Codeine is a painkiller used to alleviate mild to severe pain. On its own, it is a medication prescribed by a doctor but does turn up in some cough medicines and tablets. Whilst it is a legal opiate, many people develop a painkiller addiction.

Continued use of codeine means that your tolerance to it builds up. To get the same pain-relieving effects, you may begin to take more than before. This can quickly turn into a dependency.

It may come to a point when you are no longer able to function, probably without codeine or are in danger of getting to that point. If that is the case, it is time to wean yourself off the drug before it becomes a full-blown codeine addiction.


Is Codeine Hard to Quit?

Codeine can be a challenging drug to quit due to the effect it has on your body. It changes how your body and the nervous system respond to pain, muffling the signals sent from the brain. Alongside this, codeine releases endorphins that will give you a sense of euphoria, relieving the pain and discomfort that you are feeling.

These effects make codeine a hard drug to quit as the original pain may continue to persist. Many people get it into their heads that they cannot cope with the pain without painkillers, despite the drugs negatively impacting their life.

Sometimes, people know they need to stop but cannot because of fear. Quitting substances usually brings with it withdrawal symptoms. These can range from mild to severe but are generally uncomfortable for the person experiencing them. In some cases, the fear of withdrawal outweighs the fear of continuing addiction – believing the latter is the less painful path forward.


Is it Safe to Stop Using Codeine?

If you stop using codeine, the first instinct may be to go cold turkey. This is when you cut yourself off immediately without any gradual reduction, and many people view this as ripping the plaster off . Perhaps view it as a quicker and easier way to quit.

Going cold turkey is certainly an option for people, but it does come with risks. When you cut off the supply of codeine that your body is used to, you leave the risk of seizures, irregular heart rhythms and other withdrawal symptoms that can be life-threatening.

A safer way to stop using codeine is to wean yourself off it. This is slower but much safer and will leave you in a better position to stay clean long-term. You can taper off your usage at home or go into a drug rehab where you can undergo detox.


How to Stop Using Codeine

As said above, the safest method is to taper off your usage. This gradual reduction of codeine in your system may mean that you avoid any unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Tapering off slowly allows your body more time to heal itself and end the drug dependency. This is important as you will find yourself in a much better state afterwards to tackle any underlying psychological causes of your addiction.

Before starting anything, you should inform your GP so that they can offer advice and support. They can provide you with the best options for your situation.

You can choose to taper off quickly or more slowly. A faster tapering process over a few days or weeks would mean reducing your intake by 25 per cent or so every few days. With this method, you are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms. With a slower reduced consumption, you should reduce your codeine intake by 10 per cent every one or two weeks.

The longer you use codeine, the longer the weaning-off period should be. This is to make sure you are not endangering yourself.


What Happens During Codeine Withdrawal?

Codeine withdrawal tends to last 4-10 days. You may experience withdrawal symptoms 8-24 hours after taking your last dose of codeine. Firstly, there will be physical side effects that can range from mild to severe. You will also experience an intense craving for codeine.

These symptoms will likely persist for a few days but eventually subside. By this point, you will have to contend with withdrawal’s more psychological side effects. These symptoms can continue for many weeks and months after you have gotten clean and gone through recovery.

It is hard to predict how the withdrawal will affect you as people react differently. This timeline depends on many factors, including how long you have been using, the severity of your codeine abuse, whether you use other drugs and physical aspects such as your weight and height.


Withdrawal Symptoms of Codeine

Withdrawal symptoms from codeine can be split into physical and psychological side effects.

Physical symptoms:

  • Insomnia
  • Stomach pain and nausea
  • Sweating and fever
  • Chills

Psychological symptoms:

  • Increased anxiety and depression
  • Intense cravings
  • Irritability

If you experience more serious symptoms such as high blood pressure, stomach cramps or rapid breathing, you may have a more serious abuse problem. You may be unable to wean yourself off codeine alone and should get into prescription drug rehab.


Long-Term Treatment Options

If you cannot wean yourself off codeine alone and suffer a more severe addiction, you can go into private drug and alcohol rehab. We at Addiction Advocates can refer you to many treatment options available at rehab centres.

You can undergo a medically assisted detox programme that will ease off codeine. The medication provided will hopefully curb the worst withdrawal symptoms, and staff members will be under constant care.

The rehab centres we have linked with employ many therapies, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy and group sessions. Holistic therapies complement these to improve mental health and keep you focused on recovery.

Many private treatment centres provide help beyond rehab with aftercare plans. These plans are a vital cog in recovery and relapse prevention, allowing you to have continued sessions with others in recovery and hone your coping skills.


Get Support Today

If you are ready to get help with your codeine addiction or need more advice, call Addiction Advocates today at 0800 012 6088 or text HELP to 83222. We can guide you through the admissions process and interventions and help you find the right treatment centre for you.