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  • Many people take prescription codeine to treat mild to moderate pain or to suppress coughing. At high doses, the drug can make you feel euphoric or “high.” That’s why some people abuse it and even become addicted to it. 

    Like all drugs, codeine only stays in your system for a certain amount of time.

    What Is Codeine?

    Codeine is an opiate. Opiates are a group of opioids that are naturally derived from the opium poppy plant.

    Codeine impacts the central nervous system to reduce pain and suppress cough. It appears in numerous pain relievers, including Tylenol (acetaminophen) with Codeine. 

    It’s also used in various cough syrups. Many codeine cough syrups also feature promethazine, guaifenesin, or phenylephrine.

    Side Effects Of Codeine

    No matter which form of codeine you take, the most common side effects are:

    • drowsiness
    • constipation
    • trouble urinating
    • stomach pain

    Codeine Detection Times

    Codeine has a half-life of about 1 to 4 hours. Half-life is the length of time it takes for half a dose of a drug to leave your system. 

    Although half the dose will leave your system within 4 hours, you may feel the pain relief and cough suppressant effects of codeine for up to 6 hours. However, even where you stop feeling the effects, the drug may still be detected on hair, saliva, blood, and urine tests.

    In most cases, after your last dose, codeine can be detected for:

    • up to 10 weeks on a hair follicle test
    • 1 to 4 days on a saliva test
    • up to 24 hours on a blood test
    • up to 48 hours on a urine test

    In addition, some urine tests can also detect codeine’s metabolites (the substances produced during the digestion of a drug). Codeine’s metabolites include norcodeine, morphine, and, sometimes, hydrocodone. 

    What Factors Impact How Long Codeine Stays In Your System?

    The exact amount of time codeine will stay in your system and show up on a drug test depends on factors such as:

    • your age
    • your weight and body fat percentage
    • your metabolism
    • your hydration levels
    • your activity level
    • your liver health, as codeine is metabolized by your liver
    • the concentration and pH levels of your urine
    • the form of codeine you took
    • the amount of codeine you used
    • frequency of use

    Codeine Abuse & Addiction

    Codeine has a high potential for abuse and addiction. Abuse occurs when you don’t follow your doctor’s instructions for taking codeine.

    For example, some people abuse codeine by mixing codeine cough syrup with soda, hard candy, and, sometimes, alcohol. This mixture is often called purple drank, lean, sizzurp, or barre. 

    As with most forms of drug abuse, codeine abuse can lead to:

    • tolerance, which means you need higher doses of the drug over time to achieve the desired effects
    • physical dependence, which means you experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit the drug
    • addiction, which means you feel unable to stop using the drug

    Codeine abuse or addiction increases your risk of a codeine overdose, which can be fatal. 

    Codeine Addiction Treatment Options

    If you or a loved one struggles with codeine use, help is available.

    Some people stay at an inpatient addiction treatment center, while others attend an outpatient treatment program

    With either option, medical professionals will help you safely detox from codeine. They may also prescribe medications, such as methadone and clonidine, to decrease withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse.

    You might also benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, in which a mental health counselor will help you identify triggers related to substance abuse and develop healthy coping strategies to aid your recovery. 

    To learn more about treatment options for opioid addiction, please reach out to an Ark Behavioral Health specialist today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Mayo Clinic Proceedings - Opioid Metabolism
    The Clinical Biochemist - Drug Testing in Oral Fluid
    The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews - Single Dose Oral Codeine, as a Single Agent, for Acute Postoperative Pain in Adults
    U.S. National Library of Medicine: European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology - Codeine disposition in human hair after single and multiple doses
    U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Codeine overdose

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on March 17, 2022
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