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Updated on October 1, 2021

How Long Does Codeine Stay in Your System?

What is Codeine?

Codeine (codeine sulfate) is a medication used for treating pain in the class of narcotic drugs called opioids, which refers to any synthetic, semisynthetic, or natural drug with morphine-like properties.

Codeine is a prescription drug. People can use codeine alone or with other medicines. When used to treat pain, codeine works by changing how the brain and central nervous system (CNS) respond to the pain. Codeine also works to decrease the activity in the part of the brain that causes coughing.

Codeine belongs to a class of medications known as opioid (narcotic) analgesics and antitussives. It is considered a schedule II controlled substance. The risk for codeine overdose and abuse increases with the misuse of alcohol and other substances.

Codeine is also available with acetaminophen, aspirin, carisoprodol, and promethazine. It is used as an ingredient in many cold medications and cough syrups. 

There are several side effects and risks associated with codeine use, including:

  • 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 

How Long Do The Effects of Codeine Last?

It generally takes about one hour for codeine’s effects to kick in, which last between three to four hours, depending on the dose.

Codeine’s effects vary from person-to-person and depend on each individual’s size, how much they’ve taken, if their stomach is empty, and other drugs/alcohol they’ve consumed.

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How Long Does Codeine Stay in Your System?

The plasma half-life of codeine is about 2.9 hours. The elimination of codeine is done mainly via the kidneys, which excrete approximately 90% of an oral dose within 24 hours. 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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How Long Does it Take to Detox From Codeine?

Codeine is a highly-addictive opiate pain reliever. As a person’s tolerance to codeine builds, they will need higher doses to feel its effects. This can lead to drug abuse (misuse) as prolonged codeine use can leave users physically and psychologically dependent on the drug. 

Though codeine is less addictive than other painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone, people can still become addicted to codeine. Severe codeine addicts may even start to feel withdrawal symptoms within a few hours of their last dose.

When withdrawal symptoms start and how severe they are depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The amount of time codeine was used
  • The average dose taken regularly
  • How frequently codeine was used
  • Mental health status
  • Gender
  • Medical history
  • Body fat content 
  • Codeine ingestion

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 

For some, codeine withdrawal symptoms will feel like a bad case of the flu. For heavy users, the symptoms are much worse and may require medical care. Though codeine withdrawal is not generally dangerous, it can cause lowered hydration levels and be too much to bear without medical intervention. Addiction therapy can assist with detoxing.

Treatment Options for Opioid Abuse & Addiction

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

  • Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT) There are three medications approved to treat opioid use disorder: buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. Buprenorphine and methadone can help you manage withdrawal symptoms throughout the detoxification process. Naltrexone is less commonly used, but it blocks your opioid receptors, making it impossible to get high. Medication-assisted therapy is most effective when combined with other forms of treatment.
  • Inpatient Programs — Inpatient programs are the most intensive and effective treatment options for opioid addiction. These programs guide you through medically supervised detoxification, then behavioral therapy and other services (possibly including MAT), will be added to your treatment. They typically last 30, 60, or 90 days, however they may be longer if necessary.
  • Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs) PHPs are also known as intensive outpatient programs (IOPs). They are the next most intensive type of treatment for opioid addiction. They provide similar services to inpatient programs such as detoxification, behavioral therapy medical services, and custom treatments such as MAT. The difference is that in a PHP, the patient returns home to sleep. Some programs will include transportation and meals, but this varies by program. Partial hospitalization programs are helpful for both new patients and patients who have completed inpatient treatment and still need intensive recovery therapy.
  • Outpatient Programs Outpatient programs work best for people who have a high level of motivation to recover. They create treatment programs that work around your schedule. These programs can either be an effective treatment option for new patients or a part of an aftercare program for people who complete inpatient or partial hospitalization program.

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Resources

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Codeine: MedlinePlus Drug Information. (n.d.). https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682065.html 

Codeine. (n.d.) https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/d00012a1 

Controlled Substance Schedules. (n.d.). https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/schedules/

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