Detoxing from prescription opioids like codeine can involve uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, but it is a vital first step on the path to recovery.

Codeine is a prescription opioid pain reliever and cough medicine. It can be physically and psychologically addictive if taken consistently or in high doses, but using codeine exactly as prescribed by a doctor also carries a potential risk of addiction.

Recovery can be challenging for someone addicted to codeine or other opioids, especially when considering the discomfort associated with detoxification and withdrawal. With the support of a medical team, you or your loved one can overcome codeine dependency and begin an addiction-free life.

Article at a Glance:

  • Codeine is a prescription opioid that treats pain and coughing, but it can be addictive when abused — even at prescription dosages.
  • Codeine withdrawal can have a variety of symptoms, including sweating, anxiety, diarrhea, vomiting, and dilated pupils.
  • It is recommended to seek professional treatment for opioid withdrawal to safely begin the recovery process.

What Is Codeine Withdrawal?

Over time and with consistent use, the body can become used to codeine. As a person’s tolerance grows, the drug becomes less effective, and a larger dosage is required to achieve the same feeling.

When a person cannot stop taking opioids like codeine without experiencing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, the person is physically dependent on the drug. Withdrawal symptoms can make recovery especially difficult and painful for someone dealing with a substance use disorder.


How can I get off codeine without withdrawal symptoms?

For many people, stopping codeine use will inevitably lead to withdrawal symptoms. Whether or not they occur will depend on the length and severity of the person’s drug abuse.

Is there anything that I can take over-the-counter to help with codeine withdrawal?

Speak with your doctor or addiction specialist before trying to treat any withdrawal symptoms with over-the-counter medications. While some of these medications can be used, they may have dangerous side effects depending on the body’s overall medical state.

Can codeine withdrawal be life-threatening?

<p>Yes, codeine withdrawal can be life-threatening if the person experiences severe symptoms, such as dehydration as a result of vomiting or diarrhea.</p>

Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms

Frequent side effects of codeine addiction and withdrawal include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Muscle aches
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Lacrimation (an abnormal or excessive secretion of tears)
  • Strong desire to use codeine

If you are experiencing codeine withdrawal symptoms, it is best to seek medical assistance to help cope with the symptoms and safely continue the codeine detox.

The Recovery Village can help you or a loved one overcome the withdrawal stage, complete detox and recover from addiction.

How Long Do Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

The codeine withdrawal and detoxification process can vary in length depending on many factors, including dosage amount and detox strategy. Symptoms can last as little as one week or as long as 20 days or more.

Physical symptoms are strongest during the first few days of the codeine detox process, but some withdrawal symptoms and cravings can last several weeks.

Codeine Withdrawal Timeline

Short-Term Symptoms and Withdrawal Effects of Codeine

Early on during detox, people may encounter withdrawal symptoms due to the body’s dependency on codeine. Some of these symptoms can occur within a few hours of a person’s last dose.

Common short-term withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Irregular sleeping patterns
  • Body aches
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches

Long-Term Symptoms and Withdrawal Effects of Codeine

Even after short-term codeine withdrawal symptoms end, the body continues adjusting to an absence of the drug. Long-term symptoms and effects of codeine withdrawal and detox could last several weeks, depending on the history of use.

Common long-term symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

How Is Codeine Withdrawal Treated?

In a medical setting, doctors can help alleviate or prevent severe withdrawal symptoms in people struggling with drug detox. This involves medications that help wean the body off of opioids and manage codeine withdrawal symptoms.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) should only be used under the guidance of a trained medical professional. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to drug detox, so finding a program that fits the person’s specific needs is important.

Commonly prescribed narcotic medications for opioid detox include:

  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Naltrexone

Detox At Home or Under Medical Supervision

Some people may attempt to detox from codeine without medical supervision. This is called home detox, and it can be riskier than a medically supervised detox program. Some withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening, including severe vomiting and diarrhea, leading to heightened risk if the person is unsupervised.

Home detox can also involve a “cold turkey” withdrawal, which involves abruptly stopping drug use. Going “cold turkey” can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms and a greater risk that the person relapses to using codeine again.

Medical experts strongly advise against the “cold turkey” withdrawal strategy. Instead of taking a dangerous risk with home detox, many medical detox programs are available to safely transition away from regular codeine use.

Starting Your Codeine Detox

While addiction withdrawal can be a difficult part of someone’s recovery journey, the help of medical professionals can make the process more manageable.

At The Recovery Village, professionals can design an individualized treatment program to help you or your loved one overcome codeine addiction for a drug-free future. Call today to speak with a representative about your options to begin the withdrawal and detoxification process.

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Editor – Erica Weiman
Erica Weiman graduated from Pace University in 2014 with a master's in Publishing and has been writing and editing ever since. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more

U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal.” MedlinePlus, October 5, 2021. Accessed October 12, 2021.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Effective Treatments for Opioid Addiction.” November 1, 2016. Accessed October 12, 2021.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Opioids.” Accessed October 12, 2021.

World Health Organization. “Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Ma[…] Closed Settings.” 2009. Accessed October 12, 2021.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with 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 providers.