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Codeine side effects

Discover the side effects of codeine

Find out about how codeine affects the body and how to avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms with the experts at Delamere

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“Delamere focuses on equipping you with the tools to love sobriety and understand what led to the addiction in the first place which really helped me grow.” Delamere Guest, 2021

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What is codeine?

Codeine is a powerful painkiller that is often prescribed to manage pain following an accident or operation. It belongs to a class of drugs known as opiates, which includes heroin and morphine. Codeine is safe to take for short-term relief but, due to its highly addictive nature, it is not recommended long-term. Widespread use may make codeine seem harmless but, when taken in large quantities, it can have dangerous side effects including respiratory failure and death.

If you notice unpleasant side effects of codeine when you reduce your dose, you may have built up a tolerance. This will require close medical management if you decide to quit. Delamere has a multidisciplinary team of experts who help people overcome prescription drug addiction at our purpose-built retreat in Cheshire. We can help you withdraw from codeine safely and comfortably, while addressing the underlying cause of your problems. Here are some of the common side effects of codeine and what to expect during a clinical detox programme.

If you need help with codeine side effects, contact our team today and learn more about the different programmes we offer here at Delamere.

See how a stay at Delamere can give you the time, space and tools needed to grow beyond your addiction. Book a consultation

Common side effects of codeine

Codeine is the most commonly prescribed opioid medication for mild to moderate pain. It is an approved treatment for headache, back pain, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and cancer related pain. It’s also available over the counter in cough medicine and lower-strength forms, often combined with paracetamol or ibuprofen. Codeine is metabolised as morphine in the liver and excreted by the kidneys, which means it can create adverse side effects in some people, particularly those who already have impaired hepatic or renal function.

As with all medications, codeine comes with a list of recognised side effects. These include constipation, nausea, drowsiness, confusion, vertigo, dry mouth and headaches. Other adverse effects include decreased libido, fatigue and sexual function, itchy skin, bloating, hypersensitivity, blurred vision, tremors, stomach cramps, weakness and pancreatitis. People who suffer with sleep apnoea and other lung disorders are also at higher risk for respiratory problems (1).

The real issues start to arise when someone takes codeine in higher amounts or more frequently than initially prescribed. Codeine addiction has wide ranging effects. As well as negatively impacting your work, home and social life, abusing codeine can lead to noticeable physical and mental symptoms, such as:

Cold and clammy skin
Liver and kidney damage
Anxiety and depression
Muscle cramps, aches and pains
Breathing difficulties
Seizures, coma and death

Some people use codeine to self-medicate for emotional problems or insomnia as well as physical pain. On its own, codeine already presents known side effects, but increasingly it is used in combination with alcohol and other drugs, such as new psychoactive substances (NPS), which makes treatment for codeine addiction more complex.

Side effects of codeine withdrawal symptoms

If you’ve become dependent or addicted to codeine you will experience certain side effects when you quit. This is because your body has become used to functioning on codeine, and is forced to adjust, leading to multiple physical and mental side effects. Symptoms are intensified when polydrug use is a factor, particularly benzodiazepines, and if there are any concurrent medical conditions. Side effects of codeine withdrawal usually start in the first 24 hours and can last for several weeks. These include:

Intense cravings
Altered mental state
Depression or anxiety
Cold and flu symptoms
Constipation and diarrhoea
Feeling hot and cold
Joint pain

Codeine can act as a sedative and make you feel sleepy. If you’ve taken too much the withdrawal symptoms can be especially dangerous. As the brain is starved from oxygen you may start to experience extreme confusion and breathing difficulties. It’s important to consult a medical professional who can help you to gradually taper off your current dose of codeine and avoid life-threatening complications.

Treatment for codeine side effects

Prescription drug addiction often requires professional help, and a residential rehab programme gives you the best level of support. It can ensure you have the correct pharmacological and psychological treatment during your recovery. The first part of a clinical detox involves removing codeine from your system while balancing other delicate processes. In some cases, you may be prescribed an opioid agonist, such as buprenorphine or methadone, along with other medications to manage side effects such as nausea, stomach problems and pain.

This should help you to have a comfortable withdrawal and clear your mind ready for therapy. Following this, you’ll start to address some of the reasons behind your addiction. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is especially powerful in helping you to make sense of your addiction. Through one-to-one counselling sessions and group therapy work, you will learn how to heal the emotional impact of your codeine dependence. Somatic healing techniques, including meditation and breathwork, are useful for interrupting negative thought patterns and can be used when you return home to break the cycle of addiction.

The Delamere approach to codeine addiction

The holistic therapists at Delamere wellness retreat have extensive experience treating people who have become reliant on codeine. We invite guests to stay at our wellness retreat in the heart of Cheshire who want a truly transformative approach to overcoming addiction.

Every stay begins with a healing clinical detox and continues with intensive psychotherapy. We take a holistic approach to treatment, considering your physical, mental and emotional well-being at every turn. Using evidence-based treatments we will identify the root cause of your addiction and develop strategies to help you cope in everyday life.

Our unique three-stage approach is tailored to suit each person individually. Whatever you need, we’re here to help you stop craving codeine, start the healing process and grow beyond addiction for good. Finding what works for you offers the best chance of lasting recovery.

Stop. Start. Grow

Our Stop Start Grow model is a refreshing approach to treatment and is what makes recovery at Delamere different. Our goal is always to give you the mindset and tools to grow beyond addiction and live life on your terms once you leave us.


Settle into your new environment
and remove yourself from
any distractions

A day at Delamere A day at Delamere


Spend time with our therapists to discover what led you to this behaviour in the first place

Delamere treatment model Delamere treatment model


Set healthy boundaries,
exciting new goals and prepare for
life after Delamere

Environment Environment


Practice using the tools
while staying anchored to support.
Bring Recovery Home.

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Our core elements of treatment

We believe that whatever the reason for codeine addiction – whether to overcome stress or cope with trauma – it has to start somewhere. Rather than adhering to the conventional step-based programmes, we look at underlying factors that drive your behaviour. Only by recognising how you arrived at this point can you begin to positively shape your future.


Stopping the cycle of anxiety and addiction safely and comfortably


Healing whatever
pain is causing
the behaviour


Instilling tools to help facilitate change and encourage continued growth

Why choose Delamere?

Holistic approach to recovery

Discreet location

Luxury ensuite accommodation

Personalised programmes

Flexible stays

24-hour care & support

On-site gym & health studio

Business & family lounges

Free collection service

“My own journey through addiction was the inspiration for Delamere. We provide exemplary care in first-class facilities, focusing on creating lasting outcomes for our guests and their families. Helping them not just overcome their addiction, but grow beyond it.”

Martin Preston, Founder & CEO at Delamere

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Know someone who needs help with codeine addiction?

If a friend, family member or work colleague is addicted to codeine, it’s important they get help.

Our admissions team is on hand 24/7 to help answer any questions about our therapeutic programmes and make sure your loved one gets the support they need.

Call the team today on 0330 111 2015 to discuss the different options available.