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What are the symptoms of codeine withdrawal?

Codeine withdrawal symptoms can differ from person to person, ranging from mild to severe. 

If you want to stop taking codeine, it is important to seek medical advice before you attempt to do so, to determine the best course of action. When physically dependent on codeine, a medically assisted detoxification may be needed to help manage your withdrawal symptoms and any other issues that you could potentially experience during this time, such as dehydration and other health complications.

Why do people experience codeine withdrawal symptoms?

When regularly taking codeine, a person can build up a tolerance to the drug. As a result, more of it needs to be taken, at more frequent intervals, to experience the desired effects. For those who are physically dependent on codeine, they then need to continue taking the drug to prevent withdrawal symptoms.

If a person who is addicted to codeine seeks to cut down or stop using the drug, they will experience withdrawal symptoms as their body attempts to re-learn how to function without it.

Codeine withdrawal symptoms

Typical symptoms of codeine withdrawal can include the following:

  • Runny nose and watery eyes
  • Chills and goose bumps
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle twitches

People can also experience severe symptoms of codeine withdrawal such as:

  • Insomnia
  • Fever
  • Rapid breathing
  • High blood pressure
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Agitation

Suicidal thoughts, psychosis and paranoid delusions can also be experienced by people withdrawing from codeine.

Acute codeine withdrawal symptoms can begin around 12 hours after the last use of codeine, peak at around three to five days, and can last for one to four weeks.

The importance of addressing your codeine misuse and addiction

We understand that withdrawing from codeine can sound incredibly frightening. However, under our expert supervision, you will have the opportunity to withdraw in a manner that is safe, discreet and as comfortable as possible.

Our medically-assisted detoxification will work to reduce the impact of the withdrawal. Our teams of medical professionals are able to prescribe medication and provide specialist medical intervention if it is needed to support you through your journey.

Our residential Addiction Treatment Programme

People who undertake drug detoxification at one of our Priory rehabilitation centres across the UK typically continue with our residential Addiction Treatment Programme.

During this time, you will take part in individual and group therapies to help you to address the source of your addiction, as well as the triggers for your addictive behaviour. You will also have time to learn strategies for life going forward, taking real steps towards a sustainable recovery.

Pamela Roberts, Addictions Team Leader at Priory Hospital Woking says: “We work with people and their individual stories holistically. Then together we explore ways to develop resilience to life without having to reach for plasters, in other words, temporary relief by taking part in behaviours that have become addictions. For many this will mean abstinence.”

At Priory, we also offer day care and outpatient services, which can be an ideal step-down after a residential stay. During this time, you are able to fit therapy sessions around your normal responsibilities, making sure you have continued support as you begin to navigate life in recovery.

Reviewed by Dr Michael Bristow (MA, MBBS, FRCPsych) Consultant Adult Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Woking

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