Codeine: Mental effects

Last modified: Thursday, 25. December 2008 - 10:24 am

Most people describe the euphoria produced by codeine as a pronounced feeling of well-being and calmness. A few people may get a mild stimulant effect and a feeling of elation. Evidence indicates that the euphoria produced by codeine and other opioids is similar to, but stronger than, the perceived feeling from high levels of endogenous opioids in the body — the so-called endorphin rush experienced by some athletes after heavy exercise. Instead of euphoria after a codeine dose, some people report a feeling of dysphoria — a general feeling of discomfort and restlessness. Still other people may just feel drowsy, with no noticeable positive or negative effect on their mood.

It remains a misconception that opioids offer no true analgesic effect, but instead produce a type of euphoria that simply results in one not caring about their pain. With the discovery of opioid receptors in the central nervous system, along with an understanding of how opioids such as codeine affect nerve cells, no dispute remains that opioids are indeed potent pain relievers. Up to a certain limit (usually an amount great enough to produce serious side effects), the more codeine ingested in a single dose, the greater the analgesia and the more pronounced the Mental effects would be.

People with moderate or severe pain who take prescribed doses of codeine usually obtain at least some relief from their pain, but generally do not report feelings of euphoria. Those with mild pain who take one of the higher doses of codeine (e.g., Tylenol #4) may experience pain relief along with some euphoria. People who abuse codeine are most likely to experience euphoric feelings, and are at the greatest risk of becoming addicted.

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