Addicted to Codeine / Dihydrocodeine

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Hi all,

This post is really just so I can make a statement about my addiction and I hope that this will help me in beating it.

I'm also a recovering alcoholic, and have been doing well with my recovery, I only drank on 5 occasions last year and have been sober all through 2017, so on that side of things then all looks positive.

However, throughout last year I started taking codeine or dihydrocodeine recreationally as I found it gave me a nice escape from life (much like alcohol had). As my tolerance increased I found myself taking larger and larger does to get 'high'. I am getting the drugs without prescription which is expensive, so I also discovered the 'cold-water extraction' technique in which you take OTC co-codamol (paracetamol and codeine), or Paramol (paracetamol and dihydrocodeine) and crush them up then dissolve them in water, chill the solution down to near freezing and finally filter it. The aim being to filter out the paracetamol and leave the codeine / dihydrocodeine. The issue with this method is that you don't really know how much paracetamol is getting through, and paracetamol can be very toxic to the liver.

I was taking opioids a couple of times a week, or maybe only a few times in a fortnight for a while, but towards the end of last year my usage escalated, and I have been taking it every evening for 7-8 days straight, managing to stop for 2-4 days (and getting withdrawals) and then starting again for another 7-10 days or so. I now need to take 400-600mg codeine in one go to feel much of a high, or at least 400mg dihydrocodeine.

My health is suffering, my mental health is badly affected (I suffer with depression and anxiety anyway), I am getting into debt and due to the escalating costs and massive tolerance I have found myself contemplating getting some Heroin, which thankfully I haven't.

I have about 20x 30mg dihydrocodeine at home, and once they are gone then I really want to stop this habit before it escalates further, or before I do myself permanent damage. I feel like a fool for getting into another addiction after years of fighting alcoholism. I feel ashamed too and annoyed at myself.

I've just put this thread out there because I know that when tackling my alcohol issues that it helped just to admit the severity of things to others.

Thanks for reading, sorry for the long post. Best wishes to you all!

1 like, 12 replies

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12 Replies

  • Posted

    Hi Dom,

    Firstly please do not feel ashamed of your addiction, at least certainly not here on this forum. Lots of us have dealt with addiction, it can happen to anyone, and often does.

    So now that is out of the way, I'd like to give u some advice that you might not (A) know about, and (B) well hopefully help you to quit.

    Did u know that codeine creates histamine in the process of turning into morphine in your body? At the doses you're taking it in, you're dangerously close to an allergic reaction. So, at least make sure you're also taking an antihistamine at the same time as the codeine. The drowsy every 4hrs are the most effective in this instance.

    Ok, I'm going to suggest that in your quest to quit that u seek medical help. Go to your gp and fess up, you need to be asking him to prescribe pregabalin (also known as Lyrica. A quick Google will reveal how much this medication helps to battle withdrawals) so that the withdrawals aren't as bad as pure cold turkey. An increasing dose of pregabalin whilst decreasing the codeine dosage should be able to have u clean within a short few weeks. But once the physical side is dealt with, you're going to need some psychiatric help too.

    Whatever caused you to have these addictions whatever it is you're self medicating against needs dealing with. Otherwise it'll just be relapse after relapse. So please, consider your mental health as seriously as you are the physical/addiction side of things.

    We're here to offer support for you, so make use of us.

    Charlie wink

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    • Posted

      Hi Charlie,

      Thank you so much for your kind words and support. It's much appreciated.

      I did know about the histamine reaction, largely through experience. I do take an anti-histamine now whenever I take codeine or dhihydrocodeine otherwise I am very itchy. I sometimes get a bit itchy even though I take the anti-histamine. I find codeine elicits a worse reaction than dihydrocodeine for some reason.

      I will take your advice on seeing my GP. I have spoken to a GP about this in the past (even though it wasn't as severe then) but I have since moved and changed surgeries.

      You're right that the underlying issues need to be addressed. I am currently having psychotherapy and have been seeing the same therapist for about 16 months. I believe I am making progress in many ways, but perhaps the fact I have succumbed to another addiction suggests otherwise. I have been talking to him about this issue, so he is aware of it. I have done a lot of painful and deep work in therapy and it's disheartening in some ways that I am still struggling after the effort I have made.

      Thanks again for your support and advice Charlie! All the best,

      Dom

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    • Posted

      It seems that you're on the right path to seeing the root causes for your addictive behaviour, so that's a great thing.

      Please look into the pregabalin (gabapentin which is in the same family also works, but not as well as it's big brother, pregabalin) route to alleviating withdrawals. The only sticking point might be the fact that alcoholics are advised to not take it, due to it mimicking alcohol to a certain extent. The thing is though, it stops restless legs, and helps you sleep. In some circles it's seen as a miracle drug re opiate withdrawal.

      It's best to try and get your gp to prescribe it, but you can get it from online pharmacies that have prescription giving private docs attached. Similar/the same places you're likely ordering the codeine from. If you use legit and legal ones though, you at least know you're getting genuine meds.

      Best of luck,

      Charlie.

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    • Posted

      Thanks Charlie!

      I'm feeling really low and overwhelmed today, but I know that the poioids are disrupting my mental health severely so I should avoid drawing any conclusions at this stage.

      I'll definitely speak to my GP about the pregabalin, and will also ask for liver function / blood tests to check whether the cold water extractions I've been doing on and off have caused any damage.

      I need to motivate myself to take these steps forward as I am feeling pretty stuck in a rut. Thanks for your support!

      Dom

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  • Posted

    Hi Dom, your story is very similar to mine. I am also a recovering alcoholic but am now getting over a codeine addiction. I too feel like a stupid prick for getting addicted to something else but have accepted that there is no good that comes from beating myself up. I am very close to being off them completely. The only way I could do it was to taper off it. It hurts like f*** but IT PASSES. I promise. The withdrawals were the worst thing I've ever felt so that is why I decided going cold turkey was not an option for me. I am now down to 2 tablets a day when I was taking up to 50. Every day I feel a bit more normal and can picture life again.

    The anxiety and depression will pass, it is a withdrawal symptom. Your body needs to reprogramme itself and it's nervous system as we have completely buggered it with these pills. Be strong. Ask anything you need to. You can do it. B

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    • Posted

      Hi B,

      Thanks so much for your reply and the support. I've been meaning to reply for a while but things have been pretty hectic!

      That's so great that you are almost off codeine completely. Getting down from 50 to 2 is amazing - well done! I hope you are completely free of them soon.

      I've still been on and off with the codeine / dihydrocodeibne, A couple of days after my post I went cold turkey again and went 6 days without any. The side effects had really eased, but last Monday I did a cold water extraction on 2 packs of co-codamol, and again on Tuesday and Thursday. I got hold of some pure dihydrocodeine and I took half the pack Friday, was clean yesterday, and took the other half tonight.

      The withdrawal symptoms were pretty bad today and naturally I feel good tonight, but even then I can still feel some aches in my muscles/bones and I'm still slightly dizzy when I move quickly - the dizziness is a side effect I've only noticed the last couple of months whenever I stopped. 

      For me the thing that keeps driving me back now is the anxiety and depression - and the pattern of taking it to ease my evenings alone, which is part of the mental addiction, rather than physical. I am on antidepressants for depression anyway, and I am certain the codeine interferes with the way they work (and it might be that interaction that causes the dizziness, as I get that when starting an antidpressant, or adjusting the dose up or down).

      I really hope I can have a better week. I did have 3 days without taking anything this week, so I'll take that as a positive.

      How are things with you? I hope you're doing OK and had a good weekend. Take care, Dom 

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    • Posted

      Hi Dom,

      I'm sorry you found the urge to go back too strong. I also get awful depression and anxiety so I 100% understand. That last day that I commented took a very unexpected turn. I was so depressed that day. But before I could even try to fix it i started having severe stomach pain. I assumed I was getting a gastric bug so tried to ride it out but ended up in A&E with a burst gangrenous appendix!!! Had an emergency operation on Wednesday and am still in hospital as my body is riddled with infection from the gangrene! This was the strangest turn of events but when I went into hospital I made sure I told all doctors and nurses that I am trying to wean off codeine and to give me something else for the pain.

      In short, I haven't had codeine for 4 days now and I've been too preoccupied with the sheer unimaginable agony of this appendix lark that I reckon I'll be free from here on in!

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    • Posted

      Hi B,

      I'm so sorry to hear about the appendix and subsequent infection. It sounds awful and I hope you are on the mend and will soon be fully better. It sounds like you will be clear of codeine when you leave though, which is great!

      I am hoping I can start the coming week positively tomorrow and then carry that momentum through. The codeine / dihdrocodeine is doing less and less for me, and the side effects when I stop are just getting worse and worse, and I really want to sort this out!

      All the best and get well soon!

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    • Posted

      I do not at all recommend going cold turkey. You need to taper off and avoid relapsing by taking to ppl close to you about it. That was when it became easier for me, because I wasn't trying to hide why I was in so much pain and so restless.

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    • Posted

      Thanks B!

      One of the issues about a slow taper is getting hold of the codeine, as it's expensive to get hold of without a prescription and I am getting in increasing debt. However, I do take your point that a taper is the best way forward. I still have regular appointments at a drug and alcohol service due to my alcoholism, and I am now speaking to them about the codeine / dihydrocodeine, so I will discuss options with them.

      I hope you are doing OK and making a speedy recovery!

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