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Codeine is available in many brand-name painkillers, cough syrups, and diarrheal medicines. Although milligram dosages and compounds vary, in comparison to morphine, it’s relative opiate, it is generally less potent. Regular use of codeine, like every other opiate, can lead to tolerance and dependence and the dosages are more likely to be increased far beyond therapeutic levels.
Codeine dependence occurs as adaptation processes take place in the brain and its neurotransmitter systems. As positive reinforcements to continue using, the codeine induced adaptations motivate the individual to continue seeking and experiencing the drug for pleasure or other perceived rewards, but, the negative reinforcements to continue using involve the symptoms of codeine withdrawal and the avoidance of their distress.
For the most part, it is these adaptation levels that have the greatest influence on the length of withdrawals, but, many other factors can play into the mix, adding to the complexities.
Cravings are the symptoms of codeine withdrawal that last far beyond the physical detox from the drug. They can be present for months or reappear years later and are often associated with the high rates of relapse in opiate dependent individuals.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Cues–any stimuli (substance-using friends, locations, paraphernalia, moods) repeatedly paired with substance use over the course of a client’s addiction–can become so strongly associated with the substance’s effects that the associated (conditioned) stimuli can later trigger arousal and an intense desire for the substance and lead to relapse.”
How Long Do the Physical Symptoms of Codeine Withdrawal Last?
Physical symptoms of codeine withdrawal are flu-like in nature and they usually begin the first day and generally last anywhere from 3-5 days for example:
On day 1, symptoms of codeine withdrawal including cravings, fatigue, excessive yawning, loss of appetite, runny nose, teary eyes, and aching muscles and joints begin. Shortly afterwards, abdominal pains, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, hot and cold sweats, anxiety, irritability, aches and pains all over, increased respirations, heart rate, and blood pressure are added to the previous symptoms.
Over the next couple of days, these symptoms get worse and the person is unable to rest, think clearly, and may have loss of coordination, be dehydrated, and be prepared to relapse at any given minute. Gradually, around days 3 or 4, these symptoms begin to subside and the person is then, left with the psychological withdrawals that are much more complex.
How Long Do the Psychological Symptoms of Codeine Withdrawal Last?
Psychological symptoms of codeine withdrawal become most disturbing after the acute phase subsides and mental clarity returns. The most common post acute symptoms are insomnia, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideations , guilt, shame, fear of changes, loss of confidence, fear of relapse, and lethargy that can last 6 months or longer. Getting through these symptoms of codeine withdrawal requires ongoing efforts to make the right choices and changes. This faster you do so, the faster you will recover.