The accepted medical codeine effects are for pain relief. The drug is found most commonly in pain relievers (usually in combination with acetaminophen). A second use is as a cough suppressant. Other codeine effects are considered side effects, although whether they are wanted or not depends on who is taking the drug.
In illegal use, addicts seek a relaxed euphoria from the drug. The dizzy, drowsy buzz from codeine alone isn’t as all-consuming as it would be with the related drugs – heroin, morphine and oxycodone. Because of its milder codeine effects, some addicts think of it as a safe alternative to harder narcotics. They may also combine it with other drugs (marijuana or alcohol) to alter the experience.
The main codeine effects come from its conversion into morphine in the body. As much as 10% of an oral dose is changed through metabolism into morphine and if the dose of codeine is high enough, there is little difference in being addicted to one over the other.
Common unwanted codeine effects are the same as with other opioids: Nausea, vomiting and constipation. A high percentage of the population is allergic to codeine and this would be considered a serious side effect in some patients.
The narcotic codeine effects are drowsiness, loss of coordination and stupor. Very high doses can cause a decreased breathing rate, coma and death. Death can also occur in overdoses where the victim vomits while unable to react and the stomach contents are then taken into the lungs, causing suffocation.
Although not ranked as highly addictive, there is a possibility of codeine addiction – both physically and psychologically. Because codeine effects parallel those of oral morphine or heroin, this is no surprise. It is less addictive though, and because of this, codeine containing pain medications are very popular. In some countries they are available without a doctor’s prescription.