Some drug use can be extremely beneficial at times. Certain drugs, like codeine, can provide a user with something they need, such as pain relief. However, some drugs can be addictive, making it more likely that a person may abuse them and develop an addiction. In some cases, consuming a drug like codeine can lead a person to an even more dangerous and addictive drug like heroin. 


To understand how codeine use can lead to heroin addiction, one must first understand what codeine is, how it affects a person, and how it relates to heroin.  

What is Codeine?

Codeine is a depressant drug commonly prescribed to individuals to treat mild to moderate pain. However, it can also be used to help reduce coughing. Codeine is an effective pain reliever because it is an opioid. Any drug in the opioid category contains opium, a substance which attaches itself to receptors and blocks pain signals between the brain and body. However, codeine, like many other opioids, does not treat or help recover what is causing pain or a cough. It only provides relief from pain and/or coughing.  

Using Codeine

Codeine is available as a tablet, capsule, or solution. Most often, the directions for consuming codeine will instruct an individual to consume a standard dosage every 4 to 6 hours. However, it is possible for a doctor to instruct a patient with different instructions on consuming codeine.   

Side Effects of Codeine Use

Like any other drug, codeine can be the cause of some minor as well as some serious side effects.  

The minor side effects of codeine use can include: 

  • Stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Agitation
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

The serious side effects of codeine use can include: 

  • Fever
  • Confusion
  • Shivering
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Rash
  • Loss of coordination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Changes in heartbeat 
  • Changes in vision
  • Seizures 

What is Heroin?

Like codeine, heroin is also a depressant, opioid drug. However, heroin is more powerful and more addictive, making it an even more effective pain reliever. Unlike codeine, heroin is produced and distributed illegally and is made from natural sources of opium. 

Heroin typically takes the form of an off-white powder or a sticky, black tar. It can be consumed in a number of ways, but injections are the most common. 

Effects of Heroin 

Once consumed, heroin causes several significant effects on a person’s body and mind. Like codeine, the opium in heroin blocks receptors in the body in order to interrupt pain signals. However, heroin is also a depressant, which means that it will slow functions in the brain and body. This can leave a person who consumes heroin feeling mentally and physically numb. It can also cause a person to experience euphoria.

What is Heroin Addiction? 

Heroin addiction is a condition in which a person has an impaired ability to stop or control their abuse of heroin. Addiction affects every individual a little differently and has different levels of severity. 

In any case, an addiction to a substance like heroin develops over time. As a person abuses heroin, the body is forced to adapt to its persistent presence. Eventually, the body becomes physically and mentally dependent on the drug in order to operate in everyday life. Because of this, the brain will restructure itself, making a person more likely to engage in addictive behaviors like abusing heroin. In doing so, the body is more likely to receive what it believes it needs.   

How Codeine Use can Lead to Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction is not a condition that forms after one use or even overnight. There are several factors that can contribute to the development of an addiction. Some of the most significant factors include an individual’s genetics, their perception of illegal drugs, their environment, their mental health, and whether or not they have abused other substances.

Unfortunately, in some cases, using codeine, an addictive opioid, can lead to heroin addiction. There are a number of reasons why this situation might occur, but it is often due to codeine not meeting a user’s expectations. 

Codeine is an extremely beneficial pain reliever. However, when used over extended periods of time, the body will develop a tolerance to it. In doing so, codeine will slowly but surely become less effective. Since codeine does not help in recovery, a person’s chronic pain may still be a problem even as the substance becomes ineffective. In order to soothe this pain, an individual may choose to consume a more effective opioid, and one of the most effective opioids is heroin.

Sadly, a pursuit like this can lead to the development of heroin addiction. That is why it is important to consistently work with a doctor and other medical professionals to recover as well as relieve chronic pain. A doctor may even be able to provide alternatives for pain relief when a drug like codeine is no longer effective. Doing so can help a person avoid addiction to a dangerous substance like heroin.      

How to Treat an Addiction 

Treating an addiction of any kind can be difficult, but fortunately, it is possible. There are hundreds of rehabilitation facilities across the United States that offer proven treatments for opioid addiction. These facilities often employ a combination of medications and behavioral therapy that can help an individual recover from both the mental and physical aspects of addiction. Many facilities will also offer treatment programs that fit the unique needs of their patients, including inpatient and outpatient treatment.  

Seeking Effective Addiction Treatment? 

Opioid addiction is a difficult disorder to overcome, but it is possible with the right help! If you or a loved one are living with a codeine or heroin addiction, the team of addiction specialists at Knoxville Recovery Center is ready to help you become sober and remain sober. We offer a number of effective treatment programs to fit the needs of our patients. Contact us today to learn more about all of our proven treatment options!

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