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Codeine Withdrawal

Codeine is an opioid drug that may be prescribed for mild to moderate pain. Prescriptions for codeine and other opioids began to increase during the late 1990s. These medications can help treat pain, but they can also be highly addictive and lead to devastating personal struggles, including overdose. 

If codeine is not taken as directed it can be habit-forming and lead to addiction. In 2016 overdoses from opioids caused 42,000 deaths. Codeine may also interact with other drugs, medications, supplements, or alcohol. 

Learn more below about codeine withdrawal and how to get help recovering from an addiction to codeine. 

What Are the Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms?

Codeine withdrawal symptoms are very uncomfortable and it can be hard to detox on your own. But, luckily, the symptoms usually aren’t life-threatening. Symptoms of codeine withdrawal may include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Runny nose
  • Insomnia
  • Teary eyes
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Goosebumps
  • Chills
  • Dilated pupils

What Are the Stages of the Codeine Withdrawal Timeline?

The symptoms of codeine withdrawal usually last at least one week. Sometimes symptoms last longer. In fact, they may last for months. 

The most difficult physical withdrawal symptoms usually occur during the first week of the codeine withdrawal. Other symptoms may last much longer. These include physical cravings and emotional symptoms like anxiety. It can be challenging to overcome these behavioral symptoms. The longer you have used codeine, the more difficult this process—known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS)—will be for you. 

Codeine changes the brain’s chemistry. It also affects how the body responds to stress. As the chemicals leave the body, codeine withdrawal symptoms begin, which may affect memory, sleep, ability to concentrate, energy and mood. 

The stages of codeine withdrawal are divided into two categories: Early symptoms and Late symptoms of withdrawal.

Early Symptoms of Codeine Withdrawal

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Runny nose
  • Teary eyes
  • Sweating
  • Yawning

Late Symptoms of Codeine Withdrawal

  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Goosebumps
  • Chills
  • Enlarged pupils

The factors and complications that might affect codeine withdrawal timeline include:

  • Aspiration (vomiting and then breathing the contents into the lungs) which can result in a lung infection.
  • Dehydration that is caused by excessive vomiting and diarrhea
  • Having additional medical or psychiatric conditions
  • Using again after completing the withdrawal process, which can easily cause an overdose because the body no longer has the same level of tolerance to the drug.
  • Withdrawing from multiple substances at one time

Why Should I Detox?

Although it may seem like a good idea, quitting “cold turkey” can actually put you at risk of further complications or relapse. This is because the physical symptoms caused by withdrawing from codeine are difficult and may feel like a bad flu. 

The best way to detox safely is to enter a professional, medically-assisted detox program. This way, you are supported and carefully monitored while your body goes through the detoxification process as it gets rid of the physical need for the drug. 

Medications such as buprenorphine are available to help relieve the physical cravings. The doctors and nurses on your medical team can also administer these medications to you if needed. They will also ensure your body has the vitamins, fluids, and electrolytes it needs. In addition to medical treatment, you will also receive professional mental and emotional support during this challenging time. 

What Is the Next Treatment Step?

There are different stages of codeine addiction treatment but the most comprehensive approach that will set you for success is following what’s known as a “full continuum of treatment.” 

A full continuum of treatment means that you start with the most intense level of care by going through detox. Once you have completed detox you progress through less intense levels of treatment. Like treatment for other opioids, stages of codeine addiction treatment include:

The first stage of treatment is detoxification, which is known more commonly simply as detox. When you arrive, you will complete a medical assessment to determine your level of addiction plus any additional medical needs you may have. This thorough assessment will include a medical exam and urine or blood tests to screen for drugs. 

Your goal during this first stage of opioid withdrawal treatment is medical stabilization. The medical team treating you will include doctors, nurses, and support staff. 

Once you have completed your initial assessment, your physician will review your results and they may also require additional testing. These other tests may include additional blood tests, including a CBC (complete blood count), chest X-ray, ECG (electrocardiogram), and testing for other diseases.

After your doctor has these test results, he or she will create your detox plan, which you will follow under the care of your medical team. 

Detoxing from opioids like codeine includes a combination of detox drugs. These may include methadone, buprenorphine, clonidine, and naltrexone. 

Emotional support will also be a part of your treatment plan as you begin addiction therapy. It’s normal for many people who are detoxing to experience feelings of anxiety, depression, and other emotional and psychological challenges.

If your doctor determines that you need further close monitoring, the next stage for you after detox may be to continue treatment in a residential facility. This decision will depend on your level of addiction and your other medical or psychological needs. 

Staying at a residential facility allows you to focus solely on your psychological and emotional recovery since you’ll stay at the treatment center full-time. While you are there, you will undergo a thorough, yet supportive, treatment program at least five days a week. 

This program will carefully address your emotional and mental health needs while you focus on learning positive life skills, coping mechanisms, and other techniques to help prevent relapse and ensure long-term recovery. 

You will enter a partial-hospitalization program (PHP) after detox if you don’t need to continue in residential care. 

The PHP stage blends together aspects of residential care and outpatient treatment. At this stage, you’ll live at home or in a transitional living facility and participate in a structured treatment program five days a week for six hours each day. 

The program will include individual, group, and family therapy programs. Your focus during PHP is to learn positive life skills, coping mechanisms, and relapse-prevention techniques and prepare you for long-term recovery. These skills will guide you as you return to your life outside the treatment center.  

After you complete PHP, the next stage is the intensive outpatient stage (IOP). During this stage, like in PHP, you will either move back home or possibly into a “sober home” that provides a more structured lifestyle for those who are just starting their recovery from substance abuse. 

During IOP you will still attend intensive therapy sessions, but they won’t be as often. You will also continue with medication management if needed and you will be subject to periodic weekly testing to help you remain accountable.  

Once you have completed the formal stages of the full continuum treatment program, you enter into what is called “aftercare.” This is a program that helps you maintain your recovery. There are opportunities for you to meet other treatment center graduates at weekly support groups and social events. These are great ways to meet other program alumni, develop new friendships, and build a social network as part of your support system for long-term success.

Start Your Journey to Recovery Today

If you’re looking for guidance on starting your journey to codeine recovery, contact our admissions specialists at Pathway to Hope today for free and confidential help. They will walk you answer any questions you may have about our evidence-based services. After speaking with a specialist, you will be ready to make an educated decision about your treatment plans. An admissions specialist can also contact your private health insurance to find out if your treatment costs will be fully covered. 

You don’t have to go through this challenging time by yourself. Call us today to get help and freedom from your addiction.


(2018, March 15) Codeine. Retrieved from

(2018, December 6) Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal. Retrieved from from

Mager, Dan (2015, May 26) Detoxing after Detox: The Perils of Post-Acute Withdrawal. Retrieved from

Codeine Withdrawal: What It Is and How to Cope. Retrieved from

World Health Organization (2009) Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings. Retrieved from

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