Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, & Treatment

If codeine is used for a long period of time, the body will begin to adapt to the drug, reducing its effects. This can result in codeine dependence, a condition that can lead to potentially severe withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking codeine or reduce your dosage.

The opioid drug class has a collectively high risk for abuse and the development of opioid use disorder, also known as drug addiction.

Codeine, a relatively weak opioid painkiller, is one such prescription drug that can lead to severe physical dependence and opioid withdrawal symptoms if misused.

Codeine is a natural opiate drug prescribed by healthcare providers to treat mild to moderate pain, coughing, and diarrhea. It is often used in combination with other pain relief medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen.

Codeine Withdrawal Symptoms

The severity of symptoms you experience while in withdrawal from codeine can change depending on your level of codeine dependence and your overall health and condition.

Common short-term physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal from codeine may include:

  • anxiety
  • changes in blood pressure
  • chills or goosebumps
  • diarrhea
  • enlarged pupils
  • faster heart rate
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • loss of appetite
  • teary eyes
  • muscle aches
  • nausea and vomiting
  • runny nose
  • stomach cramps
  • sweating
  • yawning

Note that many of these withdrawal symptoms are rebound effects that mirror the effects and side effects of codeine itself. Constipation, drowsiness, slow heart rate, feelings of well-being, and others can be reversed as the body temporarily overcompensates in the absence of the drug.

Codeine Withdrawal Timeline

Codeine withdrawal typically only takes 1-2 weeks to resolve after the drug is discontinued. A generalized timeline of the process is as follows:

12-24 Hours After Last Dose

The initial withdrawal symptoms begin to set in, often including feelings of unease or illness and a strong desire to take more codeine.

1-2 Days

Acute withdrawal symptoms begin to increase, often including irritability, headaches, nausea, shakiness, and drug cravings.

3-5 Days

At some point around this time your acute symptoms should peak and begin to lighten, gradually becoming less and less severe. Feelings of discomfort, shakiness, headaches, cravings, trouble sleeping, and low appetite are common at this stage.

7+ Days

Around a week after their last dose many people reach the end of the acute withdrawal process, with the few remaining symptoms gradually clearing away. Some lingering effects, like low motivation, mood swings, cravings, and low appetite, may take longer to fully resolve.


Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) is an uncommon medical condition most commonly associated with a severe and long-lasting pattern of substance abuse.

Those who experience PAWS will tend to have issues with lingering or recurring psychological withdrawal symptoms that can last for months or sometimes years after acute withdrawal is finished.

But even in cases of PAWS, withdrawal is a temporary process. With the right support and care these symptoms can be managed and overcome.

Treatment Options For Codeine Withdrawal

A variety of services are available to help those who struggle with codeine addiction or dependence, including medical detox, tapering, and medication-assisted treatment.

Medical Detox

Detoxification is a professional service available to those attempting to withdraw from codeine or other habit-forming substances. 

In a detox program you‘ll receive support and supervision, including medications (if required) to help you work through your withdrawal symptoms safely and confidently.

Codeine detox can be conducted in either an inpatient or an outpatient setting and is generally the first step in an opioid addiction treatment program.


Tapering is an alternative to quitting codeine cold turkey that has helped many minimize or avoid codeine withdrawal symptoms.

In a tapering program, a medical professional will help you slowly reduce your codeine dosage over time, usually by reducing your dosage every week or two until you can discontinue the drug entirely.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

MAT programs use FDA-approved medications in conjunction with counseling and psychotherapy to help those who struggle with substance use disorders in specific ways.

Both buprenorphine (an opioid partial agonist) and methadone (a long-acting opioid drug) are approved to help reduce and control opioid withdrawal symptoms in a form of maintenance therapy.

These drugs can be taken long-term or even used indefinitely.

Ohio Recovery Center

Codeine and codeine cough syrup abuse have contributed to numerous medical emergencies and deaths in Ohio over the past twenty years.

At Ohio Recovery Center, we offer detox, MAT, and inpatient care designed to help you or your loved one manage and overcome drug abuse and addiction. To learn more about our treatment options for codeine addiction, please contact us today.

  1. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Codeine
  2. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Opiate and opioid withdrawal
  3. National Library of Medicine: StatPearls — Opioid Withdrawal
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — MAT Medications, Counseling, and Related Conditions

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: December 1, 2022

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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