Codeine is a prescription opioid pain reliever that is used to alleviate mild to moderate pain and coughing. Being aware of how long codeine stays in your system can help you make informed decisions about dosing so you can reduce your risk of overdose. On the other hand, if you’re worried about passing a drug test because you’ve been abusing codeine, it may be time to consider seeking help.

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What is Codeine?

Codeine is the most commonly prescribed and consumed opioid medication, placing it at the center of the opioid epidemic. As an opioid analgesic that slows down the central nervous system, this medication is approved for the treatment of mild to moderate pain, however, it is also used for off-label purposes.<1>

Some of these off-label purposes include:

Treatment for cough and chronic cough as codeine reduces cough frequency and severity. This is usually given in a liquid form mixed with promethazine or guaifenesin and pseudoephedrine. Codeine cough syrup is often referred to as “lean” or “purple drank.” Codeine is, by far, the most abused cough suppressant.Treatment of restless leg syndrome when administered in the nighttime to patients who cannot find relief from other medications.When mixed with loperamide, codeine is used to treat persistent diarrhea.

Regardless of whether the medication comes in the form of a tablet, syrup, or injection, it is always a controlled substance. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies codeine as a Schedule II, III, and V drug depending on the type of medication it contains and the dose of codeine within that medication.

When taken in high doses, the drug produces euphoric effects similar to those produced by other opioids. As a result, many people abuse codeine to relax, relieve pain, or simply to get high.

People who abuse codeine run the risk of becoming addicted to it. Addiction causes trouble in nearly every area of a person’s life, between struggling to pay bills, dealing with withdrawal symptoms, and even worrying about passing drug tests. If someone is abusing codeine and has a drug test coming up, they may be wondering just how long the substance will stay in their body.

How Does the Body Process Codeine?


Saliva tests are also rarely used because they aren’t as reliable as other types of drug tests. On average, codeine stays in the saliva up to 4 days after use.

Risks of Codeine Abuse and Addiction

When used as prescribed and taken correctly, codeine is generally a safe medication. However, someone who is worried about passing a drug test because they have been abusing codeine may have a drug problem.

It isn’t always easy to spot a codeine addiction, however, there are a few key signs and symptoms to watch out for:

Consistently appearing under the influence of opioidsHaving a strong preoccupation and intense cravings surrounding drug useDeveloping a tolerance to codeine where a person has to increase their dose to feel the same effectsIsolating from and lying to friends and family members about substance use and behaviorsShowing changes in mood, behaviors, appearance, sleeping patterns, or weightLoss of interest in activities one once previously enjoyed

Abusing codeine can put an individual at risk of overdose. Taking more codeine than prescribed, mixing it with alcohol or other opioids, or using the medication in any way other than directed by a health professional is dangerous – even just one time.

Symptoms of a codeine overdose include:<5>

Blue and pale colored skin and lipsShallow, slow, or no breathingCold and clammy skinConfusion and dizzinessFatigueLoss of consciousnessLow blood pressurePinpoint pupilsMuscle weaknessWeak or no pulseComaDeath

If someone is experiencing overdose symptoms, it is imperative to seek emergency medical attention immediately.

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Find Help for Codeine Addiction Today

If you or someone you know is addicted to codeine in any form, it’s time to consider seeking help from a substance abuse treatment facility. At Carolina Center for Recovery, we know that getting sober isn’t easy, but we promise to be there for you every step of the way. Whether you’re ready to take the first step towards sobriety or are simply curious about your addiction treatment options, pick up the phone and call us today.