How Long Does Codeine Stay in Your System?
Codeine is an opioid analgesic used to relieve pain. It is a prescription drug that works by targeting the central nervous system (CNS) and brain to disrupt feelings of mild to moderate pain. Like with other drugs, abusing codeine can lead to psychological or physical dependence.
This drug is primarily used for cough suppression and to treat mild to moderate pain. However, codeine abuse is prevalent, especially in young adults, and can have negative consequences.
Companies and organizations may test for drug use to ensure health and safety standards are met or encourage compliance with the law. Methods of drug testing may include saliva, urine, and hair follicle tests.
Failing a drug test for codeine without the appropriate prescription from a health professional, or misuse of this controlled substance may have negative professional impacts such as job loss.
What Is Codeine?
Codeine Phosphate, referred to colloquially as ‘Cody’, is a medicine for pain relief available as an injection, a tablet, or in liquid form. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies codeine as a Schedule II controlled substance. This means codeine use carries a high risk of developing severe psychological or physical dependence. Therefore, it is recognized as a dangerous drug.
Although primarily available via prescription, it also serves as a cough suppressant in over-the-counter cold medicines. The availability of codeine cough syrup may lead to substance abuse. For example, a person may purposely consume high doses of the medicine, take doses too frequently, or take the medicine recreationally.
It is largely subject to misuse by young adults as it is an addictive drug. If used frequently, a person’s system develops a tolerance to the drug. Therefore, they will not feel the effects of codeine as prominently- namely the feelings of sedation and pain relief. A person may take more of the drug to feel the intensity of codeine again.
How the Body Processes Codeine
Codeine works by mimicking the effect of endogenous opioids which are naturally present in the body. The drug attaches to the same receptors depressing the nervous system and leading to feelings of sedation.
Another way the body processes codeine is by converting it into morphine within the liver, and this is used to relieve pain.
This opioid disrupts pain impulses in the central nervous system between the spinal cord and the brain. Therefore, the pain is not experienced by the individual.
What Drug Test Method Is Used To Detect Codeine?
The windows of detectability for codeine vary depending on which drug test is used. Drug tests for codeine require a sample of blood, hair, or saliva. The hair follicle test yields the longest detectable window for codeine while the blood test renders codeine detectable only if used shortly before the test.
One or more of these testing methods may be carried out as a prerequisite of job attainment, ordered by a health professional to ensure the absence of misuse or court order in legal cases. Typically, drug tests for opiates will screen for codeine.
Codeine has a half-life of 2.5 to 3 hours. Half-life refers to the period of time it takes for the body to metabolize codeine so only half of the original amount remains.
Blood Test: How Long Does Codeine Remain in Your Blood?
Blood tests identify which and how much of a drug is present in a person’s system at the time of the test. This testing method is useful in detecting recent use or abuse of codeine or other drugs.
This test type may be desirable because it gives results immediately and does not require specialist equipment and expertise to verify the results. On the other hand, this test type may be avoided due to its invasive nature.
This drug test is mostly used for individuals who may be experiencing an overdose or complications.
Codeine is a fast-acting drug and detectable in plasma for a short window of just 2.9 hours.
Saliva test: How Long Does Codeine Stay in Your Saliva?
This method of drug testing is non-invasive and involves an oral fluid sample. How long codeine is detectable via this drug test may be affected by the method it was consumed. If snorted or taken orally, it can be detected very quickly after consumption.
Codeine can be detected in saliva for up to four days. However, the duration of detectability may be impacted by personal factors. For example, if you are suffering from a dry mouth which is a side effect of codeine use, it may be difficult or impossible to collect the required saliva sample.
Hair test: How Long Does Codeine Remain in Your Hair?
Hair testing usually involves taking a sample from the head although if you do not have enough hair, a sample can be taken from the arms, legs, or other areas like the armpit. The detection window may vary based on factors like drug dependence.
Codeine can be detected by a hair follicle test for up to 90 days after the last dose.
Urine test: How Long Does Codeine Stay in Your Urine?
Urine tests are often used to detect codeine abuse most frequently in recovery centers. Although they only have a small detection window, they are useful for monitoring drug use if people abuse codeine. This is because abusing codeine may mean the individual consumes doses often.
A urine test can detect codeine one to three days after the last dose.
Individual Differences Affecting Codeine Detection
Many physiological factors can impact how long a drug test can detect codeine. These variables include:
- Dose strength
- Whether codeine is taken in conjunction with other medications
- How long it takes you to metabolize codeine
- Kidney and liver function
- Frequency of use
- Age of individual
- Hydration level
A drug test may yield a false positive. This means it has incorrectly identified a drug as present in the body when it is not. A false negative is when a drug test does not identify a drug that is in fact present in a person.
If you believe you have received an incorrect result, please contact the relevant authority.
Consequences of Codeine Abuse
Abusing codeine may result in one or more of the following:
- Termination of employment
- Difficulty finding future employment
- Codeine addiction
- Interpersonal conflict
- Health concerns
Drug abuse can have a negative impact on all aspects of life. If you believe you are struggling with codeine addiction, you should seek professional medical advice. Although it can be difficult to reach out, this is the first step in addiction treatment.
Side Effects of Codeine Abuse
Codeine can easily become addictive and cause adverse physical and psychological effects such as:
- Nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting (actually being sick)
- Dry mouth
- Excessive sweating
- Stomach pain
Abusing codeine can also lead to psychological dependence which could alter your mental processes. This may lead to dysfunction meaning an inability to perform daily activities. Behavioral examples of this may include:
- Neglecting duties in order to obtain the drug
- Using illegitimate means to obtain the drug
- Hiding or denying drug abuse
- Disinterest in other activities
- Feeling abnormal when abstaining from drug use
If you or someone you know experiences the following side effects:
- Muscle stiffness
- Low blood pressure symptoms such as dizziness or tiredness
Immediately seek professional medical advice.
If withdrawal symptoms are experienced between doses of codeine, this may be a sign of codeine dependency. If you are dependent on codeine, you may experience some or all of the following withdrawal symptoms:
- Excessive sweating
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Stomach cramps
- Nasal discharge
- Muscle aches
- Changes in blood pressure, heartbeat regularity, and respiration
- Trouble concentrating
If you or someone you know exhibits these symptoms, they may have substance use disorder. This is a mental health disorder and requires treatment under medical supervision.
If a person takes high doses of codeine, they are vulnerable to a codeine overdose which could have lethal consequences. Some signs of a codeine overdose are:
- Bluish or ashen skin
- Bluish or purple lips or fingernails
- Weakened pulse
- Limp body
If you or someone you know shows any of the above symptoms, please seek the advice of licensed medical professionals as soon as possible by dialing 911.
Codeine and Alcohol
Consuming alcohol alongside codeine can be extremely dangerous as side effects such as drowsiness and confusion may lead to poor decision-making and in turn, reckless behavior. Furthermore, taking these drugs together increases the potency of the dose and increases the chance of an overdose.
Some medicines containing codeine may have high concentrations of acetaminophen. If taken in high doses while drinking alcohol, you may risk kidney and liver damage as well as renal failure.
Mixing codeine and alcohol could lead to a fatal overdose. Contact emergency services immediately if you or someone you know has consumed these drugs together.
How Can Ebb Tide Help Codeine Addiction?
At Ebb Tide, a certified addiction professional will guide you through your recovery journey. Compassion is at the heart of everything we do; substance use disorder is a mental illness with many treatment options, not an irreversible decision.
Our treatment facilities offer individualized treatment options such as:
- Group substance use disorder therapy
- Codeine detox program
- Addiction treatment to tackle co-occurring disorders
- Outpatient program
- Day/Night program
Our licensed medical professionals undertake an evidence-based approach to treatment equipping you with the tools to enjoy long-term sobriety. Every one of our certified addiction professionals is well-experienced in addiction medicine and will be invaluable on your recovery journey.
Contact a certified addiction professional, for yourself or a loved one, today.