How Long Does Codeine Stay in Your System?
By: Zinnia Healing Editorial Staff | Edited By: Rebecca Hill
Codeine (sometimes called codeine phosphate) is an opioid medication that is used for moderate to acute pain. It is also commonly prescribed to help suppress severe coughs. While codeine can be a medication prescribed by a medical doctor, it can also lead to misuse or abuse by people who take it. In some countries (excluding the United States), codeine is widely available over the counter, and you do not need a prescription to obtain it. Because of that reason, it is a drug that is commonly abused and one that is taken recreationally when it is not necessarily needed medically.
The reasons that people misuse codeine are many. Some people enjoy the psychological buzz or euphoric feeling it gives them when they take it. Some take it because it relieves pain, especially chronic pain, which forces them to take the medication repeatedly and regularly. Others take it for so long that their body becomes dependent on it. Substance abuse revolving around codeine can be tough for anyone suffering from it.
However, there are treatment centers all over the world that are equipped to help people who struggle with their codeine usage and the usage of a slew of other opioid drugs.
It can help to start learning about important facts, such as how long codeine stays in your body, will it get detected on drug tests, and how can treatment for codeine help you get on a healthier, happier, and safer path in life. Read on if you are ready to get help with your codeine use.
How Long Does It Take for the Effects of Codeine to Wear Off?
When you take codeine, it takes about an hour for the effects of the drug to kick in fully. This is true whether you are taking the drug to feel high or taking it to alleviate the coughing or pain you are experiencing. According to experts, the half-life of codeine is about three hours. This timeline means that it takes about three hours for half of a dose of codeine to leave your system. Despite its half-life, doctors prescribe codeine in four- to six-hour doses.
So, medically, it should be effective in your body every four to six hours. After these four to six hours, you may need to give yourself another dose. People can get in trouble with their codeine usage if they take their doses too close together or too frequently before the medication wears off. This can create a physical dependence in the body and leave your body physically craving codeine even if you do not need it for a medical condition.
When codeine starts to wear off, you will feel a collection of symptoms that will let you know the medication is no longer working. For example, the pain you have taken codeine to deal with will return.
How Is Codeine Detected on Drug Tests?
When you take a typical drug test, you most likely will not be tested for codeine. This is because the drug is a legal drug that your doctor may prescribe, and having it in your system isn’t technically illegal. However, if you are being specifically screened for codeine, then there are specific tests that people can use that can reveal whether you have codeine in your system. Some 10-panel drug tests can reveal whether you have consumed codeine recently or not.
If you are worried about whether codeine can be detected on drug tests, it can help you understand how those tests would detect and reveal the codeine in your system.
Here’s what you need to know about the way codeine and drug tests work in tandem:
- While the half-life of codeine is three hours (and thus, you’d expect codeine to be gone from your system in six hours), codeine is actually detectable in the body in several ways for around 48 to 72 hours after you consume it.
- When you consume codeine, your body breaks it down into several metabolites. Drug tests that you are given will not test specifically for codeine. Instead, they’ll test for the metabolites that codeine breaks down into once your body starts processing it. Several of these metabolites can be detected for up to three days past when you consumed them on a drug test.
- There are many different kinds of drug tests that people can be given to detect drugs in their system. These test types include blood tests, urine tests, saliva tests, and hair tests.
- Most of the codeine in your system is eliminated in your urine. So, there’s a good chance if you’re being drug tested for codeine, your urine will be tested. Depending on how recently you consumed codeine, there is a high likelihood that urine will show up on your test. Urine drug tests are popular not only because they detect many drugs but also because they are very cost-effective, easy to procure, easy to administer, and easy to process. Urine drug tests can test you for a variety of opioids and codeine.
- While it does not happen as frequently, blood tests can also be given to detect whether there is codeine in the body. While they are more expensive to obtain and harder to analyze than urine samples, blood drug tests are sometimes given to people from whom it is hard or impossible to extract a urine sample. One thing about using a blood-based drug test to detect codeine in the body is that you can only detect codeine or its metabolites in the blood up to 24 hours after consumption.
- Saliva drug tests are as convenient (or more) than urine tests. They are sometimes chosen to be used for codeine testing because they show the presence of codeine three to four days after you consume it. However, the problem with saliva drug testing for codeine is that many things can interfere with the accuracy of the test. These factors include the amount of the sample that can be collected (e.g., if someone has a dry mouth and cannot produce enough saliva) and other food, drink, or medicinal items that have been consumed and are also in the saliva.
- When you get drug tested for codeine, you may also be tested via a hair drug test. Hair drug tests work by testing the hair follicle of a hair that is removed from your head. When you’re tested for codeine via a hair follicle, codeine can be detected in your hair for up to three months. However, it takes nearly three weeks for codeine to show up in your hair follicles, so recent codeine use will not be detectable during a hair drug test — use that was long ago will.
How Is Codeine Metabolized in the Body?
When you consume codeine, it is broken down by the body, like any food, drink, or medication you might consume. However, codeine is not metabolized in the stomach and intestines (or digestive system), unlike food or drink. Instead, it is broken down in the liver into different metabolites, and each of those metabolites can cycle through your system and affect it differently.
Once you consume codeine, it enters your gastrointestinal tract. As it works its way through and is passed along to your liver, it is easily absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and circulated through the body; it is distributed to various tissues as it moves through.
Codeine is often combined with acetaminophen (or Tylenol) as a formula. Acetaminophen is also broken down in the liver, and then its metabolites are circulated through the body to help reduce pain. The type of codeine given to patients often contains acetaminophen for multiple reasons.
First, it makes it a more effective pain reliever, so when people are taking it for pain, they get that added effect. Second, people who have a cough that is so severe that they need codeine may have other uncomfortable symptoms that acetaminophen might treat, including pain in their chest or throat from coughing or a fever from whatever illness is causing the cough. By pairing Tylenol and codeine, the drug becomes even more potent and useful for someone who is sick and suffering.
However, putting Tylenol in codeine is not only to help people who are sick but also to help reduce the potential for codeine abuse in anyone who takes it. Because Tylenol is solely processed in the liver, it cannot be consumed in too great a quantity. Taking even the slightest bit more Tylenol than is necessary can damage the liver, as it must work overtime to process it. By combining acetaminophen and codeine, experts have tried to eliminate the potential of overusing codeine.
Get Help with Codeine Abuse
Codeine can be a helpful medication for treating mild to moderate pain or helping people suffering from coughs. However, if you take codeine for too much time or you take codeine for recreational purposes, your body can become dependent on the substance. Dependence on codeine can be either physical or psychological. Whether you feel physically dependent on codeine or psychologically dependent—or your use started with a prescription or whether you started using it recreationally—stopping your use of codeine can feel daunting and overwhelming. Luckily, many treatment centers are equipped to help people stop using codeine safely.
For help stopping codeine misuse, consider seeking out a treatment center like those offered by Zinnia Healing. At the Zinnia Healing facilities, located across the nation, we are equipped with a team of treatment specialists who are well aware of what it’s like for someone to withdraw from codeine. You will detox from the drug in the most comfortable, safe conditions when you enter treatment. Medical professionals staff treatment centers to ensure everyone is safe while they withdraw from the substance they have abused. After all the codeine has been removed from your system, you will begin treatment under the supervision of mental healthcare professionals to ensure your withdrawal and recovery are permanent.
Mental healthcare professionals, like psychologists, therapists, and addiction counselors, can help you get at the root of the reasons you have been misusing codeine and other substances. Undergoing treatment at a Zinnia Healing treatment facility can help you heal many of the issues causing you pain and suffering. Once you’ve healed these wounds, you can begin a healthier and happier life.
If you are ready to get on a healthier path and stop your codeine misuse, Zinnia Healing can help. At Zinnia Healing treatment facilities, we focus on you, not just your addiction. Call us today to begin your road to recovery — (855) 430-9439.