What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Codeine Addiction?


What are The Withdrawal Symptoms of Codeine? Codeine is both a prescription drug and addictive, so in some cases, people accidentally end up addicted to it. 

If you, or someone you care about, are currently taking codeine and you are worried about addiction, this article will explain what to expect when you withdraw from it. 

We’ll look at the main symptoms, withdrawal timeframe, the best environment to detox in, and ways to support yourself through it and beyond. 

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Codeine Summary

  • Codeine is an opiate pain relief commonly used to treat injuries and chronic pain by blocking pain signals 
  • It is addictive and can be abused 
  • Codeine-related deaths have increased by almost 25% in 2021, reaching a record high
  • Physical symptoms of codeine withdrawal include headaches, high blood pressure, and diarrhoea
  • Psychological withdrawal symptoms may include anxiety, depression, and cravings
  • Occasionally people experience severe withdrawal symptoms such as psychosis or paranoid delusions 
  • Physical withdrawal symptoms set in as quickly as one hour after the last dose and last about a week 
  • Psychological withdrawal symptoms may take longer to set in and can last for several months 
  • You can detox from codeine at home or under medical supervision, but either way, you should avoid quitting cold turkey 
  • There are certain medications you can take to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, such as loperamide for diarrhoea or diazepam for sleep issues
  • Once you have detoxed, you should make sure you get enough support, like counselling or support groups, to maintain your recovery

Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms 

Codeine is an opiate, which is used to treat pain following an injury, operation, or chronic pain in which milder painkillers like paracetamol don’t work. 

It works in the brain and central nervous system to stop them from communicating pain signals to the rest of the body. In turn, this also soothes the anxiety and stress that are often coupled with intense or chronic pain. 

While codeine can be useful, it is addictive. In rare cases, it can be fatal and codeine-related deaths have increased by almost 25% in 2021, reaching a record high. 

While codeine is less prone to addiction than other painkillers, like oxycodone, it still has the potential for addiction. If used for a prolonged period, you can develop tolerance to codeine which essentially means your body requires more codeine to get the same initial impact. After this stage, you will begin to rely on codeine to avoid withdrawal symptoms, which is known as dependence. You can reach this stage if you take codeine for more than a few weeks or more than the amount you have been prescribed. 

This can ultimately lead to addiction, which is hallmarked by craving and compulsively seeking codeine. In some cases, you develop codeine dependence even if you take codeine as prescribed.

If you have reached the stage of dependence or addiction, you will have to go through withdrawal and will likely experience symptoms. These symptoms are similar to those associated with withdrawing from other opiates, and it can be an uncomfortable process. 

Various factors impact how you’ll experience codeine withdrawal symptoms, which can range from mild to severe. How long you have been taking codeine, and at what dosage, will impact your withdrawal experience It can also be impacted by:

  • Mental health
  • Medical history 
  • Body weight 
  • Whether codeine was combined with alcohol or other drugs 

If you decide to stop taking codeine, it’s important to seek medical support before you attempt to quit. If you have become physically dependent on codeine, you may benefit from a medically assisted detox which can better manage your withdrawal symptoms and any other potential issues or complications.

Physical Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms 

  • Headaches 
  • Fever
  • Stomach pain 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Appetite loss
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dehydration
  • Goosebumps
  • Restlessness
  • Rapid breathing

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Psychological Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Cravings 

Severe Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms

You could also experience severe symptoms when withdrawing from codeine, which can include:

  • Suicidal thoughts 
  • Psychosis 
  • Paranoid delusions 

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to contact medical help immediately.

Acute Withdrawal from Codeine 

When it comes to codeine withdrawal, people typically experience it in two distinct periods. The first phase usually sets in an hour or so after you last took codeine, and then the second phase is experienced as your body starts to work out how to function without codeine in its system. Symptoms experienced in the acute, early stage of withdrawal could include:

  • A quicker heartbeat 
  • Aching muscles 
  • Sweating 
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Experiencing a runny nose or watery eyes 
  • Intense cravings 

Codeine Withdrawal Timeline 

The length of the Codeine withdrawal process varies between individuals. Generally speaking, the first symptoms can set in an hour or so after the last dose. 

The total duration of time spent experiencing withdrawal symptoms will vary greatly, but you will typically experience the most uncomfortable physical symptoms for around a week. The psychological symptoms, like anxiety and depression, can last for longer, sometimes months after quitting. 

While we want to make it clear that everyone’s codeine withdrawal timeline will look different, we appreciate it is useful to have a rough idea of what you can expect. 

Day 1: Here you will experience the symptoms associated with acute withdrawal from codeine. These might include a faster pulse, achy muscles, sweating, insomnia, and a runny nose or teary eyes. You will likely also experience intense cravings for codeine. 

Day 2 – 7: The first week is the worst for physical symptoms and towards the end of the week, they should peak and then fade. Physical symptoms you might experience during this time include headaches, diarrhoea, and vomiting. As the physical symptoms recede, you may experience some psychological symptoms like depression or anxiety. 

Day 8+: By now, the worst of the physical symptoms should have cleared up. But it is normal at this point to still be affected by psychological symptoms. You may experience these, along with physical cravings, for several months. 

Codeine Detox 

The reason you undertake a codeine detox is to get all of the substance out of your body and help your body remember how to cope and function without it. The best way to manage this process is to do so gradually, by tapering down your dosage over a set period of time. This will limit your withdrawal symptoms and should make the process much more manageable when compared with quitting codeine cold turkey. In turn, you will reduce your risk of relapse. 

If you are severely addicted to codeine, you might benefit from a medically assisted detox. This means you will be supported from start to finish and any serious side effects of the withdrawal process can be dealt with by professionals. 

It is possible to do a home detox when trying to get off of codeine, and if you feel it is the best option for you it’s certainly something to explore with your healthcare provider. 

Home Detox for Codeine 

Many people would prefer to detox from codeine at home. While this is possible, it isn’t always advisable especially if your tolerance to codeine is very high. The symptoms outlined above explain how uncomfortable this process can be, so having experienced medical staff on hand to help you guide you through will set you up for the best chance of success. 

During a home detox, most people quit cold turkey because tapering off can be a bit trickier to manage. It’s also true that quitting cold turkey can speed up the detox process, but it can also make it much more uncomfortable and consequently make relapse a much more likely outcome. When you quit cold turkey you will usually experience very intense symptoms including extreme cravings that are difficult to manage on your own. 

If you decide to detox codeine at home, make sure you work with a healthcare provider and come up with a plan together. They will help advise you on how to taper off, to maximise your chance of quitting codeine for good while minimising the worst of the symptoms. 

While you are detoxing at home, you will also want to remove as much extra responsibility from your life as possible and make the detox process your sole focus. This could mean taking some time off of work, calling in favours from friends or family, or paying for extra help. 

Medically Supervised Detox for Codeine 

If you are dealing with a severe addiction to codeine, or you’re addicted to codeine along with alcohol or another drug, undergoing your detox at a centre that can provide you with a medically supervised detox is going to be your best option. 

Here you will go through a gradual withdrawal. Tapering off of codeine means you gradually reduce the dose over a period of time, which leads to a much more gentle detox. It allows your body to learn how to cope with fewer and fewer levels of codeine in its system so that when you eventually do stop taking it altogether it isn’t quite such a shock. 

To maximise your chances of quitting for good, you should detox in a medical environment where you can be safely monitored and any withdrawal symptoms managed. You can usually do this as either an inpatient at a rehabilitation treatment centre or as an outpatient

Medicines That Can Support Codeine Detox

Your doctor may be able to prescribe you some medication to help ease certain symptoms, depending on your medical history and specific symptoms. 

Medications for Mild Symptoms

Your doctor may prescribe you non-narcotic medications, such as ibuprofen, to help with mild pain. If you experience diarrhoea you may be able to use loperamide (sold under the brand name Imodium and Dioraleze) to relieve it. 

Medications for Moderate Symptoms 

If you are experiencing more intense symptoms, you may be prescribed clonidine, which can be used to reduce anxiety and high blood pressure. It may also help with other symptoms including cramping, sweating and achy muscles. 

If you are having sleep issues, your doctor may prescribe you a benzodiazepine, like diazepam (also known as Valium). Valium is also addictive, however, so this will need to be considered. 

Medications for Severe Symptoms 

If your symptoms are severe and you are struggling to cope, your doctor may prescribe you a short-term prescription for naltrexone, which will stop opioids from affecting the brain, or methadone which helps to stop withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings. 

Getting Help 

After you have detoxed from codeine, you’ll need to make sure you have adequate support in place to avoid a relapse. 

While it might not feel like you have an addiction, perhaps because codeine isn’t illegal or because you were prescribed it for genuine concern, if you experienced withdrawal symptoms it’s likely that you had dependence and possibly an addiction.

The detox is the first step, and then you can further help yourself on the road to recovery by getting support to help you explore the underlying issues that resulted in the addiction.  

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Making that first step in seeking help can be very difficult, our team is here to help you.

Support Groups 

If one-to-one therapy sounds too intense for you, you might feel more comfortable in a support group setting. This peer-based approach is often experienced as a much less formal type of support, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t helpful. Peer support can help by sharing similar experiences, showing that avoiding relapse is possible and creating a support network that is there when you need it most. 

Counselling / Therapy 

Addictions don’t just happen out of nowhere, in most cases they have an underlying cause. Without working out what caused your addiction, you risk remaining in the dark about it which leaves you vulnerable to developing other unhealthy coping mechanisms down the line. You can choose from a range of different therapy, many people grappling with addiction find CBT a very practical, useful form. Along with your therapist, you will uncover the issues that led you to addiction and develop healthy coping mechanisms to help you avoid relapsing. 

Outpatient Rehab 

If you have decided that residential rehab is not for you, outpatient rehab is a good alternative. You will still attend a treatment centre at various points throughout the day or week where you will receive addiction treatment. However, instead of staying at the centre, you’ll go home afterward. Because this form of rehabilitation is less intensive, it often takes a little while longer than inpatient rehabilitation and can last for several months or even up to a year or more. 

Residential Rehab 

If you are struggling with a severe addiction to codeine, inpatient residential rehabilitation may be the best option for you. You will temporarily move into a treatment centre, like Castle Craig, and receive all of your treatment onsite. This allows you to be completely removed from the environment where you developed your addiction, which will eliminate any triggers. You’ll also be able to access professional help whenever you need it, whether that’s medical monitoring while you’re undergoing a codeine detox or accessing a peer support group to help you navigate your addiction.

It’s common to feel daunted about the withdrawal process. But the good news is, that plenty of people have been exactly where you are right now and have beat their addiction to codeine. In just a matter of weeks or months, that could be you too. 

If you’d like to explore your options, talk through any concerns, or would like to understand how we can help you tackle this, please give us a call for non-judgemental advice. 

FAQs 

Is Codeine 30 MG Addictive?

Frequent, prolonged use of codeine can result in addiction. If you are addicted, you will experience withdrawal symptoms – such as irritability and cravings – when you try to go without it. 

What Happens if You Take Lots of Codeine?

Taking lots of codeine can cause you to feel drowsy, confused, nauseous, itchy and constipated. A codeine overdose can be lethal, especially when mixed with alcohol or other opiates. 

Can Codeine Cause Sudden Death?

Codeine is addictive and has the risk of abuse. If abused, it can lead to overdose and death. 

How Long Does Codeine Take to Peak?

The effects of codeine kick in after around one hour, and the pain relief effect reaches a peak within two hours and lasts for around four hours.

What Are Withdrawal Symptoms?

If you have been using a substance and have developed a tolerance to it, your body adjusts. If you suddenly stop taking the substance, your body will experience a range of effects as it goes through withdrawal from the substance. 

What Are 3 or More Signs & Symptoms of Withdrawal?

Withdrawing from codeine could make you nauseous and vomit, feel irritable and anxious and give you intense cravings. 

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