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Does Codeine Show up on a Drug Test?

Robert Earl Davis Jr. adopted the name DJ Screw and pioneered a sound intended to approximate the effects of a codeine-infused drink known as “lean.” Davis accomplished this by slowing down hip-hop records so that they achieved this woozy, lumbering, and eerie effect. Codeine was indeed his muse, but it ultimately proved to be his Achilles.

“While Screw was slowing down the music, he was slowing himself down with various substances, especially codeine. It finally killed him, on November 16, 2000, at the age of 29,” noted a Texas Monthly article that examined his legacy.  

If anything, Davis’ death highlights the dangers associated with the recreational consumption of codeine, a prescription medication intended to treat mild-to-moderate pain. 

What’s more, codeine may only be one-tenth to one-third as strong as morphine, but when taken in large enough doses, in cough syrups or recreational concoctions, it is capable of producing dependency, addiction, and, over time, death. 

Because codeine is an opiate, it will show up on drug tests as a substance of abuse. However, a variety of factors can determine how long it remains detectable in your body after a dose. 

Read on to find out what those factors are along with its detection windows and effects.   

What Is Codeine?

Codeine is used to treat mild-to-moderate pain. However, it is also used as a suppressant in cough medicines. Depending on its preparation, it can be classified as a Schedule II, III, or V substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). 

When used alone or in combination with other medications, codeine is available as a tablet, capsule, or liquid. Some form of it is sold under a variety of brand names including Robitussin A-C, Tylenol #3, Fiorinal with codeine, Triacin-C, Tuzistra XR, and Codophos syrup. 

Like other opioids, codeine works by compelling the brain to block pain signals while triggering feelings of calm and euphoria. It accomplishes this by activating the release of endorphins, often regarded as the body’s “feel-good” chemical.

Codeine impacts the following brain and nervous system areas: 

  • The limbic system: When codeine hits this area, feelings of pleasure, relaxation, and contentment are produced. 
  • The brainstem: Here, codeine works to block this area from receiving pain signals. This is also where it slows breathing and halts coughing.
  • The spinal cord: Codeine works by decreasing pain in this area of the body.      

Codeine typically goes into effect between 10 to 30 minutes and lasts from four to six hours. It becomes habit-forming when taken in larger than normal doses. Though not as potent as morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, or methadone, when used over time, codeine can slow the body’s endorphin production. 

When this happens, a person will feel compelled to take larger doses to achieve the effects of a previous dose. This is when tolerance develops. There are cases where users will turn to more potent opioids like heroin to experience more pronounced effects.  

Codeine Detection Factors and Windows

According to Verywell Mind, several factors can determine how long codeine remains in the body. It also depends on which form of the drug you take. Those factors include:

  • Weight
  • Age
  • Present or pre-existing health conditions
  • Metabolism
  • The dosage
  • The frequency of use
  • Hydration level
  • Activity level

Detection Windows

It is virtually impossible to determine exactly when codeine will appear on a drug test. The following are estimated time ranges for various testing methods: 

  • Urine: A urine drug test can detect codeine for about one to two days.
  • Saliva: The window of time it takes for codeine to show up on a saliva drug test is anywhere from one to four days.
  • Hair: In a hair follicle screening, codeine can be detected up to three months.

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When Dependency and Addiction Are Present

When the body becomes used to the presence of codeine, this is usually when a dependency is established. When the drug leaves the body, a user will begin to exhibit disturbances, which are regarded as withdrawal symptoms.

These disturbances are not considered life-threatening, but when somebody has them, it is typically an indicator that addiction may be imminent.

Codeine withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Runny nose
  • Insomnia
  • Teary eyes
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Goosebumps
  • Chills
  • Dilated pupils

Codeine Addiction

When that codeine dependency graduates to addiction, a user will take the drug in the face of adverse circumstances like a legal issue or burgeoning health condition. 

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) issued the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to serve as the principal authority on psychiatric diagnoses. This manual lists 11 criteria that comprise addiction over a 12-month period. 

Someone who meets two or three of the criteria have a “mild” disorder. If they have four or five, it is considered “moderate.” Six or more rates as “severe.” 

The criteria are as follows: 

  1. The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
  2. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful effort to cut down or control the use of the substance.
  3. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance, use the substance, or recover from its effects.
  4. Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use the substance, occurs.
  5. Recurrent use of the substance results in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
  6. Use of the substance continues despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of its use.
  7. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of use of the substance.
  8. Use of the substance is recurrent in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
  9. Use of the substance is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance.
  10. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
    1. A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect
    2. A markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.
  11. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:
    1. The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for that substance (as specified in the DSM-5 for each substance).
    2. The use of a substance (or a closely related substance) to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

The Dangers of Codeine

Codeine may be viewed as a weakling of an opioid when compared to dangerously addictive chemical cousins like oxycodone and heroin, but it is capable of producing some distressing effects on its own, especially in high doses.

When taken in high doses, codeine can produce the following conditions:

  • Low heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dangerously shallow breathing

The long-term effects of chronic codeine abuse are:

  • Seizures
  • Insomnia 
  • Memory problems
  • Nightmares
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Respiratory depression
  • Muscle coordination problem

Like other opioids, codeine is capable of slowing down breathing and heart rate. Like other opioids, excessive codeine abuse often leads to overdose. Like other opioids, overdose symptoms are life-threatening. They include:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Weak pulse
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Blue lips
  • Shallow breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Lightheadedness
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Clammy skin

How Professional Treatment Can Help

Whether it is alcohol, opioids, benzodiazepines, or stimulants, professional addiction treatment accomplishes several critical functions designed to get the mind, body, and spirit well.

The process starts with medical detoxification. In detox, medical staff will provide care and supervision 24 hours a day, seven days a week as codeine is removed from the body. You will also receive medications to treat withdrawal symptoms as well.   

After detox, you will receive ongoing care at a treatment facility. You will have the option of enrolling in a partial hospitalization program (PHP) or an intensive outpatient program (IOP). Both options offer intensive treatment and therapy programs on a full-time basis. The only difference is that an IOP will allow you to live at home or some other arranged housing during treatment. 

Both are designed to help you get to the underlying causes of your addiction, and they will also equip you with effective strategies to prevent relapse

After a PHP or IOP, a clinician will arrange aftercare through an alumni program, which allows you access to a recovery community that consists of individuals who are dedicated to achieving lifelong sobriety. They will help you remain connected, inspired, and supported while providing a critical hedge against relapse. 

Get Help Today

Codeine does not have to take over your life. Let us help you find a treatment program to free you from the shackles of addiction. 
Call 855-960-5341 anytime, day or evening, for a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable addiction recovery specialists. They can help you find the right treatment option.  You can contact us online for more information.

Sources

Buddy T | Medically reviewed by a board-certified physician. (n.d.). How Long Does Codeine Stay in Your System? Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/how-long-does-codeine-stay-in-your-system-80233

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

Delphi Behavioral Health Group. (2019, January 17). The Most Important Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Codeine. Retrieved from https://delphihealthgroup.com/codeine/short-long-effects/

Delphi Behavioral Health Group. (2019, March 08). How Long Do Opioids Stay in Your System | Opioids in Urine, Hair, and Saliva Tests. Retrieved from https://delphihealthgroup.com/opioids/how-long-in-body/

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). The Science of Drug Use and Addiction: The Basics. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/science-drug-use-addiction-basics

Ocean Breeze Recovery. (2019, February 18). Codeine Addiction Signs & Treatment | Ocean Breeze Recovery. Retrieved from https://oceanbreezerecovery.org/opioids/codeine/

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