Codeine Withdrawal: How, and How Long?
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Codeine withdrawal commonly includes flu-like symptoms, such as: headaches, fever, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, body aches, diarrhea, and sweating.
Withdrawal can also include symptoms such as palpitations, irrational fear, agitation, insomnia, and even hallucinations and depression.
Like most opioid withdrawals, the symptoms are unpleasant but not usually life-threatening.
How long does codeine withdrawal last?
Codeine withdrawal symptoms are most severe during the first week and can last up to a month. The codeine withdrawal timeline occurs in two stages; early-stage withdrawal symptoms are the most severe and flu-like, while late-stage symptoms are more psychological. Codeine withdrawal may include persistent anxiety, depression, and codeine cravings for months after quitting.
Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms
Codeine is an effective opioid painkiller, used mainly for its analgesic properties. However, it is a narcotic and people can develop tolerance to it even when they take the drug as administrated by a health professional.
If a person develops a tolerance to codeine and becomes dependent, they might experience symptoms of withdrawal when pulled off of the drug.
Common codeine withdrawal symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Stomach cramps
- Body aches
- Irrational fear
Codeine withdrawal can also lead to insomnia and depression, which can last up to few months. Usually, withdrawal symptoms happen in two phases: an early phase (present hours after the last dose) and a later period (present until the body adjusts to a life without codeine).
The symptoms of codeine withdrawal are sometimes opposite of the effects of the drug. One of the side effects of codeine is sleepiness, which means that a common withdrawal symptom will be insomnia. Generally, the symptoms of codeine withdrawal are similar to symptoms caused by withdrawal from other opiates.
Opioid withdrawal symptoms are very uncomfortable, but remember that they are not so life-threatening and one can overcome them!
Dealing with Codeine Withdrawal
Some patients who have gone through codeine withdrawal share few helpful ways to cope with different withdrawal symptoms.
- Drinking water (always useful, but especially when it comes to one of the most common codeine withdrawal symptoms – sweating and diarrhea)
- Exercising (beneficial for nausea, aches, and restless legs)
- Release of natural endorphins (playing video games, finding supportive network, etc.)
- Taking multivitamins (to help people improve their sleep patterns and lifestyle)
Codeine Withdrawal Timeline
Codeine withdrawal symptoms and their duration are different for each patient and depend on various factors, such as genetics, general health, and history of abuse.
Early symptoms, such as anxiety, muscle aches, yawning, and sweating, can occur in a few hours after cessation of the drug. Late stage symptoms are a continuation of the early stage symptoms, plus restlessness, loss of appetite, chills, increased blood pressure, etc.
The worst symptoms can last up to a week. Users report that their third and fourth days of detox are a nightmare, but after that pains and anxiety decrease, so don’t give up!
After the first week of detox, some psychological factors, such as depression and cravings, can occur. Other psychological and cognitive issues that a user can experience are:
- Racing thoughts
- Lack of memory
- Homicidal thoughts
- Suicidal thoughts
A month after the last intake, all physical symptoms should fade away. However, depression, fear, and codeine cravings can persist, which may lead to behavioral changes.
Treating Codeine Withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms and their duration are individual for each person, but there are some treatment options suitable for all patients. Opiates can be dangerous as they can have not only psychological and physical effect on people, but they can affect the financial stability and social/family life of the addicted individual. Opiates are often mixed with other drugs, which leads to a polysubstance abuse.
Tapering down may be a more feasible option. Some people take ibuprofen to cope with different codeine withdrawal symptoms, but that can have its side effects. Ask a professional for any possible doses to reduce the codeine intake and as mentioned above, have an active and healthy life.
Social support is crucial, and going through a rehabilitation program is a good choice when dealing with codeine withdrawal. Don’t forget that withdrawal symptoms and their duration are different for everyone depending on the history of abuse; treatment options to quit codeine are likewise also different.
There’s one thing to remember: a clean life is possible!
- Medline Plus. Opiate and opioid withdrawal. 2019. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000949.htm.
- Nair V., Soraisham A. S., Akierman A. Neonatal withdrawal syndrome due to maternal codeine use. Paediatrics & Child Health. 2012; 17(5): e40–e41. doi:10.1093/pch/17.5.e40. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3381925/.
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