
The FDA finished with a recommendation that all healthcare professions no longer prescribe codeine to any patient under 18.
Signs of Addiction
Aside from using the prescription medications, here are some behaviors that suggest a person is abusing prescription painkillers and has developed an addiction:
- Multiple prescriptions for the same drug from multiple doctors (known as “doctor shopping”)
- Ordering painkiller medications from online stores
- Becoming defensive when questioned about how often they take a dose
- Taking more than “suggested dosage”
- Finding empty prescription medication bottles around the house or the car
- Taking liquid codeine without measuring out a proper dose
Symptoms of Codeine Dependence
“Lean,” the most common slang term for Promethazine/Codeine got its name because of the way the person under its influence leans and gets drowsy. Other symptoms of dependence include irritability, extreme sweating, insomnia, mood swings, constipation, nausea, and difficulty in breathing.
Treatment and Hope
Admitting you or a loved one has a problem with prescription medications is a difficult and scary first step. We want you to know that whether you or your child or loved one is battling an addiction to codeine in pill or liquid form, we are here to help.
Perhaps the hardest part of admitting a person has a substance abuse problem is the stigma we have of what an addict is. One thing that an addict is not is bad. Addiction is a health issue, not a moral issue.
Boardwalk Recovery is here to help you live free of addiction so that you or loved ones can start loving life again, sober and clean. Please give us a call to speak with an addiction specialist for a free consultation. Our expert doctors ensure a safe and medically-supervised recovery from physical dependence. Our programs feature therapeutic and experiential approaches because recovery from drug addiction is about living clean and happy.