Codeine Withdrawal & Detox

For someone hooked on codeine, quitting the drug isn’t easy. Like other opioids, codeine impacts the brain in a way that can lead to physical dependence and addiction. When seeking medical help to safely detox from opioids like codeine, it’s important to remember that withdrawal pangs can be uncomfortable at times. Detox is often the hardest — and most dreaded — component to a successful opiate addiction rehabilitation program. But if you choose to trust trained medical experts with your detox process, they can help mitigate withdrawal symptoms and give you the tools to begin your road to recovery.
While codeine use may initially start off safely under the parameters of a doctor’s prescription, nonmedical use of the drug can set in motion dangerous effects on the body. Habitual use of codeine can lead to a physical dependence on the drug. Dependence, in turn, increases a person’s need to take more of the drug to achieve the characteristic codeine high that users expect.

Dependence effectively warps a user’s tolerance threshold for codeine, and also makes it harder to “come down” off of the drug. The time it takes for a user to develop a codeine tolerance depends on factors like:

  • Genetics
  • Dosage of the drug
  • Duration of drug use

Attempting to forego codeine use may lead to disruptive and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for how to get off opiates without withdrawal symptoms. However, you can minimize your discomfort by learning about the process and taking helpful precautions.

A thorough codeine detox can occur over the course of several days. However, withdrawal symptoms vary depending on how long it has been since you last used codeine.

Early withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Sleep trouble
  • Body aches
  • Accelerated heartbeat

Late withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Goosebumps on skin
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
codeine detox
To help manage withdrawal symptoms during detox, doctors may order opioid replacement therapy. This means that you will be given medications that are specifically designed to help your body endure the effects of opioid withdrawal. These drugs should be used in conjunction with authorized psychotherapies. Commonly prescribed medications for opioid detox include:

  • Methadone – This medication helps to alleviate cravings.
  • Buprenorphine – Popularly known by its brand name Subutex, this drug helps ease symptoms and shorten detox.
  • Clonidine – This medication helps manage physical and mental symptoms.
  • Naltrexone – This drug helps prevent relapse.
In some cases, users opt to detox from codeine without medical supervision. Not only does this typically take longer than supervised detox, but it also lacks the supplemental help found at a facility. Medical detox provides the benefit of trained experts who can manage withdrawal symptoms more effectively. Plus, a medical detox allows you the relief of an opiate blocker medication.
There is no single opiate withdrawal timeline. In the case of short-acting opioids like codeine, you may be able to overcome withdrawal symptoms in as little as seven days. However, this can vary depending on factors like strength of drug dependence, duration of abuse, and your unique body makeup. The challenge lies in persevering through the drug detoxification process, no matter how long it takes.
While tapering off codeine use gradually is the oft-recommended approach to quitting this drug, only a medical professional can determine whether it’s safe for you to attempt sudden withdrawal. Quitting codeine “cold turkey” forces you to embrace withdrawal symptoms and fight through the process, no matter how many days it takes to wean yourself off the opioid. This method is not for everyone, however; some people may not tolerate withdrawal symptoms well.
In some cases, after a period of detoxing from codeine, users relapse and overcompensate for their intense cravings. Sometimes, even simply returning to pre-detox dosages can be dangerous during a relapse. Though rare, the body’s inability to handle those dosages after detox may lead to death.

It is critical to get addiction treatment directly after detox — whether you detoxed at home or underwent a medical detox. Experienced treatment professionals can help a user manage expectations during recovery by monitoring their progress and challenging them appropriately to reach new milestones towards sobriety.

Case-Lo, Christine. “Codeine Withdrawal: Symptoms, Treatment, and More.” Healthline, 8 Dec. 2016, Accessed 30 Jan. 2017.

“DrugFacts: Cough and Cold Medicine Abuse.” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health, May 2014, Accessed 30 Jan. 2017.

GLOOM. “Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms + Timeline.” Mental Health Daily, Accessed 30 Jan. 2017.

Codeine Withdrawal and Detox
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Codeine Withdrawal and Detox was last modified: July 7th, 2017 by The Recovery Village