Codeine is a prescription medication commonly prescribed to treat mild to moderate pain or as a cough suppressant. However, the drug is frequently abused and is known for its high potential for physical dependence or misuse.
If you are using codeine, it is important to familiarize yourself with how long it can stay in your system. This ensures that you can get the effects of the drug while reducing the risk of an overdose.
What Is Codeine?
Codeine is an opioid analgesic that is one of the most commonly prescribed opioids in America. The drug works by slowing down the central nervous system to relieve pain. It can come in a tablet, caplet, or cough syrup.
Whatever its form, codeine is a controlled substance recognized by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule II, III, and V drug. This means it poses a high risk for abuse and physiological factors, such as dependence.
People abuse codeine for its effects of pain relief, euphoria, and relaxation after high doses. Young adults widely abuse the drug because of its easy access and desirable feelings after drug use. When the drug is abused, it is often mixed with soda, referred to as syrup, sizzurp, or lean. Some users will mix codeine cough syrup with alcohol.
However, people abusing codeine are at a high risk of becoming addicted to the drug. Prescription drug abuse is on the rise, and many of those who have a substance abuse disorder were found to be abusing prescription pain relief drugs.
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Factors That Influence How Long Codeine Stays in Your System
To understand how long codeine stays in your system, we must first discuss how the body processes codeine and the different factors that influence how long this process takes.
Codeine is metabolized mainly by the liver. Once the drug is broken down, it produces metabolites; most of these are inactive and do not create any additional effects.
The half-life of codeine is relatively short. This refers to the amount of time it takes for half of a single dose of a drug to be eliminated from a person's system. The half-life of codeine is around three hours; this means it takes three hours for 50% of the substance to be cleared by the body.
Despite the small half-life, drug tests can also detect the metabolites produced. These may stay in your system for much longer, prolonging the time that codeine can be detected.
So, how long does codeine stay in your system? This varies from person to person and depends on several factors. Other influential factors that impact the length of time that codeine stays in the body include:
- Frequency of drug use
- Duration of use
- Use of other drugs
- Metabolism rate
As these factors are unique to each person, it is difficult to estimate how long codeine will remain in the system.
Can a Drug Test Detect Codeine?
As codeine belongs to the opioid family, codeine can be detected in drug tests. Each drug test used detects codeine after a different amount of time. While it may be easy to pass a urine or blood test, it could be harder to pass a hair follicle drug test due to its time in detecting codeine.
The different drug testing methods include urine, blood, hair, and saliva.
How Long Does Codeine Stay In Your Blood?
Blood tests are not used very often as they are invasive and cost more than other tests. However, if someone cannot provide another sample, such as urine, then a blood test is utilized. Codeine is detectable in a blood test for up to 24 hours after use.
How Long Does Codeine Stay In Your Saliva?
Saliva tests are a convenient option for drug testing with codeine detectable for up to four days after last use. However, they are not as reliable as other tests since certain factors can lower the levels of codeine found, such as eating sweets or chewing gum that contains citric acid.
How Long Does Codeine Stay In Your Urine?
Your kidneys eliminate the majority of codeine through urine. Urine tests are the most commonly used as they are cost-effective and easy to administer. A urine test can detect codeine for one to two days after use.
How Long Does Codeine Stay In Your Hair?
Codeine can be detected the longest after use using a hair follicle test. The effectiveness of this can depend on the hair length, type, and the extent of the drug abuse. Hair testing can detect codeine for as long as three months after use. However, it takes around one to three weeks for the drug to show up.
Codeine Abuse and Addiction - Can Someone Become Addicted to Codeine?
If used when prescribed and taken in the correct doses, codeine is generally a safe and effective medicine. However, it is a highly addictive drug, with repeated and unregulated use often leading to a substance use disorder.
Opioid addiction can be challenging to detect as many people start taking the drugs under medical supervision. Some signs that someone has substance abuse problems with codeine include:
- Increased tolerance
- Experiencing codeine withdrawal symptoms
- Changes in behavior
- Unable to uphold social relations, family matters, work-life
If someone is addicted to codeine, it is essential to seek professional medical advice to support them in becoming sober.
Risk of Codeine Overdose
Abusing any drug can put someone at risk of an overdose. Taking more than prescribed or mixing with other drugs is dangerous and could lead to an overdose.
A codeine overdose can be fatal as the drug slows down the central nervous system, leading to cardiovascular dysfunction or respiratory arrest. Some signs and symptoms of a codeine overdose include:
- Weak pulse
- Breathing problems
- Loss of consciousness
- Low blood pressure
- Tiny pupils
- Muscle twitches
If you observe any of these symptoms, then seek medical attention immediately.
Codeine Addiction Treatment
The good news is that there are a variety of treatment facilities that can support you with your codeine use disorder. You may be feeling lost or overwhelmed, but you are never alone; help is always available.
Medical detox is recommended: this is where a person undergoes withdrawal with the help of health professionals. You may be prescribed addiction medicine to reduce cravings to prevent a relapse.
After a detox, you will most likely receive addiction treatment. This helps get to the root of the addiction and offers support if an underlying mental health disorder exists. Licensed medical professionals will provide a combination of medications and behavioral therapies, such as group therapy to aid you in your recovery journey.
Treatment at Cornerstone
At Cornerstone, we recognize that addiction differs in everyone and that treatment isn't a one-size-fits-all plan. We offer individualized treatment plans to all of our clients with the help of an assigned primary clinician.
If you believe you or a loved one is experiencing a substance use disorder, please contact us today to discuss treatment options. Remember, help is always available to guide you in living a happy and healthy life.