Codeine is a common ingredient in cough syrups and it is often prescribed to treat mild to moderate pain. Because of this, many people think it’s harmless. However, codeine is an opioid and this means it is potent and highly addictive. Whether it is taken as a pill or in liquid form, it can lead to dependence or addiction, especially if you exceed the recommended dose.
If you become dependent on codeine, you will experience signs and symptoms of codeine withdrawal when you stop using it. This may cause you to keep using the drug. While opiate withdrawal is challenging and uncomfortable, it is worth it and it’s a lot easier when you have medical support. Read on to find out codeine abuse, addiction, and withdrawal.
What is Codeine?
Codeine is synthesized from the morphine in the opium poppy. It is combined with other medications to suppress coughs and treat migraines and other types of pain. It is intended for short-term use only. Some of the medicines that contain codeine are:
- Tylenol #3 and Tylenol #4 – These are pills that contain both codeine and acetaminophen and they are used for pain relief.
- Tuzistra XR – This is a prescription cough syrup that contains a combination of promethazine and codeine. In addition to suppressing coughs, it is also used to treat runny nose and other symptoms of colds and allergies.
- Phrenilin with codeine and caffeine, and Fioricet with codeine. These are used to treat migraines.
The effects of codeine usually kick in in about 30 minutes and last for four to six hours. People think codeine is weak but it metabolizes into morphine when taken and acts as a central nervous system depressant. When abused, it can result in feelings of relaxation, calm, and euphoria. However, codeine can also cause depressed breathing and, therefore, result in accidental death.
Because of the dangers, in 2017, the Food and Drug Administration recommended that codeine not be used in patients under the age of 18. Given that codeine presents a high risk for abuse and addiction, it should only be taken as prescribed. If it is repeatedly abused, both the brain and body can become dependent on it. When the body tries to adjust to the absence of codeine, the individual will experience codeine withdrawal symptoms.
What Is Codeine Abuse?
While anyone can use codeine in a way in which it wasn’t prescribed, abuse is common among young people. They mix cough syrups that contain codeine with juice, soda, or alcohol in an effort to get high. You may know these concoctions as Purple Drank, Lean, or Sizzurp. People also swallow codeine pills or crush them and snort them.
Regardless of how codeine is taken, abusing the drug leads to a rush of dopamine in the brain that can contribute to addiction. If codeine abuse goes on for more than a few weeks, tolerance can develop. This means the same dose of codeine no longer has the same effect it once did. Some people respond to this by taking more and more codeine, increasing the likelihood that they will become addicted.
What Are the Signs of Codeine Addiction?
A person who is addicted to codeine will display a range of behaviors including:
- Creating or acquiring fake prescriptions for codeine
- Making appointments with different doctors to get multiple prescriptions for codeine
- Buying codeine on the street
- Stealing codeine or stealing money to purchase codeine
- Lying about codeine use
- Isolating from loved ones
- Finding it impossible to stop using codeine even though they want to
- Taking oxycodone, hydrocodone, or heroin when codeine is not available
- Experiencing codeine withdrawal symptoms when not taking codeine
Many people who are addicted to codeine fear withdrawal and this keeps them trapped in a vicious cycle. If you’re struggling to control your use of codeine, you need to seek professional help. Overcoming addiction starts with detox and it’s best to undergo detox in a facility staffed by medical personnel.
What is Codeine Detox?
Detoxification or detox is when you stop taking a harmful substance and allow your body to rid itself of the toxins. One way to do this is to go cold turkey. This is when you suddenly stop taking codeine. While this is the fastest way to get codeine out of your system, it is also the most painful and it isn’t recommended.
Another option is to taper off your use over several weeks or months. By taking a little less codeine each day under you eventually stop using any at all, your body will be able to slowly adjust. While this takes longer than quitting cold turkey, you’re less likely to experience severe codeine withdrawal symptoms. If you undergo medically supervised detox, you’ll be provided with medication to ease your symptoms.
The third option involves the use of opioid replacement therapy. We’ll talk more about this later but it’s the process of using drugs to assist in the detoxification process. Opioid replacement therapy is often reserved for cases of severe withdrawal.
Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms
When your body starts to rid itself of codeine, you may experience a wide range of symptoms. Let’s look at some of them.
Opioid use typically causes constipation. However, during the detoxification process, the digestive system tries to function normally again. For a short time, you may experience diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and decreased appetite. A doctor can provide medications to help with these temporary symptoms if necessary.
Muscle Aches and Joint Pain
Pain is common when going through codeine withdrawal. Fortunately, medical professionals can provide safe pain-relieving medications and help to make you more comfortable during the process.
Goosebumps and Chills
One of the possible codeine withdrawal symptoms is difficulty in regulating your temperature. Therefore, you may feel cold even when it’s actually quite warm. This isn’t particularly serious and you’ll just need to add a layer of clothing or turn up the heat to get more comfortable.
Sweating and Dehydration
On the other hand, some people find that their body temperature increases along with their heart rate. This results in excessive sweating that can lead to dehydration. Since people going through withdrawal don’t really feel like eating and drinking, dehydration is an even bigger risk. This is why it’s advised to have medical support while detoxing. That way, you’ll be provided with liquids and electrolytes to keep you properly hydrated.
Codeine tends to make you sleepy so when you’re not using it anymore, you may find it hard to sleep. You may also feel tired and drained of energy. Over time, you’ll find it easier to fall asleep without the need for opioids.
In addition to the symptoms described above, codeine withdrawal may also be characterized by a runny nose, sneezing, trembling in the extremities, headaches, vomiting, rash, and dilated pupils.
Psychological and Cognitive Difficulties
These symptoms can be quite varied. Some people experience panic attacks and while rare, hallucinations have been known to occur. The most common symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Problems with concentration and memory
People who regularly use both codeine and other drugs may also experience seizure-like activity.
Codeine Withdrawal: How Long Does it Last?
Everyone has a different experience when experiencing withdrawal. Some people’s symptoms last for just a week while others experience symptoms for months. Generally, the discomfort is short-lived because codeine doesn’t stay in the body for very long. The physical symptoms tend to be at their strongest in the first few days after an individual last used codeine. Most of these symptoms go away within 14 days. However, cravings and psychological symptoms can last for months or even years in rare cases.
The duration and severity of your withdrawal symptoms can vary based on several factors including how you consumed codeine. People who snort drugs tend to have more severe withdrawal symptoms than individuals who take them orally. Whether you combined codeine with alcohol or other drugs also plays a role since poly-substance abuse can make withdrawal lengthier and more intense.
Other factors include:
- Your mental health
- Your metabolism
- Your medical history
- Your gender
- Your body weight
- How long you were using codeine
- How much codeine you regularly took
- How often you used codeine
A Typical Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline
While experiences vary, the following timeline is a rough guide as to what you may expect in the first month.
Days 1 to 4 – Physical symptoms like headaches, restless legs, muscle pain, insomnia, diarrhea, and vomiting peak within the first four days.
Days 5 to 7 – Most of the physical symptoms start to dissipate but you may begin to experience psychological symptoms such as depression. You may also become dehydrated as a result of diarrhea, excessive sweating, and/or lack of fluid intake in the previous days.
Days 8 to 30 – By this point, most of the codeine withdrawal symptoms will be over. However, cravings and depression may continue for months.
How Are Codeine Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms Treated?
If you undergo medically supervised detox, you’ll likely be able to avoid the most severe signs and symptoms of opioid withdrawal. It is likely that your doctor will recommend that you taper off your codeine use slowly instead of just quitting cold turkey. The doctor will set up what is known as a tapering schedule. They’ll start with a dosage that causes you to experience minimal to no withdrawal symptoms and they slowly reduce the dosage over a predetermined length of time. Eventually, you will be fully weaned off.
The medications you get during the detox process may depend on whether your addiction is mild, moderate, or severe. If you’re experiencing mild withdrawal symptoms, you may be given non-narcotic drugs such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain, Imodium for diarrhea, and Vistoril or Atarax for nausea and anxiety.
For moderate symptoms, your doctor may prescribe Clonidine for anxiety, sweating, agitation, cramps, runny nose, and muscle aches. You may also be given a long-acting benzodiazepine for anxiety, muscle cramps, and insomnia.
If your codeine withdrawal symptoms are intense, your doctor may advise you to switch from codeine to another opiate or prescribe one of the drugs used to treat opioid addiction. Methadone helps to prevent withdrawal symptoms and cravings and it assists the body in returning to normal function.
Naltrexone prevents opioids from acting on the brain. Since using codeine will no longer be pleasurable, it can help to prevent relapse although cravings may continue. Meanwhile, buprenorphine is a weaker opioid that can be used to reduce dependence on codeine.
Drugs are usually used in conjunction with counseling and other behavioral therapies since this gives individuals struggling with addiction the best chance of recovery. Therapy is an important part of any addiction recovery program. Individuals who go through detox but don’t continue into a rehab program are highly likely to relapse. However, individual counseling, group therapy, and other types of treatments are positively associated with long-term success.
Get Treatment for Codeine Addiction at Divine Detox
It can be difficult to choose the perfect detox center for your needs. Divine Detox is one of the leading detox facilities in California and we are staffed by professionals who understand the issues our patients face. We help people who are struggling with addiction from any substance including codeine.
Since no two individuals are the same even if they are addicted to the same substance, we take a personalized approach to each client. Before you or your loved one enters our facility, our intake specialist will assess you over the phone to make sure you’re a good fit for our detox program. Once we’re sure that we can give you the care you need, we’ll set up an intake plan.
Codeine withdrawal symptoms may be unpleasant but we’ll ensure you’re as safe and comfortable as possible. Detox is a short process and it prepares you for long-term sobriety. You don’t need to overcome your codeine addiction on your own. We have medical and addiction experts on hand who know how to ease opiate withdrawal. If you want to learn more about how we can help you, call us and talk to one of our staff members and we’ll guide you on the next steps.