Trusted Content

Promethazine With Codeine Abuse And Addiction

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

February 19, 2019

Promethazine is an antihistamine which treats symptoms such as sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, and runny nose, while codeine is a cough suppressant which helps relieve a person of a severe cough. This medication may sound harmless, but codeine is an opioid narcotic that can lead a person to become dependent on and maybe even addicted to the drug.

Codeine is an opioid, and opioids help a person relax and produce a sense of calm and well-being. Unfortunately, opioids also change the way a person responds to pain, interrupting the brain’s normal messaging system. This causes an excess buildup of the happy chemicals in the brain, and produces the euphoric effect many people abusing opioids learn to crave. For this reason, prescription opioids are intended for use over a short time,but some people can develop an addiction to them after only a short time. Promethazine with codeine is no exception.

When you get a cold or cough, you probably don’t run straight to the doctor and ask for a prescription. Maybe you wait, allowing your body to fight off the symptoms over time. But for some, certain enhanced symptoms of coughs, colds, and sinus infections can make daily functions difficult.

Promethazine With Codeine

This medication is not intended to cure a cold or sinus infection, but to lessen some of the more severe effects. However, once the brain experiences the calm and relaxation produced by the drug, a person may experience undeniable urges to seek use of the drug again and again. That is why it is always important to take the medication as prescribed. Adhering to dosage and frequency is imperative. Otherwise, use can turn to abuse.

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Understanding Cough Syrup Abuse

What exactly is the abuse of prescription drugs? It may be defined in several ways, such as taking a medication not prescribed to you, taking the medication more frequently or in higher doses than directed, changing the method of administration to foster a quicker release of the drug, or obtaining the medication through illegal means.

If a person begins abusing promethazine with codeine, he or she may undergo some adverse side effects.

These tend to signal withdrawal, and may include:

  • anxiety
  • chills
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • restlessness
  • vomiting

Codeine may also present the risk of fatal overdose with prolonged abuse. According to the National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA), “when abused, promethazine-codeine cough syrup presents a high risk of fatal overdose due to its effect of suppressing the central nervous system, which can slow or stop the heart and lungs.” This risk is amplified when the medication is mixed with alcohol, a common way to abuse it. Further, abuse of the drug may cause a person to feel extremely sleepy, become constipated, feel dizzy, become nervous or anxious, or develop dry mouth or a headache.

Codeine Addiction Treatment

The important thing to keep in mind about prescription drug abuse is that it is treatable. Not only is it treatable, but treatment may be the most effective way to help a person stop the abuse of opioids like promethazine with codeine. And it is imperative that people stop opioid abuse, even if it is just abuse of prescription medications. Why?

Many people who begin abusing prescription drugs may do so without harmful intent, and usually because they are already receiving a prescription for the drug. After changing method of administration or increasing dosage—usually seeking faster or longer-lasting relief from pain—those abusing the drug may, unfortunately, develop an addiction to it. But what happens when the prescription ends? A person may not be able to obtain a new prescription if he or she no longer has pain or other ailments, but the addiction often remains. In seeking the same effects of an opioid prescription, a person may turn to other illicit opioids. Heroin is a fairly inexpensive opioid that tends to be easily obtained. This is how opioid prescription abuse can lead to the abuse of illicit drugs.

Before people seek the use of illicit drugs, finding them treatment is a better and more beneficial alternative. One treatment method that has proven effective for opioid prescription drug abuse is cognitive behavioral therapy. This method helps participants learn to reinforce positive lifestyle habits while abstaining from the use of drugs. Many rehab centers utilize cognitive behavioral therapy.

Professional staff are available at inpatient residential rehab centers to help monitor each patient’s recovery and progress, and to help them along the way. Counseling and other forms of therapy may provide other approaches for healing from promethazine with codeine abuse and may be used along with cognitive behavioral therapy as part of a treatment plan. Whichever treatment plan a person chooses, it should be comprehensive in scope, treating all aspects of abuse and addiction.

Contact us today at to learn more about accredited rehab facilities, and addiction treatment methods.

Mayo Clinic - Promethazine And Codeine: Precautions

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center - Promethazine And Codeine

National Institute On Drug Abuse - Prescription Drugs & Cold Medicines

WebMD - Promethazine-Codeine

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