I’m writing this 7 days into a pretty severe withdrawal from codeine which has consumed the best part of four years of my life. I guess I’m hoping the experience will be cathartic and, with help, enable me to begin moving on. My mum passed away from lung cancer 4 years ago. She was pretty much my best friend and entire world, she kept me mentally checked. All of my ambitions and dreams pretty much revolved around making her happy and proud of me, managing to provide for her when she was old and frail. When she passed away I was completely lost. This was also compounded by the fact I’d had minor notoriety as a ‘freaky’ element of a reality TV show and was still being stopped and, occasionally, harassed in the street. I remembered one time I’d had a panic attack whilst she was ill she gave my a couple of her “happy pills”, dihydrocodone, which made me feel completely relaxed and peaceful. A couple of weeks after she passed away I found those pills in her drawer upstairs. I began taking them, firstly, to relax and secondly, to feel an affinity again with my mum and what she’d been through. Thus began my relationship with such opiates and especially, codeine.
I began trawling pharmacies each day for Solpadine Max (30 tablets of 500mg paracetamol, 12.5mg codeine phosphate) which I’d crush and cold water extract the codeine. During the four year period, I’ve consumed at least one packet of Solpadine Max every single day (around 400mg codeine). This recently grew (past two months) to include an additional 15 tablets of Neurophen + each evening. I live and work in London which has made getting tablets and indulging my addiction incredibly easy (my phone’s GPS tracks 12 pharmacies within just a single mile of my flat). I have put my addiction before pretty much everything else in my life, family events, social events, dating. I enjoyed the sense of warmth, peacefulness and solidarity it brought. This was the little ‘legal’ drug I did in my room each night, my friend and companion - a minor, guilty little secret. I blocked out the rest and, of course, the pain. Ultimately, I’ve stopped living. I knew my problem was severe when I cold water extracted from 50 tabs of Solpadeine Max and my stomach felt though it was on fire. The NHS helpline told me to seek immediate hospital treatment, though I soldiered through.
So, enough was enough.
I’ve tried to wean myself off before with little success. My tolerance is so high now that I don’t even experience a high from the codeine - I’m literally flushing my money down the drain. As others report, after a couple days withdrawal, I’ve had hot flushes, profuse sweating, awful headaches, disgusting gas, severe cravings - especially psychological, the extraction process used to consume most of my evenings - and the worst diarrhoea of my life. Earlier in the week, my stomach was so bad I was excreting pure black liquid which I’ve read could be from upper intestinal bleeding and, possibly, ulcers.
To get me through the withdrawal, I turned to a much worse demon, DXM - dextrometorphan. I found the main UK cough syrup with DXM as active ingredient, and discovered I’m one of the “lucky” few which is able to have a severe ‘body high’ whilst under influence of the drug. I took 450mg per day for 3 days. On the third day, I had the best high of my life, as though my body had turned to water but the comedown was *atrocious*. I felt completely dissociated from my body and believe I experienced a brief insight into true insanity. In the morning I couldn’t walk straight and underwent paranoia, believing someone was in the corridor, peering under my locked door and screaming for them to go away. I’ve since read that DXM is considered amongst the strongest hallucinogens alongside Ketamine and LSD, with cases of permanent brain damage and psychosis. I’m so annoyed at myself for having indulged in this way. Again, it seemed like a cheap, stronger alternative and replacement to what I was already taking. But if I’d continued to take DXM as a nightly alternative, I’d have been a vegetable within less than a few months - and trust me, you get asked much fewer questions purchasing a routine ‘cough syrup’ (at least here in the UK). Abuse is much lesser documented.
It’s been two days now since then. I woke up this morning and cried for two hours solid - the first time I’ve sobbed for years. Possibly an after effect of the DXM, but I’m assuming my pain receptors are beginning to function again? I’ve been living in a haze for four years and this is probably exactly what I needed to happen - rock, rock bottom. I miss my mum so much, I’m not convinced I’ve fully come to terms with her death. Codeine has destroyed my sense of ambition and drive. Is this the void I was trying to fill? I don’t want to buy anymore codeine tablets but I’m terrified mentally of what I’m gonna do to fill the emptiness of my life? The evenings. My little process. Can anyone else comment on withdrawal? When will I feel normal again? I am just one week in. I want to make it two weeks. Three. I want to move forwards. :( Help.