Codeine Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline & Detox
When a person who is physiologically dependent on codeine abruptly cuts back or stops taking the drug, they can experience withdrawal symptoms.1 Codeine withdrawal symptoms will vary, but the duration and intensity of symptoms is typically similar to withdrawal from other opioids. Symptoms range from uncomfortable to potentially serious, but treatment is available to help manage withdrawal symptoms as comfortably and safely as possible.2
If you or someone you care about are struggling with codeine misuse or addiction, learning about codeine withdrawal can help you make an informed decision about your health. This article will help you learn more about codeine withdrawal, including:
- Symptoms of codeine withdrawal.
- Codeine withdrawal timeline.
- Medical detox for codeine withdrawal.
What Is Codeine?
Codeine is an opioid medication that is used to manage pain and sometimes to control coughing, diarrhea, or restless leg syndrome.1 It may be taken as an oral solution, a tablet, or by injection.1
Codeine has potential side effects, including constipation and nausea, among others. However, the drug can also expose users to several risks including codeine addiction and overdose, especially when codeine is misused.1
Codeine misuse includes taking the drug:2
- In a dosage or way other than prescribed.
- For its subjective effects (e.g., to get high).
- Without a prescription, even if for a legitimate medical complaint.
People can become addicted to codeine because the drug can create a sensation of euphoria when taken.2 Codeine and other opioids work by binding to opioid receptors in the body and brain and blocking pain signals. Codeine and other opioids lead to increased activity of dopamine, which can reinforce feelings of pleasure and reward, and may make people want to repeat the experience.2
Codeine Dependence and Addiction
When a person takes an opioid like codeine over an extended period, they can develop physiological dependence.3 Dependence occurs when a person’s brain adapts to recurring codeine exposure and it can no longer function normally without the drug.4
Physiological dependence is not the same thing as addiction, and dependence can occur even if a person uses codeine exactly as prescribed.3 Addiction to codeine, however, is characterized by the compulsive need to use codeine despite negative consequences that impact a person’s daily life and ability to function normally.4
When a person is physiologically dependent on a substance (e.g., alcohol, drugs), their body has adapted to the regular presence of the substance. If they abruptly cut back or stop using the substance, withdrawal symptoms can emerge.3 As mentioned, opioids like codeine can lead to physiological dependence, even when taken as prescribed by a doctor.3 This is why doctors and other medical professionals do not recommend cutting back or stopping the use of opioids like codeine without medical guidance and supervision.3
Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms
Codeine withdrawal symptoms resemble those of other types of opioids. Symptoms may be mild to severe and are sometimes described as being similar to a bad case of the flu.5 Symptoms of codeine withdrawal include:5
- Abdominal cramps.
- Teary eyes and/or runny nose.
- Goosebumps and/or chills.
- Excessive yawning.
- Muscle and/or bone pain.
- Excessive yawning.
- Fast heart rate.
Symptoms of codeine withdrawal may be uncomfortable and difficult to cope with. Many people benefit from a supervised medical detox from codeine where medicines and other forms of support can help eliminate or reduce withdrawal symptoms.6
In rare cases, opioid withdrawal symptoms can become serious and lead to medical complications, such as extreme dehydration from diarrhea or vomiting, and a person might need to go to the hospital to get IV fluids.6 Should a person be at higher risk of these kinds of medical complications, it is likely they will benefit from medically supervised detox from codeine.6
Codeine Withdrawal Timeline
Many factors impact the length and severity of withdrawal. In general, however, when a person who has developed a physiological dependence on codeine stops taking it, a withdrawal symptoms timeline will be similar to the following:5
- The first symptoms are likely to start around 8–24 hours after the last dose and are likely to include yawning, sweating, restlessness, insomnia, and a runny nose. Some people will also have muscle aches, gooseflesh, stomach pain, and twitching muscles.
- Peak codeine withdrawal typically will occur 1–3 days after the last dose of codeine. The symptoms people can display at this time include fever, nausea, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, as well as diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration.
- Symptoms start to go away around 7–10 days after the last dose of codeine.
- Withdrawal symptoms may persist in some people recovering from opioid addiction, and these symptoms usually consist of cravings, depression, and insomnia and may last for several weeks to months after they have stopped using.
The severity and length of withdrawal symptoms can be affected by such factors as:6
- A person’s health condition and genetics.
- The severity of a person’s addiction, including the dose of codeine they took regularly and how long they have been taking codeine and other opioids.
- Having a co-occurring disorder.
- Withdrawing from codeine and other substances at the same time.
Medically monitored detox programs are readily available to help a person withdraw from codeine comfortably and safely. The average length of stay in detox is very different for everyone, but the national average for all substances is about 7 days.6
Detox is a process designed to get substances out of a person’s body while keeping them medically stable, and it is often the first step for many people when it comes to drug rehab treatment.6 Rehab treatment following detox can help patients learn new ways to cope with stress and triggers, avoid relapse, and maintain recovery.6
- A person entering treatment for codeine addiction has the option for:
- Inpatient treatment, where programs are live-in, and patients receive 24/7 care, monitoring, and support.
- Outpatient treatment, where patients receive care similar to that of an inpatient program but go home at night and sometimes work or attend school while in recovery.
Whether a person enrolls in an inpatient or outpatient program, treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD), the clinical term for opioid addiction, usually involves a combination of behavioral therapies and medications.7, 8
There are several types of medication used to treat OUDs, which include:5
- Buprenorphine, which helps people manage their cravings for codeine and other opioids and helps to control withdrawal symptoms. Buprenorphine can be given as a sublingual tablet, or by injection.
- Methadone, which helps eliminate or reduce withdrawal symptoms and ongoing cravings for codeine and other opioids and typically comes in a liquid form that is taken by mouth.
- Naltrexone is not used to manage withdrawal symptoms but helps control cravings for opioids like codeine. Naltrexone blocks the effects of opioids like codeine so that when a person uses them, they will feel no effects from the drug. Naltrexone comes as a long-acting injectable or in tablet form.
Find Out If Your Insurance Plan Covers Codeine Addiction Rehab
American Addiction Centers can help people recover from codeine misuse and opioid use disorder (OUD). To verify your insurance coverage for treatment at an American Addiction Centers facility, fill out the form below. Your information is kept 100% confidential. You can also click here to find a rehab near me, call .
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