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My Codeine problem

I am writing this as a way to document my progress but also maybe help others.

How did I get in this mess?

Most people who are addicted to painkillers usually have a 'trigger event'

Mine was 3 broken ribs, for which I took co-codamol.

I noticed at that time a euphoria and also removal of all the worries. And believe me there are a few: As a parent of 2 small children (2 and 5) with a very demanding job and wife that is retraining and therefore earns very little we have money problems because of a massive mortgage and nearly a grand is paid a month in childcare. I am on my own with the kids most of my waking hours that are not at work, because my wife is a trainee teacher as spends every waking hour lesson planning or marking. She makes £800 a month after tax which is crazy. She works 3.5 days a week and spends the other days socialising. I am trying to be ok with that.

Hence Codeine was a form of escape.

It took 3 years to get from occasional abuse through to the very serious situation of of taking nearly 600mg codeine a day as codeine phosphate tablets. I found an easy way to get them from online pharmacies. They cost a lot of money and i must have spent 5 grand at least. I also drink a bottle of wine a night and take diazepam too.

This situation was obviously unsustainable. But, amazingly no-one knows as far as I am aware.

You will be thinking - how could I let this get so bad, but those of you know that codeine resistance builds in plateaus - one day 90mg will do nothing at all and you need to up your dose to get the same feeling.

What now

I am now absolutely case iron determined to sort this out. Obviously I feel ashamed for spending money like this and being so irresponsible, but that works as a motivator for me now.

My taper is going to have a lot of discomfort associated with it - but will drop quite quick then slowly reduce after that. This is mainly because of the expense of the tablets, and because I want to get to a safe dose as quickly as I can.

Where am I now?

Totady I am down from 600mg to 330mg. This is almost a safe amount to take a day (allegedly 240mg) so that's something. I will now reduce to 90mg a day and then drop 15mg a day.

There has been a lot of symptoms - all of the ones you read about. But the worst has been the depression - its been difficult to get out of bed even. Especially as you gather your thoughts and know you face a day of discomfort.

I take 5-htp and this helps a lot. Exercise really helps, and vitamin B seems to help too. The other golden rule is to keep continually busy until the end of the day. Having 2 small children and a wife that works all evenings has both filled this time but also made loneliness a bit of an enemy.

If there are any positives I have a sex life again and also am enjoying going to the toilet (sorry if this is oversharing). My stomach bloating is massively reduced and I can see my abdominal muscles again.

For alcohol - I strictly limit my drinking, but I do allow myself 2 glasses of wine, because its dangerous to stop straight away. After a week, I will cut this out completely - that will save £3 a day (I was buying a bottle a day). The only way I could reduce my drinking was to wait until later in the evening before I started. For me, this is 9pm (we go to bed at 11).

Hopefully I can keep posting here as a progress the bumps along the way. I have noticed no two days are the same - some are not too bad - today is OK. Yesterday was terrible.

There's only one thing missing for me now - that's someone to talk to. I'm too ashamed to talk to friends so the anonymous forum is worth a try....?

replying to UnlikelyAddict

Well done so far, I use this forum because of the shame we feel about our youngest son’s addiction. All our children are graduates and we’re doing fantastically well, sad,y his revelation has almost destroyed us and saddled us with incredible debts. We are so happy he has finally taken the brave step and gone to Cocaine Anon (you can attend with any addiction) a few miles from where we live, and it has been so good for him. He can freely and confidentiality share his addiction / recovery story and benefits from the support so much. Be proud of yourself but don’t be frightened to seek help. Good luck on your recovery journey, your family needs you x

replying to UnlikelyAddict

I thought I'd write where I am now.

Its not been an easy couple of weeks AND its not gone as planned.

But...I am now at 180mg per day after having a relapse a weeks ago. I was very frustrasted with myself. I took a larger amount of codeine after an hour justifying it to myself (I hurt myself doing sport). I had the tablets available so was able to just take what I wanted.

To avoid this mistake I now have calculated what I need to taper down to and disposed of the rest.

The last week was absolute hell as I took a much shorter taper to get back to where I am now after relapsing - dropping 30mg a day. The worst was the depression. The other physical symptoms were hard, but I've sort of accepted them as part of life - that way they don't seem like a shock when I wake up. Unfortunately the depression has led me to self-harm quite a lot and I have cut myself all along one arm - I have to wear a bandage as my workplace is not one where any weakness, mental especially is tolerated. The urge to self harm has now gone - like a switch. I take the maximum recommended dose of 5-HTP and it works like magic....if you remember to take it.

I'm still shaking, and hot and cold etc etc, but I feel I can see the end now of the physical part of the dependency. In two weeks I will be completely clean if my taper plan works. Because I really hate this drug and I never want to go through this experience again I am hoping this will help with the psychological dependency that will be a 'thing', no doubt. I can't actually afford to buy anymore codeine - so there's that. If i ever find myself thinking about buying more, I threaten myself that I will add up what I have spent. That seems to do the trick for now.

1 reply

replying to UnlikelyAddict

Thanks for sharing your story.

Well done for what you are achieving.I hope that the blog will help and I would like to think that you have got some support maybe through your gp, but please contact The Icarus Trust if you need someone to talk to.

You can contact us on help@icarustrust.org or visit the website www.icarustrust.org

Good luck and keep strong.

replying to

Thankyou for reaching out to me icarus - I am intrigued by the support you offer people who are off drugs/addictive behaviours and trying to stay clean. I may very well need some support of that kind.

I've tried the NHS with over GP 12 appointments, but not received anything meaningful in terms of direction or resolution, I've had both judgemental and sympathetic GPs but none of them have had a clue frankly.

I've just been back and read my first post. Despite being appalled at how many spelling mistakes and grammatical errors there were is quite a way back from where I am now.

Today I took 90mg of codeine and feel OK. That's 510mg less than I was taking at the height of the problem.

Unfortunately the children have had a tummy bug that they passed to me and codeine withdrawal and a virus of any kind do not make for an easy day. However I have had no thought other than the determination to continue my taper.

Tomorrow I will drop to 60mg. I'm just a few days from being clean. I feel still not great but...the mornings are a little less appalling each day and I imagine I've got a month to tough out now.

I get my exercise and this seems to make the feelings of flu/achy joints/anxiety/nausia take a break from beating me for a few hours so is always good to do. I've also taken on a personal trainer to help get me back to my previous health (I did compete nationally at one point in my chosen sport).

I hope my next post I will be writing to you without any codeine in my system at all and my body repairing itself.

replying to UnlikelyAddict

You have done so well! You should be very pleased with yourself! :-)

Just think, soon you will be free of this drug, and you can spend all that money you are saving on doing something nice with your family. Good luck

1 reply

replying to UnlikelyAddict

Hi, I also need help. This started with getting massacred by a "dentist" two years ago. He destroyed my teeth, roots and gums. Regular painkillers started doing nothing and it's been about 1.5 years since I started taking some codeine. And about 6 months since the codeine addiction began to be worse. My stomach is a mess, I'm failing at my job, and I'm in a huge debt. But the worst thing is, the pain in one tooth (is only one now, frontal left, been in surgeries for 2 years and the rest is o.k. but this tooth is killing me) won't go away. Been to many other dentists and specialists, they can't find a reason why. I'm starting to think it's a mental thing because my body wants more codeine. Even when I take more than usual the pain stays there or gets worse. I think it might be opiate hyperplasia. So I want out. Right now I've been taking about 3 to 4 Oxaforte (50 mg of codeine each) 1 to 2 Kodone (1 mg of hydrocona each) and 1 to 1.5 of tafil ( benzodiazepines 1 mg each tablet). So yeah. I'm messed up. Im 31, 5'2 female. I understand now that you get blinded by opioid and get in denial, you grow to love them and don't really want out. Oh and I've got my eating disorders back. Especially since it's so easy to not eat and restrict with codeine.

The thing is today was my first day. I'm trying cbd, started today, ans only took 100 mg of codeine, 50 of hidrocodona and 1mg of benzo. I did get panic attacks, and the pain in the tooth is there but the cbd helped. It's by no means magical, as some may say, but it helped I guess.

Best of luck to you and if you have some words of comfort I'll appreciate then as I felt like dying today.

replying to UnlikelyAddict

Hi KiraZ,

I hope you are doing ok today.

It's sounds like you have made 2 big steps - recognising the problem and wanting to do something about it. Many people never reach this stage. It sounds like your tooth is going to be a complication - so maybe a doctor can help with that. Oil of cloves really helps with tooth pain - I used it when my wisdom teeth came through impacted in a remote area.

You know this I'm sure, but try to be very gradual in your tapering. Accept some discomfort but also realise every minute of discomfort is achieving something. And soon you will feel better. For me, even after 3 relapses have got to a clean state. You feel some discomfort even once clean, but it diminishes ever day. Feeling free is the most amazing feeling - it's worth it. I wish you the best!

replying to UnlikelyAddict

Hello KiraZ!

That sounds really tiring, and really painful. This forum will support you, however if you ever need instant words of support when you are feeling really down Samaritans is a good number to call, on 116 123.

Best wishes,


1 reply

replying to UnlikelyAddict

Hi, thank you for sharing your story. I’ve jumped in this thread to basically say I’m currently going through the same as you so I was wondering if I could maybe ask a couple of questions? Or we could chat?

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