Codeine Withdrawal

in Drug Insights
Published Oct 22, 2020
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Codeine is a prescription medication used to treat mild to moderate pain. It can also be used to reduce coughing. Codeine belongs to a class of drugs called opioids, or narcotics. As with all opioids, the effects of codeine can be addictive and doctors advise caution when taking this medication.

What is codeine?

Codeine is an opioid narcotic. While less potent than other opioids like morphine or fentanyl, codeine is still a commonly abused drug and can be habit forming. Codeine works by altering the brain’s perception of pain. The tablet form of codeine is available in 15mg, 30mg, and 60mg tablets — patients should follow the guidance of their physician in choosing the appropriate dose. Codeine is also available with other drugs, such as Tylenol, and/or guaifenesin which is used for ongoing breathing problems.

As described above, codeine is also used to help to suppress persistent coughing (known medically as an antitussive). This type of codeine is usually delivered in liquid form. When combined with medications like promethazine, or guaifenesin, the medication works to decrease the activity in the part of the brain responsible for coughing and reduces the inflammation in the lungs and throat.

Codeine Brand Names

Brand names for codeine include: Empirin with Codeine, Fiorinal with codeine, Guiatuss AC, Poly-Tussin AC, Robitussin A-C, and Tylenol with Codeine. 

Street names for codeine include: Captain Cody, schoolboy, Lean, Purple Drank, Sizzurp, T2, T3, T4, doors  & fours, loads, pancakes and syrup.

Codeine phosphate

Codeine phosphate is used for the relief of mild to moderate pain and the relief of symptoms of diarrhea. Those taking codeine phosphate may be experiencing pain associated with terminal illness, pain from surgery, headache and cough — although a doctor may prescribe the medication for other reasons. It works in the same way as other opioids by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain and central nervous system.

Codeine and alcohol

Mixing any opioid with alcohol is dangerous. People taking these two drugs together may experience sleepiness, dizziness, difficulty breathing, impaired memory and problems with movement. As alcohol and codeine are both nervous system depressants they can cause breathing difficulties, sedation, coma and even death. For more information about harmful drug interactions, visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse

Side effects of codeine

In addition to pain relief and euphoria experienced by taking codeine, the negative side effects are similar to other opioids, and include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Sedation
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Constipation
  • Clammy skin
  • Lowered pulse and blood pressure
  • Tolerance
  • Dependence
  • Addiction
  • Dry mouth
  • Itching
  • Sweating
  • Stomach pain
  • Coma
Codeine withdrawal

Similar to other opioids, people can develop a tolerance and an addiction to codeine relatively quickly. Thus, stopping the medication may result in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms within a few hours of the last dose. Codeine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Runny nose
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Aches and pains
  • Sweating
  • Teary eyes
  • Yawning
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chills and/or goosebumps

Withdrawal typically lasts for a week but it may be longer depending on the quantity and regularity of use. As with all opioids, it is best to seek professional advice before stopping any medication, especially if you think you may have developed a dependence. 

SAMHSA’s recommendations for detox

“For alcohol, sedative-hypnotic, and opioid withdrawal syndromes, hospitalization or some form of 24-hour medical care is generally the preferred setting for detoxification, based upon principles of safety and humanitarian concerns.”

– SAMHSA Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment Improvement Protocol, TIP 45

At Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we bring compassion to the commotion. Peace to the pain. Empowerment to the powerless. If you or someone you know needs support with addiction problems, bring us your battle. Call us today and take the best, first step towards recovery: 720-704-1432