Codeine Withdrawal & Detox

Codeine, a prescription narcotic pain reliever and cough medicine, can be physically and psychologically addictive if taken consistently or in high doses. One of the most prescribed pain-relief medicines in the United States, codeine is often misused. The drug is a contributing factor to the country’s opioid epidemic.

For someone addicted to codeine and other opiates such as morphine and heroin, recovery can be challenging. Addiction withdrawal and detoxification from codeine can be a challenging part of the drug rehabilitation process. With a team of medical experts helping, you or your loved one can rise above codeine dependency and begin an addiction-free life.

Opioids interact with a person’s brain and nervous system receptors to fire off endorphins, a body’s natural painkiller. When taking the medicine in large quantities, people can experience a high similar to that caused by heroin, morphine or other opioids. The addictive high and the body’s adjustment to these euphoric feelings are what often cause people to continue taking codeine without a doctor’s prescription.

Over time, the body can develop a tolerance for codeine and a dependence on the drug. As a person’s tolerance grows, the drug appears less effective and requires a larger dosage to achieve the same feeling. This creates a dependence on the drug. This makes recovery more difficult for people since they can experience withdrawal symptoms, which reflect the body’s dependence on the drug. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people can develop an opioid or opiate addiction from a doctor’s prescribed use.

A person who is addicted to codeine can experience numerous uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Frequent side effects of codeine addiction and withdrawal include:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Breathing issues
  • Problems sleeping
  • Depression
  • Sedation
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Stomach aches
  • Muscle weakness and pain

Additionally, a person’s strong desire to use codeine is a common sign of withdrawal. When a person experiences codeine withdrawal, it is best to seek medical assistance to help cope with the symptoms and continue the codeine detoxification process. The Recovery Village can help you or a loved one overcome the withdrawal stage and complete the drug detoxification process.

Codeine withdrawal and detoxification can vary in length depending on numerous factors, including dosage amount and detoxification strategy. Symptoms can last as little as one week and as long as a month or more. Physical symptoms are strongest for the first few days during the codeine detoxification process. However, some withdrawal symptoms and cravings can last several months.
Early in the codeine withdrawal and detoxification process, people may encounter common symptoms due to a lack of the drug and the body’s feeling of dependency. Some symptoms can occur within a few hours of a person’s last dose. Common short-term symptoms and effects of codeine addiction and withdrawal include:

  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Irregular sleeping patterns
  • Body aches
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
Even after short-term codeine withdrawal symptoms end, the body continues adjusting to a lack of the drug. Long-term symptoms and effects of codeine withdrawal and detoxification could last up to a month. Common experiences include:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Goosebumps
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Enlarged pupils

In a medical setting, doctors can help people alleviate or avoid severe withdrawal symptoms through opioid replacement therapy. This involves medications specifically to wean the body off of opioids and help manage codeine withdrawal symptoms. Medication-assisted detox should only be conducted under the guidance of a trained medical professional. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to detox, so finding a program you trust will help you get the care you need  Commonly prescribed narcotic medications for opioid detoxification include:

  • Methadone – Helps alleviate codeine cravings
  • Buprenorphine – Lessens the severity of symptoms and shortens the detox process
  • Clonidine – Assists in managing physical and mental symptoms
  • Naltrexone – Helps prevent recurring use

Some may attempt to go through codeine withdrawal and detox without medical supervision. This is called home detox and can be riskier than a medically supervised detox program. Some withdrawal symptoms can be life threatening when mishandled, so seeking medical help is the safest option. Home detox can also involve a “cold turkey” withdrawal, which involves an abrupt discontinuation of opioids.. This can lead to recurring use of codeine or even death due to the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Medical experts strongly advise against using the “cold turkey” withdrawal strategy. Instead of taking risks with home detox, there are many medical detox programs available to safely transition away from regular codeine use.

While addiction withdrawal is an uncomfortable step in a person’s recovery, the help of medical professionals can make the process more manageable. At The Recovery Village, professionals can design a treatment program to leave codeine addiction behind for good. Call today to speak with a representative about your options to begin the codeine withdrawal and detoxification process.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.


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