Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms, Duration, and Effects - Withdrawal
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Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms, Duration, and Effects

Codeine is a prescription opioid analgesic and antitussive used for pain relief and severe coughing. Here's what you need to know about withdrawal.

Takeaways from this article:

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    Side effects of codeine withdrawal

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    codeine withdrawal timeline

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    signs of codeine addiction

Codeine is used to temporarily relieve mild to moderate pain and as a cough suppressant. It is included in many prescription cold and cough formulations. It belongs to a class of medications called opiates. Codeine changes the way the brain responds to pain by blocking pain signals.1

When a person who has consistently used codeine stops taking it, their brain has to adapt to no longer having the drug. They may begin to have codeine withdrawal signs and symptoms during this time.

These effects are both physical and mental and can include tearing, irritability, anxiety, runny nose, and sleep problems. The symptoms may begin 8-12 hours after the last dose and continue for roughly 4-10 days.

If you or someone you love struggles with codeine addiction, medical detox can help kickstart your recovery. Medical detox provides 24/7 medical and therapeutic support for safe and comfortable withdrawal management.

Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline

Withdrawal signs and symptoms of codeine withdrawal may include:1

  • Restlessness.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Tearing.
  • Irritability.
  • Anxiety.
  • Runny nose.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Yawning.
  • Sweating.
  • Fast breathing.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Chills.
  • Piloerection (hair standing on end).
  • Nausea.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Muscle aches.

Codeine withdrawal effects are different for everyone and can be affected by several factors, such as:

  • Severity of addiction.
  • Amount used daily.
  • Length of use.
  • Co–occurring mental health or medical conditions.
  • Abuse of other drugs or alcohol.
  • Health history.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms of Codeine

Symptoms can persist, evolve, or appear well past the expected timeframe for withdrawal. Post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) include symptoms that persist, evolve, or appear well past the expected timeframe for acute withdrawal. Post-acute withdrawal symptoms can last for weeks or months and may include:2

  • Anxiety.
  • Difficulty sleeping (falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up).
  • Poor short-term memory.
  • Persistent fatigue.
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions.
  • Drug cravings.
  • Anhedonia (inability to find joy in events, things, or people).
  • Depression.
  • Irritability.
  • Reduced interest in sex.

These symptoms can lead to relapse. Participating in some type of therapy or 12-step program after withdrawal treatment can help you get support to stay sober and receive any medication you need to help manage symptoms.

Withdrawal Timeline

The following codeine withdrawal timeline is merely a guideline. Everyone is different. The timeline can vary due to length of use, amount used, individual physiology, and co–occurring drug use.

Codeine Withdrawal Timeline
  • 8-12 hours
    • Withdrawal signs and symptoms begin. Symptoms may include anxiety, agitation, and sweating.
  • 12-24 hours
    • Symptoms may include aching, sweating, and diarrhea.
  • 36-72 hours
    • Symptoms intensify and peak and may include runny nose, tearing, diarrhea, insomnia, cravings, and cramps.
  • 4-10 days
    •  Symptoms fade and resolve.2,3,4

Medical Complications

Several medical complications can happen while experiencing codeine withdrawal effects. One of the major concerns is relapse, which can lead to overdose.

  • Dehydration. Vomiting or diarrhea from codeine withdrawal can lead to dehydration or electrolyte imbalance. 5
  • Heart problems. Effects of the withdrawal process, such as high blood pressure and increased heart rate, can aggravate underlying heart conditions. 5
  • Fever. Some users may have a fever that consists of shivering, headaches, and delirium if the fever is severe. 5
  • Anxiety. People who have an anxiety disorder, or are prone to anxiety, may experience symptoms during withdrawal. 5
  • Sensitivity to pain. People going through codeine withdrawal may have an increased sensitivity to pain due to a reduced pain threshold and the lack of a medication to manage the pain. 5
  • Risk of overdose if the person relapses. Withdrawal lowers tolerance, so relapsing and taking the same dose a person is used to can lead to overdose and even death.

If you or someone you love starts to experience physical and mental health complications, seek professional help immediately.

Read next: Codeine Withdrawal Medications and Help

[1]. Medline Plus. (2016). Codeine.

[2]. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2010). Protracted withdrawal. Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory, 9(1).

[3]. Farrell, M. (1994). Opiate withdrawal. Addiction (11): 1471-1475.

[4]. Miller, N. S., & Gold, M. S. (1998). Management of withdrawal syndromes and relapse prevention in drug and alcohol dependence. American family physician, 58, 139-152.

[5]. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2006). TIP: 45: Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment. Rockville, MD.