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Updated on October 3, 2022
3 min read

How Long Does Codeine Stay in Your System?

What is Codeine?

Codeine (codeine sulfate) belongs to a class of medications known as opioid (narcotic) analgesics and antitussives. It is considered a schedule II controlled substance.

This drug is typically prescribed to relieve pain and coughing. The medication targets the central nervous system (CNS) to reduce pain and suppress coughing.

Codeine is often found in Tylenol, cough syrups, and other pain relief medication. It can also be found in combinations with the following drugs:

  • Acetaminophen
  • Aspirin
  • Carisoprodol
  • Promethazine

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How Long Do The Effects of Codeine Last?

It generally takes about one hour for codeine’s effects to kick in. Depending on the dose, this can last for about 4 hours.

How long codeine is detectable in a person’s body varies from person to person. Several factors can affect this, including:

  • Age
  • Metabolism
  • The amount taken
  • Hydration and activity levels
  • Length of use
  • An empty stomach
  • Liver and kidney health
  • Consumption of other drugs/alcohol
  • Other psychological factors

How Long Does Codeine Stay in Your System?

The half-life of codeine is about 2 to 4 hours. Codeine is metabolized primarily by the kidneys. 

However, there are tests healthcare providers can perform that can detect codeine for up to 10 weeks.

Urine Drug Test

Drug testing via a urine test can detect codeine for up to 2 to 3 days.

Hair Drug Test

Hair follicle testing can detect codeine for up to 10 weeks.

Blood Drug Test

The window to detect codeine on a blood test is 24 hours.

Saliva Drug Test

A saliva test can detect codeine for 1 to 4 days, depending on certain factors. If you chew gum or eat things high in citric acid, it will lower the levels of Codeine in the saliva.

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What are the Side Effects of Codeine?

Although codeine is less potent than other pain killers like oxycodone and hydrocodone, they all have addiction potential. 

Codeine is a highly-addictive opiate pain reliever. As a person’s tolerance to codeine builds, they’ll need higher doses to feel its effects, leading to drug abuse.

Prolonged use can leave users physically and psychologically dependent on the drug. Here are some side effects and risks associated with codeine use: 

  • Noisy breathing
  • Sighing 
  • Shallow breathing
  • Breathing that stops while sleeping
  • Weak pulse
  • Slow heart rate
  • Lightheadedness, confusion, and dizziness
  • Unusual thoughts and behavior 
  • Feelings of extreme happiness or sadness
  • Seizure
  • Problems urinating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Hallucinations
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Diarrhea and/or constipation 
  • Drowsiness 

Codeine Withdrawal Timeline

Codeine withdrawal symptoms usually begin about 8-24 hours after a person’s last use. For some people, symptoms may not appear until after this time window.

The severity and duration of codeine withdrawal vary from person to person. For some, codeine withdrawal symptoms will feel like a bad case of the flu. 

Meanwhile, other people, especially heavy users, may become seriously ill. The worst physical symptoms of withdrawal typically last for about a week. 

However, the psychological symptoms of withdrawal can last for a month. In acute opioid withdrawal cases, symptoms may last for as long as six months.

Codeine withdrawal symptoms and the severity vary from person to person. Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration 
  • Depression
  • Cravings
  • Runny nose 

Codeine withdrawal is generally not dangerous. However, it can cause lowered hydration levels and be too much to bear without medical intervention. Addiction therapy can assist with detoxing.

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Treatment Options for Opioid Abuse & Addiction

There are several options for people suffering from opioid addiction. These include:

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Updated on October 3, 2022
7 sources cited
Updated on October 3, 2022
  1. MedlinePlus Drug Information. “Codeine” Medlineplus.gov, 2020.
  2. The University of Michigan Health. “Codeine” uofmhealth.org  
  3. Drug Enforcement Administration “Controlled Substance Schedules” U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration.  
  4. Healthdirect. “Codeine” healthdirect.gov.au, 2021.
  5. Smith HS. “Opioid metabolism” Mayo Clin Proc., 2009.
  6. Kinnaird, Emma, et al. “From pain treatment to opioid dependence: a qualitative study of the environmental influence on codeine use in UK adults.” BMJ, 2019.
  7. NCBI “Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings” Geneva: World Health Organization, 2009.

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