Duration of Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms
Codeine, a commonly used pain medication, comes directly from the opium poppy seed plant. When ingested, the body converts codeine into morphine, another opium poppy seed plant derivative.
Codeine and opiate drugs like it can be highly addictive when used on a long-term basis, however users will likely experience codeine withdrawal symptoms long before addiction becomes an issue. According to the National Institutes of Health, codeine withdrawal symptoms develop whenever a person attempts to reduce dosage amounts or stops using altogether.
Someone in the throes of withdrawal may feel as if it will last forever, however codeine withdrawal symptoms, as with any type of opiate withdrawal, follows a predictable timeline in most cases. While the duration of codeine withdrawal symptoms may run longer for people coming off chronic codeine addictions, the worst of symptoms will only last for so long.
The brain naturally develops a high tolerance for codeine’s effects over time. As tolerance levels rise, brain cells weaken in their ability to function and so become less sensitive to the drug’s effects. In turn, users must continue to take larger doses to experience the same expected drug effects.
According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, codeine withdrawal symptoms can develop when –
- Dosage amounts are too small
- Stopping codeine use
- Widespread brain chemical imbalances develop from long-term use
Codeine withdrawal develops out of the brain’s physical dependency on the drug’s effects.
Codeine Withdrawal Timeline
Codeine withdrawal symptoms typically start within six hours after the last dose. For people looking to stop codeine use altogether, the codeine withdrawal timeline unfolds in stages with the worst of symptoms occurring within the first 72 hours after the last dose. On average, the acute phase of withdrawal can run for as long as one week.
People coming off severe codeine addictions may well see this timeline extended depending on the length of time they used and the dosage amounts ingested. Chronic users will also likely experience a post-acute withdrawal stage that can last for several months thereafter. While acute withdrawal symptoms are mostly physical in nature, post-acute withdrawal has more to do with psychological symptoms, such as depression, anxiety and an all-consuming feeling of discontent.
Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms
While codeine withdrawal can be an unpleasant experience, it’s not life threatening. Symptoms experienced at the outset of withdrawal include –
- Profuse sweating
- Muscle aches and pains
- Problems sleeping
- Bouts of anxiety
Symptoms experienced after the first few days include –
- Goose bumps
- Stomach cramps
- Hot flashes
In effect, symptoms experienced in withdrawal demonstrate the widespread chemical imbalances that result from codeine abuse.
While not life threatening, codeine withdrawal symptoms can easily drive a person back to drug use. For people who’ve made it through the first one or two weeks of detox, relapse at this point comes with a high risk for overdose.
During detox, the brain’s tolerance level for codeine drops considerably. Someone who ingests the same amount of codeine as before will overwhelm brain functions to the point where the risk of respiratory failure is high.
For these reasons, anyone considering detox may want to seek out professional help through a drug treatment program.