Codeine Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline, and Detoxing Safely

codeine withdrawal and detox

Prescription drugs like codeine carry the risk of dependence and addiction. Once you’re addicted to codeine, it can be hard to kick the habit. Withdrawal is rarely deadly, but it’s still uncomfortable and getting through it on your own can be difficult. If you or a loved one is addicted to codeine, medical detox is the safest and most comfortable way to get sober and start fresh.

Related post: Suboxone Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline, and Treatment

What is codeine?

Codeine is a prescription drug that doctors may prescribe for a cough, pain, or sleeplessness. It’s an opioid drug and comes in a tablet. Sometimes, it’s also used in cough syrups to treat coughs. Although it’s safe to use short-term under the supervision of a doctor, it can cause dependence and addiction with chronic use, like other opioids.1 

About codeine abuse and addiction

Codeine is chemically related to morphine, but it’s considered less dangerous.2 However, it’s still classified as a scheduled substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Depending on how much codeine a medication contains, the drug may be a Schedule III or Schedule V drug. For example, products containing less than 90 milligrams of codeine per dosage unit, such as Tylenol with codeine, are Schedule III drugs. On the other hand, cough preparations with less than 200 milligrams of codeine or per 100 milliliters, like Robitussin AC, are Schedule V drugs.3

Regardless, most people who become addicted to codeine use it as directed by a doctor first. They rarely begin using it with the intent of abusing it. However, if they take codeine for more than a few weeks or they take larger than their prescribed dose, they may become physically dependent. Dependence develops as your body becomes more tolerant of codeine. As a result, you feel like you need more of the drug to feel the desired effects.

Codeine dependence and addiction can cause the same withdrawal symptoms, but they’re inherently different. Physical dependence to codeine is a normal response to using codeine regularly and it’s manageable with the help of a doctor. If you develop a codeine dependence, your doctor can help you stop using it with a gradual tapering process. Addiction, on the other hand, typically follows physical dependence and isn’t as easy to overcome. It usually involves having very strong cravings for codeine and losing control over how much and when you use it. Sometimes people may also turn to other opioid drugs to satisfy their cravings if they’re unable to get more codeine. Generally speaking, people need more medical and therapeutic support to overcome codeine addiction.

What are codeine withdrawal symptoms?

If you’ve become physically dependent on codeine or addicted to it, you’ll likely experience some withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it. Common physical symptoms of codeine withdrawal symptoms include:4

  • Body aches and pains
  • Diarrhea 
  • Excessive yawning
  • Fever and chills
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia 
  • Muscle twitching
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Stomach pain

Common psychological codeine withdrawal symptoms include:4

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Cravings 
  • Depression 
  • Irritability

The physical and psychological codeine withdrawal symptoms can be distressing or even dangerous if a person has underlying health conditions, so it’s important to seek professional medical support to help you get through withdrawal.

What is the timeline for codeine withdrawal?

Codeine withdrawal tends to occur in two phases, with symptoms of the first phase beginning within a few hours of your last dose. 

  • A few hours after the last dose: When you first stop using codeine, you might feel irritable, anxious, have trouble sleeping, and experience some muscle aches. You might also have a runny nose, teary eyes, and sweat and yawn excessively.
  • 24 hours to 3 days after the last dose: Later on, anywhere from 24 hours to three days after your last dose, you’re more likely to suffer from digestive issues like stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

Overall, codeine withdrawal symptoms can last for a week or they may persist for months.5 It just depends on the person and many individual factors. Typically, most symptoms are gone within about two weeks, with cravings lasting longer for most people. The codeine withdrawal timeline is different for everyone, so it’s important to have support along the way.

Is it safe to quit codeine “cold turkey”?

No, you should not quit codeine cold turkey. Suddenly quitting cold turkey will come as a shock to your body and your withdrawal symptoms are likely to be more severe and long-lasting. Sometimes, people even experience severe medical problems when they try to quit opioids cold turkey. 

Depression is also a common psychological symptom of codeine withdrawal, so quitting cold turkey without any support can lead to severe bouts of depression, which may result in self-harm or suicidal ideation. As a result, it’s always safest to detox from codeine with a medical detox program or under the direct supervision of your doctor.

Safe codeine detox and withdrawal

In a medical detox facility, a team of nurses and doctors will provide careful and consistent monitoring to ensure that patients are safe and as comfortable as possible throughout codeine withdrawal. Depending on the patient and their treatment needs, the medical team may administer medications to treat codeine withdrawal symptoms and help patients taper slowly off of it, for a gradual and comfortable transition into sobriety. Clinical counselors and therapists will also provide emotional and behavioral support by addressing the psychological withdrawal symptoms of codeine. 

Many detox programs also offer complementary treatment services, like music and art activities to enhance the healing process or H&I meetings to introduce clients to the 12-Step Program. After detox, the treatment team will provide recommendations, resources, and assistance to help clients transition into the next stage of treatment. For some people, that might be a residential rehab program. For others, it might be an outpatient rehab program (IOP), online IOP, a sober living home, or a combination of all four.

Related post: What to Expect During Hydrocodone Withdrawal

Find effective and comfortable drug detox in Texas

At Briarwood Detox Center, our team of treatment experts provides individualized detox programs for people who are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. After detox, we can also help you get into drug rehab in Austin to continue treatment with an evidence-based program. If you’re searching for drug detox Austin, we’re here to help. Please call (512) 262-4426 or contact us online for more details.


  1. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682065.html 
  2. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Codeine#section=Classification 
  3. https://www.dea.gov/drug-information/drug-scheduling 
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526012/ 
  5. https://www.healthline.com/health/codeine-withdrawal 

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