Codeine is regarded as a weak opioid, but this doesn’t mean it comes without risk. Like any opioid, it has a high potential for abuse and addiction. Unfortunately, you may not even know you’ve become addicted to this medication until you quit it and experience unpleasant codeine withdrawal symptoms.
Codeine withdrawal and detox can be a distressing process, both physically and mentally. Learning more about it can help you detox from codeine safely and with as little discomfort as possible.
What Is Codeine?
Codeine is an opioid medication commonly prescribed to suppress cough or soothe mild to moderate pain that cannot be managed with non-opioid painkillers. Like morphine, it is derived from the opium poppy plant.
Considered a relatively weak opioid, codeine is often used in combination with other medications such as acetaminophen (Panadeine Forte®), aspirin (Aspalgin®), and ibuprofen (Nurofen Plus®). It is available in the form of:
- Oral or injectable solution
Codeine works in one of two ways, depending on its specific medical purpose. When used for cough relief, it decreases brain activity that causes coughing. When taken for pain relief, codeine interacts with opioid receptors to prevent the brain from receiving pain signals, reducing pain perception.
Like all prescription opioids, codeine is very potent, carrying a high potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction. For this reason, you should always take your medication as prescribed by a doctor.
If you’re suffering from chronic pain, you may want to explore alternative pain management options before opting for codeine, as long-term use of opioids increases the risk of addiction.
Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms
Experiencing codeine withdrawal symptoms after quitting or cutting back on this medication is a tell-tale sign of codeine dependence.
If you take any type of opioid—including codeine—regularly, you’ll eventually build up tolerance to it, meaning you will no longer feel its effects without increasing your dose. This happens because codeine use increases the production of opioid receptors.
If left untreated, physical dependence on codeine will likely turn into a codeine addiction characterized by physical and psychological symptoms.
However, if you suddenly stop taking codeine after becoming dependent on it, you’ll experience codeine withdrawal symptoms. Some of them can be painful and potentially life-threatening—especially for those with underlying health issues, such as heart or liver disease.
Some common physical symptoms of codeine withdrawal include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Appetite loss
- Dilated pupils
- Elevated blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Joint pain
- Muscle aches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
Codeine withdrawal can also cause various psychological symptoms, including:
- Codeine cravings
- Mood swings
- Sleep disturbances
Exacerbation of mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and the like can also be a side effect of coming off codeine. Never quit codeine “cold turkey,” as this may cause particularly severe withdrawal symptoms.
Codeine Withdrawal Timeline
The codeine withdrawal timeline varies from one person to the next. How long codeine withdrawal lasts depends on the type of codeine you take, the method of consumption, and individual factors such as your metabolism.
Here’s what the codeine withdrawal timeline looks like for most people:
Most people experience the first codeine withdrawal symptoms within 8–24 hours after taking the last dose. The first symptoms to appear tend to be muscle aches, headaches, sweating, and other flu-like symptoms. At this point of codeine withdrawal, insomnia is also very common.
Codeine withdrawal symptoms usually peak in intensity within 48–72 hours after the last dose, though some people may experience the worst symptoms around day four. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are very common at this point.
As physical codeine withdrawal symptoms begin to subside after reaching their peak, psychological withdrawal symptoms start to set in. You may experience intense opioid cravings, anxiety, and depression around this time.
For most people, acute codeine withdrawal will last 10–14 days. However, some may experience uncomfortable symptoms for as long as 30 days or even longer, depending on the type of codeine taken, the severity of their addiction, etc. Even if you feel physically fine, you may still suffer from severe cravings and depression during this time.
Codeine Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)
Although most people overcome codeine withdrawal within more or less two weeks, some can experience codeine post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). PAWS is characterized by codeine withdrawal symptoms that last several weeks, months, or even years.
The symptoms of PAWS include:
- Attention deficit
- Sleeping problems
- Mood swings
- Mental illness, such as depression or bipolar disorder
Post-acute codeine withdrawal symptoms can be physical as well, though this is far less common.
Although PAWS can be very distressing, it can be overcome. If you suspect that you or someone you love may be suffering from PAWS, seek medical attention to minimize the risk of relapse and return to a happy, healthy life without protracted withdrawal symptoms.
How to Manage Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms
The most effective way to manage codeine withdrawal symptoms is to seek help from medical professionals.
Acute codeine withdrawal symptoms are often very painful and can’t always be alleviated with home remedies, putting you at a higher risk of relapse. Relapsing after detoxing from codeine—be it in a medical setting or at home—can be very dangerous.
Since not taking medication reduces your tolerance to it, your usual dose may be strong enough to cause an overdose, which can be deadly if not treated on time. Out of nearly 83,000 Americans who died due to an opioid overdose in 2022, close to 12,000 lost their lives to natural and semi-synthetic opioids such as codeine specifically.
Moreover, codeine withdrawal can sometimes lead to complications such as severe dehydration and exacerbate pre-existing health problems. If you struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders, they may also become worse during the codeine comedown, increasing the risk of suicidal ideation.
For these reasons, it’s generally not advised to go through codeine withdrawal without medical supervision.
Risks and Dangers of Taking Codeine
Taking codeine exposes you to the risk of codeine abuse, tolerance, dependence, addiction, overdose, and death. Because of this, this medication is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance that can only be obtained by prescription. The FDA has also limited the use of codeine pain and cough medications to adults only in 2018.
Aside from these risks, the codeine/paracetamol combination can induce manic psychotic episodes, especially in those predisposed to them.
Moreover, codeine can cause various side effects, including:
- Breathing difficulties
- Muscle twitching
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach ache
- Trouble urinating
If you experience any side effects after taking codeine, inform your doctor.
You should never take this drug with other central nervous system (CNS) depressants due to an increased risk of overdose, brain damage, respiratory depression, and coma, among other adverse events. Tell your doctor about any other medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements you’re taking to ensure they won’t interact with codeine.
How to Detox From Codeine
To detox from codeine safely, only do so in a medical setting.
There are many codeine detox treatments available, including medical detox, inpatient detox, and outpatient detox, among others. The codeine detox timeline will largely depend on your chosen treatment, with some treatments taking weeks and others just a few days.
However, while all of these treatments are designed to cleanse codeine from your body, they aren’t effective in healing opioid addiction. That’s because codeine detox neglects the root cause of opioid dependence—the endorphin-receptor system imbalance resulting from opioid use. As a result, it often leads to relapse.
Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) takes a modern approach to treating opioid dependence and beats any type of codeine detox in terms of effectiveness and safety. This opioid addiction treatment reverses opioid-induced changes in the brain, quickly and effectively eliminating codeine addiction, withdrawal symptoms, and relapse risk.
Codeine Rapid Detox vs. ANR Treatment
Codeine rapid detox is an anesthesia-assisted medical treatment that quickly clears out codeine from the body with the use of opioid antagonists (for example, naloxone). Unlike the ANR treatment, rapid detox only diminishes the symptoms of addiction but doesn’t restore your endorphin-receptor system.
Oftentimes, people relapse shortly after receiving the treatment. Sadly, some of these instances result in overdose or even death.
On the other hand, the ANR treatment addresses the root of codeine dependence, negating the risk of relapse. Also, unlike rapid detox, which is largely unregulated, ANR is always performed in an ICU setting of accredited hospitals by board-certified medical professionals, maximizing patient safety and the quality of the procedure.
ANR Opioid Treatment for Codeine Addiction
Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) is a state-of-the-art opioid dependency treatment that restores the endorphin-receptor balance in patients.
Unlike codeine rapid detox, ANR targets the roots of addiction by focusing on the physiological mechanism behind dependency rather than counteracting the effects of withdrawal itself.
As such, ANR can help you recover from codeine dependency in just a few days without further withdrawal symptoms, cravings, or fear of relapse.
Our team of highly qualified medical professionals includes anesthesiologists, critical care nurses, cardiologists, and more. This, coupled with the fact that every treatment is customized to each patient, allows us to safely treat patients with various health conditions, such as heart disease and kidney issues.
ANR Clinic has helped thousands of people around the world beat codeine dependency. You can find our centers at:
- DeSoto Memorial Hospital, Arcadia, Florida
- ANR Europe Thun, Switzerland
- New Vision University Hospital, Tbilisi, Georgia
- Innovate Intelligent Place, Goiânia, Brazil
To start your recovery journey with ANR Clinic today, contact us to schedule a free consultation!
In short, it’s in your best interest to seek professional help for codeine withdrawal and detox. Otherwise, you may go through unnecessary pain and suffering, as well as be at a greater risk of relapse, complications, and even death.
Lastly, let’s go over the key points we covered:
- Codeine is a relatively weak opioid used for cough or pain relief.
- Some common symptoms of codeine withdrawal include fever, nausea, agitation, cravings, and insomnia.
- Codeine withdrawal symptoms usually last about 10–14 days, but depression, cravings, and other psychological symptoms may persist longer.
Codeine Withdrawal & Detox FAQ
Codeine is commonly used to treat acute and chronic pain, both mild and moderate. Due to its high potential for abuse and addiction, it should only be used when non-opioid painkillers aren’t effective enough or cannot be used. It can also be used to suppress cough.
Codeine can cause opioid withdrawal, especially when taken over an extended period of time. Experiencing opioid withdrawal symptoms after quitting this medication is a common symptom of codeine addiction.
Codeine withdrawal occurs when you abruptly stop taking this drug or reduce its dose after developing codeine dependence. You can expect to experience the first symptoms of codeine withdrawal within 24 hours of your last dose of codeine.
Typically, codeine withdrawal lasts up to two weeks. However, some people experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome, which can last months or even years. The codeine withdrawal duration depends on the nature of your drug use, but it can also be influenced by the method of treatment you use. With the ANR treatment, you can skip codeine withdrawal altogether.
Mixing alcohol and codeine can be extremely dangerous due to the high risk of a potentially life-threatening overdose. Mixing opioids and alcohol can also cause co-occurring substance use disorders, increase the severity of withdrawal symptoms, and lead to physical issues such as liver failure/damage, respiratory depression, and, in some cases, death.
Yes, it is illegal to take codeine without a prescription from a doctor. You should never share opioids prescribed to you with others or take medications belonging to other people, as it is a form of opioid abuse.
Some signs of opioid use disorder (OUD) include having intense cravings for the drug after quitting it, taking opioids for non-medical purposes or when they are no longer needed, and trying to obtain medication by stealing, forging prescriptions, or doctor shopping.
The ANR treatment is a groundbreaking opioid addiction treatment that has helped over 24,000 globally quit opioids for good. The secret to its success lies in restoring the brain to its pre-addiction state rather than simply treating opioid addiction symptoms.