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Medically Reviewed by Dr. Mohammed Saeed, MD.

Codeine, a commonly prescribed opioid medication, is primarily used to relieve moderate to severe pain and coughing. While it is quite effective at managing pain, codeine can have some potential side effects and associated risks. One potential effect is codeine’s impact on the endocrine system. Excessive codeine use can disrupt the hormonal balance within the endocrine system, affecting the reproductive and growth hormones and thyroid function. Understanding how codeine affects the endocrine system can help individuals make informed decisions about the medication they take, which ‌can help reduce the risk of prescription drug misuse, abuse, and addiction.

What Is The Endocrine System & What Does It Do?

The endocrine system is like a messaging system in our bodies. It comprises glands that produce and release special chemicals called hormones. These hormones travel through our bloodstream and tell different body parts what to do. They help regulate growth, metabolism, mood, reproduction, and many other vital functions. The endocrine system, which includes the pituitary gland, thyroid, adrenal, and reproductive organs, helps keep our body working properly and in balance.

How Does Codeine Affect The Endocrine System?

Codeine indirectly affects the endocrine system by changing how certain hormones are released and work in our bodies. It does this by attaching to specific receptors in the brain and spinal cord, which helps reduce the feeling of pain. However, this interaction can disrupt the usual regulation of hormones in our bodies.

When codeine interacts with our body, it can cause changes in how hormones are controlled. This can lead to hormone imbalance, affecting our stress response, reproductive health, growth, and metabolism.

Using codeine can significantly impact our:

  • Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis. The HPA axis plays a crucial role in stress response and regulation of cortisol, commonly known as the stress hormone. Codeine use can disrupt this axis, changing how our bodies produce and release cortisol. Prolonged exposure to codeine may result in adrenal insufficiency, causing symptoms like fatigue, weakness, weight loss, and mood disturbances.
  • Reproductive Hormones. Opioids, including codeine, can interfere with the release of reproductive hormones, such as luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). These hormones help regulate menstrual cycles in females and testosterone production in males. As such, chronic codeine use may lead to menstrual irregularities, reduced fertility, and sexual dysfunction.
  • Growth Hormone (GH). Growth hormone is vital for growth and development, muscle maintenance, and metabolism. Codeine’s impact on GH levels is still being studied, but evidence suggests that it may suppress the release of GH, potentially affecting growth in children and muscle maintenance in adults.
  • Thyroid Function. Opioid use, including codeine, has been associated with alterations in thyroid function. Chronic opioid exposure can lead to decreased thyroid hormone levels, which may result in symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, and unexpected mood swings.

Signs & Symptoms Of Codeine Misuse & Abuse

Signs and symptoms of codeine misuse and abuse can vary from person to person but generally include:

  • Taking higher doses of codeine than prescribed or recommended.
  • Sudden and frequent shifts in mood, such as irritability, anxiety, or agitation.
  • Feeling excessively sleepy or drowsy, even during daytime hours.
  • Breathing that’s noticeably slower or shallower than normal.
  • Neglecting important tasks, work, or personal responsibilities because of codeine use.
  • Withdrawing from social activities, friends, and family.
  • Visiting multiple doctors or healthcare providers to obtain additional codeine prescriptions.
  • Needing higher doses of codeine to achieve the same pain relief as before.
  • Difficulties in relationships, conflicts with loved ones, or strained interactions.
  • Lack of personal hygiene or a decline in physical appearance.
  • Regularly experiencing difficulty in passing stools or infrequent bowel movements.
  • Spending significant amounts of money on obtaining codeine.
  • Disturbed sleep, insomnia, or sleeping excessively.
  • Engaging in deceptive behavior to obtain codeine, such as forging prescriptions or seeking it from illegal sources.
  • Losing interest in activities or hobbies once enjoyed.

These signs and symptoms don’t necessarily confirm codeine misuse or abuse, but if you or someone you know is experiencing several of these indicators, seek professional help immediately.

Treatment You Can Trust

At Into Action Recovery Centers, we know all about Codeine. While effective in managing pain, it can have unintended consequences on the endocrine system, leading to hormonal imbalances and other physical, emotional, and psychological ailments. There are many adverse effects associated with codeine use. But there’s hope. Our treatment programs can help you or a loved one break free of codeine’s grip. Let us help you get there. Contact us today to learn about our wide range of treatment programs.


Dr. Mohammed Saeed, MD.

Dr. Saeed is a psychiatry specialist with over 40 years of experience in the medical field. He received training in General Psychiatry at the University of Texas Medical Branch, where he was selected as the Medical Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. He currently serves as the medical director at Into Action Recovery Centers. Full Bio

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