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Codeine Withdrawal Timeline and Symptoms

- 6 sections

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor

medically-verified

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Codeine is a prescription opiate painkiller that is highly addictive when it is abused.[1] It comes in the form of a tablet but is also used in some cough syrups in the form of a liquid. Like other opiates, the drug slows down the central nervous system and produces feelings of pain relief, relaxation, warmth, and euphoria.

As drug users continue abusing codeine, they develop a tolerance that requires them to need higher doses of the drug to feel the same effects. After taking higher and higher doses more frequently, people can become physically and mentally addicted to codeine.

Over time, the brain and body become dependent on codeine, and drug users struggle to function normally without it. And, if a dependent individual suddenly stops taking the drug, they will experience flu-like withdrawal symptoms until their body adjusts to functioning without codeine in their system.

The codeine withdrawal timeline refers to how long withdrawal lasts, and it is different from one person to the next. Understanding what codeine withdrawal is like, how long it lasts, and what factors affect the timeline can prepare addicted individuals for their experience in detox.

Symptoms of Codeine Withdrawal

Even though codeine is less potent than other opiates like hydrocodone and oxycodone, it can still be habit-forming. The symptoms of withdrawal are similar to those of other opiates and they can be mild, moderate, or severe. The symptoms and severity of symptoms may fluctuate over time.

Typical codeine withdrawal symptoms include:[2]

  • Muscle aches
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dilated pupils
  • Drug cravings

These symptoms can mimic a severe case of the flu and can be incredibly uncomfortable, but they are not usually life-threatening. However, if symptoms are not treated by medical professionals, individuals may find themselves struggling with dehydration or relapsing to resolve their symptoms.

How Long Does Codeine Withdrawal Last?

The codeine withdrawal timeline varies from person to person, but most people begin having symptoms of withdrawal just a few hours after their last dose wears off.[3] Most physical symptoms last about a week, but some psychological symptoms like depression, anxiety, and cravings can last for several weeks or months.

The method in which a person detoxes can also affect how long codeine withdrawal lasts. Some people choose to stop using the drug all at once–an approach called “cold turkey.” This is the fastest way to detox, however, it also causes the most severe withdrawal symptoms. Others choose to taper by slowly reducing the level of opiates in their body over a period of time. This method takes longer but is safer and more comfortable.

Codeine Withdrawal Timeline

A rough timeline of what individuals can expect during codeine withdrawal is:

  • 1 – 4 days after the last dose: Symptoms will begin just hours after the last dose. Symptoms will peak sometime during the first four days and can be very intense. It is important to seek help from a medical detox center during this time. Between days 1-4, individuals may experience nausea, insomnia, restless legs, sweating, chills, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, headaches, and muscle pain.
  • 5 – 7 days after the last dose: After five days, physical symptoms should begin to subside. Dehydration from sweating, diarrhea, and vomiting may cause people to feel fatigued. Other psychological symptoms like depression may continue.
  • 8 – 30 days after the last dose: All physical symptoms should be gone after one week, but depression, anxiety, and cravings may persist.
  • After one month: Depression and cravings may still be present but should be easier to manage with treatment, counseling, and lifestyle changes.

Factors That Influence the Codeine Withdrawal Timeline

The severity and duration of codeine withdrawal symptoms vary from one person to the next due to several individual factors, such as:

  • Length of use
  • Average dose
  • Frequency of use
  • Whether or not it was combined with alcohol or other drugs
  • Mental health
  • Medical history
  • Gender
  • Weight and body mass
  • Liver function

Medically-Assisted Codeine Detox

People who are dependent on codeine may be able to detox cold turkey, but doing so isn’t easy. The symptoms can become so uncomfortable that individuals will end up taking more codeine to try and ease their symptoms. Many find themselves trapped in an endless cycle of wanting to get sober, but not being able to do so.

Because codeine withdrawal can be so unpleasant, doctors recommend detoxing under medical supervision. Medical detox centers offer around-the-clock care, prescription medications that can reduce the severity of symptoms, and in-depth assessments for accurate treatment referrals. These services can not only make the codeine withdrawal timeline easier, but they can also pave the way for long-term sobriety.

During detox, opiate treatment medications like buprenorphine or methadone may be used to help taper individuals off of opiates in a safe and controlled manner. These medications can prevent complications and make the withdrawal process more comfortable.

Find Help for Codeine Abuse and Addiction Today

The first step towards recovery from codeine addiction is detox. Although withdrawal can be a difficult part of one’s journey, our team at Carolina Center for Recovery is dedicated to making the process safe, manageable, and effective. Our addiction professionals design individualized treatment programs for each patient, enabling them to embrace a drug-free life ahead.

If you or a loved one are struggling with codeine addiction, call now. A representative can speak with you about your treatment needs and program options.

References:

  1. https://academic.oup.com/qjmed/article/110/9/559/3098674
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526012/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1811505/

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