What is Codeine Withdrawal Like?

Learn all about codeine withdrawal.

It’s common for some people to believe that codeine isn’t as bad as other types of opiate drugs, such as morphine, methadone, oxycodone or hydrocodone. However, once they realize they have been caught in the grip of codeine addiction they begin to wonder what is codeine withdrawal like?

It’s easy to assume that codeine withdrawal symptoms might not be as bad as detoxing from stronger opiates, such as heroin or morphine, as it is listed as being one of the most effective and safe medicines in the US health system. It’s also the most widely used opiate medications in the world.

However, codeine is still an opiate created from alkaloids found within the opium poppy and it is still an addictive drug. When a person takes codeine, the body metabolizes and converts it into morphine, which is what forms the drug’s pain relieving effects.

Abusing codeine for non-medical purposes over a period of time can cause a person to develop tolerance to the substance. As tolerance builds, the person needs to take higher doses in order to achieve the same effects that used to be reached with smaller amounts.

Continued abuse of the medication over a period of time can lead to physical dependency, or addiction. If the addicted person attempts to stop taking the drug suddenly, it’s likely that a variety of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms may emerge that are similar to those caused by heroin withdrawal.

What Are the Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms?

The majority of symptoms associated with codeine withdrawal are a reversal of the drug’s effects. For example, taking codeine can cause constipation, so when usage stops the person may develop diarrhea. Likewise, codeine switches off the body’s pain receptors, so when usage stops the pain receptors switch back on again. During detox the person may feel as though muscles, bones and stomach are all aflame with pain.

Common codeine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Runny nose and teary eyes
  • Excessive yawning
  • Insomnia and sleeping problems
  • Muscle aches and bone pains
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Profuse sweating
  • Goosebumps
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Irritation
  • Depression

The severity of symptoms associated with codeine withdrawal will vary, depending on the length of use, the dosage being taken, and whether the person was taking other drugs at the same time.

How Long Do Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

Everyone’s experience of detoxing from an opiate drug is different. The actual length of time a person will experience symptoms of withdrawal after stopping codeine use will vary, depending on how long they were taking the drug, the dosage being taken, the severity of the addiction, and the person’s physical health.

For most people the physical symptoms of codeine withdrawal tend to be at their worst within the first few days of stopping use. By the end of a week most of the physical symptoms will have stopped.

However, many of the psychological symptoms may persist for several weeks or even months in some cases.

Is Codeine Withdrawal Worse Than Heroin Withdrawal?

Detoxing from any opiate drug after extended use can cause uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal. The actual severity of symptoms will vary depending on the person’s individual tolerance to opiate drugs.

For example, a person who had only ever taken codeine before may feel as though detoxing is the worst feeling on earth. By comparison, a person who has tried to detox from a stronger opiate drug in the past, such as heroin, oxycodone, or morphine, may feel as though codeine withdrawals were not as severe for their own individual tolerance levels.

Codeine may not be as potent as heroin, but it is still an opiate painkiller medication.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.