This is the first time I have opened up about my addiction to any living soul, so bare with me whilst I attempt to gather my thoughts into words whilst I type this (I get that this is targeted towards someone else’s addiction but it’s ridiculous to limit the forum when I know for a fact that my own experience could help someone else).
I have been addicted to codeine phosphate for three years. It started after completing my MSc course at a world renowned university. I felt like I was on top of my game. It came about through using it as a means to achieve a high as a direct treatment for my mental health debilitations of BPD, PPD, GAD and depression. I had started to experiment with drugs such as MDMA, cocaine and speed (solely when going out with friends to raves and clubs). I would never use them outside of these environments. But the feeling they gave me whilst I was high made me completely forget about my mental health issues. I have always been the most self deprecating, self destroying person. I hate myself. I still do. I hate the way I look. I hate my personality. I hate my overthinking mind. I hate my stupidity despite my intelligence. I hate my life. I hate EVERYTHING about myself. I will never ever say a good word about myself. Ever.
Now I am a very meticulous, logical oriented person despite my disgusting everything else. Being in the UK, I started off by just going to my local pharmacy and buying a pack of co-codamol. At this point, I had already tried co-codamol (quite recently for the first time back then) and had the most amazing euphoria following popping two 30/500mg tablets. But there is that thought in the back of your head of “what would a higher dose feel like? Would it be more intense or would it last longer?”. Now, I knew the risks of respiratory depression but I was smart about it. I would never go too high to the point that it would shock my body into gasping for breath like an athlete on Mount Everest. But not low enough that I wouldn’t get a substantial buzz out of it. But the issue was the paracetamol.
My method of extracting the codeine and separating it from the paracetamol was cold water extraction. I won’t go into the specifics of what I did and specific amounts because I do not want ANYONE going through what I have. This started off harmless enough. First it was one strip, equivalent to 64mg of codeine. Then 128mg. Then 128mg twice a day. 256 mg twice a day. With the most I’ve ever taken being 500mg five times a day. That’s 2500mg of codeine in one single day.
It consumed me. All aspects of my life revolved around the codeine. Whether I have enough to last me the day. Whether I had enough to last me tomorrow. Whether there were pharmacies in close proximity that I could go to (as most pharmacies will only sell you one per week). Whether I have been to them recently and would question me. Whether the pharmacies in close proximity were even open to start with. I had to plan everything around that. I would stop eating for the entire day so as to not line my stomach up with food, thus decreasing from my high and so I would only eat after my last daily dose wore off right before bed. I stopped speaking to anyone because my mental health deteriorated. I stopped caring about anything. I lost that motivation that made me such a driven person and instead, it was replaced with laziness as all I would want to do is lay in bed whilst high. Away from the stresses associated with other humans.
Three years this lasted. Three years of nothing more than this. The most important years of my life, whittled down to nothing more than driving to 4-12 pharmacies in a day, going through the process of extracting the codeine and numbing myself.
If I didn’t take codeine, I would start withdrawing. My time-span was 10-12 hours from my last dose. Any more than that without codeine, and the first thing I would feel are the hot flushes and sweating. Within an hour or two the diarrhoea ensues with the most intense cramping known to humanity. Not even loperamide can save you. Within six hours, the inscessant leg shaking happens where you feel as though your legs cannot sit still and you just have to shake them back and forth. This was my experience. No nausea. But trust me when I say that the cramps and the diarrhoea was enough. But the leg shaking puts you over the edge because you can’t sleep as a result. You want to continuously move your legs until they fall off, to the point where you’ll find yourself crying in the middle of the night because you’re so frustrated and sick of having legs.
No one knew. I hid my addiction well. It’s a functional high but the second I would do something, I would feel as though my high diminished. So I tried to do as little as possible.
I have spent so much money that I could have used for something better. I have wasted so much time that I could have used to better myself. I have neglected my friends and family. I have neglected myself.
I tried to stop multiple times to no avail. I couldn’t do this on my own. Cold turkey lasted two days. Then I tried tapering. I managed to get it down to 256mg twice a day. That’s two boxes of co-codamol a day. Once when I wake up and once in the evening. But I didn’t want to lose that high.
Losing the buzz that became so habitual for me was devastating in my mind. But I wanted to quit at the same time. It contradicted substantially and I didn’t know what to do. But then I had a thought. Maybe the quantity was just in my mind. I could achieve a high on lower doses before so why not now? I know that I could still achieve a high on 220mg so how far could I push it?
This is how I’ve started beating my codeine. The knowledge that the high still stays at lower doses. This is aimed at anyone who wants to quit but does not want to lose the high instantly.
I tapered my dose to three strips, twice a day from my two boxes a day. That’s 24 tablets of 8/500mg co-codamol. High is a little less intense but still there. Still very much noticeable and enjoyable. There was hope. This was the lowest I’ve ever been in three years. I kept this up for a week before tapering down to 128mg, twice a day. That’s two strips in a box. Still have the high. Still have the buzz. Doesn’t last AS long but hey, I’m happy if I’m not gasping for breath because the cramps get so intense.
This is where I am now. I’m three days away from one strip. A measly 64mg. Basically equivalent to the very first dose of 60mg that I ever had, three years ago. I have so many plans after I beat this. Things I want to do. I’ve started cooking more instead of eating ridiculous processed foods. God, I love making asian food. I want to work out again. I miss the feelings of weights in my hands and the buzz after a 5 mile run. I want to see my friends again. I haven’t spoken to or seen my friends in three years. I’m in my mid twenties and I don’t see my friends. I don’t even know if they want to see me again but I will try. I want to spend time with my family. I miss sitting with them and cracking jokes and bombarding mum with my silly humour. I want to work. Three years without work in the most amazing field in science has taken its toll on me. I’ve tried applying for jobs for two years and no one wants me. I don’t know why. I’ve tried but scientists are better preferred with PhDs. God, I would love to do a PhD.
This is a message of hope. From the most pessimistic, human hating, mental health debilitated individual. But the only thing keeping me going is what I can start doing again. That all of this is temporary. I’m still in the midst of my tapering (without diarrhoea thankfully) and its going. I don’t want to jinx it. I’m not superstitious but I just don’t want to jinx it. I hope that I can be better. I hope that I can work out and finally feel comfortable in my own skin. I hope that my confidence can radiate and make people like me more. I hope that I can finally feel free from the grasp of this pathetic drug.
I don’t know if anyone will read this. It’s pretty long and tedious. I don’t know if anyone will care. It’s hard to find forums online about codeine tapering how-to’s. It’s not like Wikihow does a step by step in addiction. But if it even reaches one person who is addicted or one parent of an addict, I hope it helps. We’re not bad people. We’re just severely severely in pain. Sometimes it’s the environment we’re in. Sometimes it’s genetic. But don’t hate us for doing what we do. Don’t hate us for rejecting your support and help. Don’t take it personally. We want to do things ourselves is all. But we’re the same people on the inside. No matter what you think or hear.
All I ask is that if this reaches you and you read it, please say something. Let me know that everything will be okay. Let me know that what I’ve said could be taken in and used to help someone. I guess it’s more for self gratification than anything. That I’ve done something right by opening up. It’s so hard to open up. I haven’t had anyone there for me for three years so I hope this does something positive for someone else and for myself. Maybe it’s just for my ego. I don’t know. But say something. Anything. Tell me I’m an idiot for all I care. It would be nice to talk to someone.
TL;DR: How I got off codeine without any help despite not wanting to lose my high. I tapered whilst managing to maintain my high. Just read it, it’s helpful. It’s long. But it’s helpful. I’m sorry it’s long. I’m not good at opening up. God I love asian cuisine.