Cough Syrup Withdrawal and Detox

Cough syrups generally contain one or more elements from the opiate class of drugs to enhance their efficacy. This means that most are generally addictive and lead to people using them even long after they’ve recovered from the original diagnosis that led to their prescription. If you’re constantly sipping on cough syrups of any kind (when you have no reason to) because you want to recreate the feelings that follow consumption, you are considered to be addicted.

As addiction grows, your body’s tolerance to cough syrups will continue to rise. This means that you’ll gradually continue to increase your dosage until your body cedes to the numerous dangers surrounding excessive consumption, which could lead to a potential overdose.

What Is Cough Syrup Withdrawal?

As is the case with the consumption of most addictive substances, cough syrups (with addictive properties) gradually change the configurations of your brain and central nervous system in general. This leads to your brain becoming dependent, whereby if you attempt to force it to function without these substances, withdrawal symptoms will set in.

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Causes of Cough Syrup Withdrawal

Cough syrup tolerance and dependence are the main causes of withdrawal.  With tolerance, your body will gradually require higher doses than before in order to feel the desired effects. Subsequently, the drug will feel less effective to your body, forcing you to increase the dosage. There are different factors that determine how fast you develop cough syrup tolerance. These include your genetic makeup, how much cough syrup you’ve taken and how long you’ve been consuming it.

As tolerance builds, your body cells will now see the cough syrup as a vital component for their overall function. This is what’s known as dependence and is the reason why you feel the negative symptoms that ensue when you abruptly stop using cough syrup.  A major indicator is that you’ll feel the only way to curb these symptoms is to take cough syrup.

Tolerance and dependence can build after taking cough syrup for just a short period of time. They can also occur if you go over the recommended doses for legitimate prescriptions.

Phases of Cough Syrup Withdrawal

Cough syrup withdrawal is accompanied by a wide range of physical and emotional symptoms that are difficult to cope with. However, when faced with such a situation, you need simply to remind yourself that this phase is only temporary.   You should keep in mind that even some of the worst symptoms will be resolved within a week in the majority of cases. When you know what to expect during each phase of withdrawal, you can be more prepared psychologically when you undergo withdrawal and detox.

Withdrawal symptoms for cough syrups with shorter acting addictive substances (usually opiates) will kick in 12 hours after your last dose.  If the syrup contains longer-acting opiates, you can expect to start feeling withdrawal symptoms within 30 hours.  These will then worsen as time passes, over the next two to three days. Most people experience a peak in withdrawal symptoms on the third day, by the end of which, physical symptoms will have passed. However, the psychological symptoms and cravings for cough syrup may continue for another week.

Cough syrup withdrawal can typically be divided into three phases. The first has been described above and can typically last for between three to five days. During this period, you can expect agitation, restlessness, fever and flu-like symptoms. The second phase of cough syrup follows soon after and can last for up to two weeks, with symptoms including cramps, depression, cravings and chills.  Meanwhile, the third phase can last up to two months, with symptoms including anxiety, mood swings and cravings.

The non-static nature of these phases is why it’s important for withdrawal to be supervised professionally.  Even when well aware of what to expect, many people yield to the cravings and slip back to cough syrup addiction. You don’t have to be a part of this demographic, as there are many qualified professionals waiting to make the process smoother for you.

Cough Syrup Withdrawal Symptoms: What to Expect

During withdrawal from cough syrup, you could experience all or some of the following symptoms:

  • Faster heartbeat
  • Muscle aches
  • Yawning
  • Sweating
  • Runny nose
  • Teary eyes
  • Anxiety
  • General feelings of irritability
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach cramps
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Loss of appetite

It’s important to note that most symptoms you experience during withdrawal will be a reversal of the effects of the cough syrup itself. For instance, if cough syrup causes you to always feel sleepy, you could have trouble sleeping during withdrawal. Similarly, if the cough syrup causes constipation, you may develop diarrhoea during withdrawal.

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Timeline of Cough Syrup Withdrawal

The timeline of cough syrup withdrawal can run from three days to two months, while the initial symptoms can appear in as little as 12 hours after the last dose and worsen until the third day.

The specific timeline that follows will vary from one individual to another. However, the very worst symptoms will last for about a week. After this period, you will most likely be left with psychological symptoms such as cravings and anxiety.

The timeline will also be affected by the withdrawal option you choose. Abruptly quitting is regarded as the fastest way to stop abusing cough syrup. However, the impact is usually too much to handle. Tapered withdrawal has a longer timeline and can last for months, but is the recommended method by many addiction professionals.

What is Cough Syrup Detoxification?

Detoxification is a process you’ll undergo if you’ve been using cough syrup for a prolonged period of time. It’s only after detox that your rehabilitation can properly begin.  The focus of detox is on ensuring your body’s dependence on cough syrup is properly remedied or even completely reversed.

Cough Syrup Detox Process

The detox process is rarely the same for two individuals, because the overall state of your cough syrup addiction will be different from the next person’s. The process begins with an evaluation to establish the extent of addiction and to rule out the presence of any underlying medical conditions. If it’s established that the presence of such a condition is fuelling your addiction, the detox process will emphasise medical supervision, close monitoring and regular psychological evaluation. The dynamics around the detox process will also change significantly if you’re abusing other substances alongside cough syrup.

When the full facts of your addiction have been established, the detox process will start in earnest – a major feature of which is professional support that is often provided via diversely named therapies. The emphasis will still be on ensuring you’re comfortable and focused enough to come through the detox process and proceed to the remaining facets of rehab.

During the detox process, some therapies you can expect to undertake include: individual counselling and self-help, general cough syrup addiction education and group programmes. The therapy sessions will focus on addressing your cravings and helping you manage the withdrawal symptoms you might be experiencing. The psychological and emotional aspects of overcoming your cough syrup addiction will also be addressed during the detox process.

After a typical detox programme, you will then be sent for further treatment and general rehabilitation that will help push you closer to full recovery, without the risk of relapse.

Home Detox

Many people looking to quit their cough syrup addiction may attempt to do so without professional supervision. This is known as home detox, which is a risky approach to curing an addiction and not recommended. During home detox, you’ll attempt to manage the cravings, as well as other physical and psychological symptoms of detox, completely on your own.

Why Detoxification at Home can be Harmful

Withdrawal symptoms are dangerous and should never be mishandled. In fact, some can be life threatening without the aid of professional care. Home detox generally comprises a ‘cold turkey’ approach, which involves the abrupt cessation of cough syrup usage. However, the problem with this is that the chance of relapse is high and the risk of overdose even higher. This is because using cough syrup to fight off the inevitable strong withdrawal symptoms that follow ‘cold turkey’ withdrawal can in turn lead to taking larger amounts than necessary in a bid to curtail such symptoms.

Even when you avoid relapse, going through withdrawal without professional help could prove fatal, as a result of the psychological and physiological changes that are bound to occur. Therefore, it’s no surprise that most addiction experts strongly advise people to avoid home detox and ‘cold turkey’ withdrawal. The best way to withdraw from cough syrup and detox properly is to check into a medically assisted detox programme. This is to ensure an effective weaning from cough syrup, devoid of all the attendant risks of home detox – one whereby withdrawal symptoms are properly managed by qualified personnel.

There’s no denying the fact that withdrawal from cough syrup addiction can be uncomfortable. However, the presence of qualified professionals will make the process a lot more tolerable for you.

Medically Supervised Cough Syrup Withdrawal Detox

When you attend a medically supervised detox programme, doctors will focus on helping to alleviate or cut down the severe withdrawal symptoms, whilst countering the addiction using a variety of drugs, programmes and therapies. The medication provided will be targeted at helping you to be weaned off the active ingredients in the cough syrups you consume. It’s important to note that medically supervised detox can only be carried out by a trained professional.

The processes deployed will vary from one professional to another. The overall approach will also be influenced by the specifics surrounding your addiction. This is why you should focus on finding a bespoke solution. Finding a programme that perfectly suits you is your best shot at getting the level of care required for you to allow for a full recovery.

Medications Used During Cough Syrup Detox

Medications are a major part of a medically supervised detox, with different types being used. Some of them include:

  • Naltrexone: This will replicate the feelings of using most cough syrups and help stop recurring usage.
  • Clonidine: Important for the management of physical and mental symptoms of cough syrup usage.
  • Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine will make the withdrawal symptoms less severe, hence shortening the length of the detox process.
  • Methadone: This is another medication targeted at reducing cravings for cough syrup.

These are just some of the major medications used during the detox process. Your situation will determine what medications are recommended for you in the long run.

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Treatment for Withdrawal

If you seek professional help with cough syrup withdrawal and detox, you’ll be less likely to suffer any severe side effects. If your addiction is significant, most professionals will advise you to cut down cough syrup intake slowly, instead of just abruptly stopping. Your doctor can help you through this process in many cases. Alternatively, you might be referred to a treatment centre, where counselling and behavioural therapy will also be emphasised.

Treatment for withdrawal will be dependent on whether the symptoms you have are mild, moderate or advanced. If you exhibit mild pain, these can be treated with non-narcotic medications that are known to ease related symptoms, such as: acetaminophen and ibuprofen to help deal with the mild pain; loperamide to help stop diarrhoea; and hydroxyzine to help ease nausea and mild anxiety.

If you’re experiencing moderate withdrawal symptoms, stronger medications can be applied for treatment. Clonidine or similar medication is generally used to help reduce anxiety, but other symptoms it can take care of include: runny nose, cramps, sweating, muscle aches and agitation. Drugs that can aid sleep may also be used, such as diazepam. Such drugs will also treat muscle cramps, but can only be administered under strict guidance and in the right combinations to avoid the onset of addiction.

If symptoms are advanced, gradual withdrawal will be the focus of your treatment. In some rehabs, you may be moved from cough syrup to another opiate or you may be placed on medications typically used to treat opiate based addictions, like methadone and naltrexone.

Withdrawing from Cough Syrup: Treatment Methods and Options

There are different options for withdrawing from cough syrups. They include the following:

‘Cold Turkey’ Withdrawal : This is the fastest way to withdraw from cough syrups. It simply involves the abrupt cessation of usage and then riding out a trying week, during which the withdrawal symptoms will bite hard. The intensity of your addiction and how long you’ve been using cough syrups will determine how severe the detox symptoms will be. This is the reason only people with a mild case of addiction should attempt this method of withdrawal.

For the best possible results, ‘cold turkey’ withdrawal should be carried out in a medically controlled environment. The difficulties attached to this method mean that most people fail at it without professional help – and consequences can prove fatal. When cold detox is undertaken professionally, you can ensure the safety of your well-being, as you’ll receive medications aimed at managing symptoms. You’ll also be supported with therapy and the appropriate education to help you understand your addiction, remain in rehab and stay substance-free in future.

Tapering : Tapering is another option for withdrawing from cough syrups. This takes longer, but is less challenging than the ‘cold turkey’ option. When enrolled in a tapering based programme, you will avoid any extreme discomfort. The focus here is to slowly reduce the quantity of cough syrup you consume each day, gradually, until you no longer take any doses at all. The process starts by cutting down consumption in small increments, with the goal set at 10% reduction in the first week. Once this is achieved, a gradual scale up to 100% will be realistic in time. The main disadvantage is that it can take a very long time and requires commitment and immense discipline on your part.

Substitution Option : You are likely addicted to cough syrups because they get you ‘high’. Fortunately, there are medications that can be applied to trick your brain into thinking you’ve taken a dose of cough syrup. These won’t get you ‘high’ in any way. This option is preferred by many people, because it allows them to avoid the symptoms that are present during withdrawal.

The main options for substitution include suboxone and methadone. The latter has been in use for a long time, but presents its own unique challenges, as it is an addictive drug. In fact, many people have found that addiction to methadone can be worse than that of cough syrup. Meanwhile, suboxone can be regarded as more refined and doesn’t pose the dangers of methadone. The mode of working in your brain is the same, however, it is not as addictive nor can it be easily abused.

Additionally, most programmes that involve the use of methadone require you to visit a clinic daily to get the required dose. However, suboxone can be prescribed monthly by a doctor.

The withdrawal option recommended by professionals in the long run will be dependent on your specific addiction. This is why you need to find a withdrawal and detox centre that is versatile enough to cater for all kinds of addiction cases. When you’ve found such a rehab facility, be as upfront as possible about your situation in the initial consultations to increase your chances of finding the right solution.

Drug treatment for withdrawal

The importance of drug treatment for cough syrup withdrawal cannot be overemphasised. You should therefore be open to the possibility that these drugs will be recommended.

Buprenorphine will produce effects (albeit weak ones) similar to those you feel after taking addictive cough syrups, such as euphoria. Over a period of time, this drug can help reduce the risk of misuse and dependence. It will also help you to counter the side effects of cough syrup.

Methadone and suboxone focuses on blocking the withdrawal symptoms and cough syrup cravings when properly administered. This will help your body to return to optimum functionality and make the recovery process easier.

Naltrexone blocks the cough syrup’s actions on your brain. It does this by making sure you no longer feel the pleasurable effects associated with its use, hence preventing a relapse.

It’s important to remember that you can’t use these medications on your own, as attempting to self-medicate can be counterproductive.

Guided Cough Syrup therapy

With guided therapy, the focus is often on helping you determine the main reasons behind the abuse of cough syrup, showing you the dangers of continuing to take it and then helping you recover from addiction. Most guided therapies are bespoke and broken into smaller sessions, targeted at the areas deemed necessary by the professional handling your specific case.  Before you can get started, detox must be first completed.

Live a Drug-free Life Again

It is possible to live a life without cough syrups. This begins with accepting the fact that you need help. When you’ve done this, you can then proceed to withdrawal, detox and treatment centres that can take care of your specific addiction case.  By strictly following the programmes outlined for you and staying the full course over the rehab period, you can be certain of successfully beating your addiction.

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Preventing relapse

To prevent relapse after you’ve completed withdrawal and detox, you need to continue with cough syrup addiction treatment and rehab. This stage follows detox and you cannot simply jump to it without completing the detox process first. It’s at this point that you’ll be exposed to a wide range of therapies, focused on tackling the root causes of your addiction; correcting the damages to your physiology and psychology; and making sure you won’t relapse on completion of the programme.

Relapse is a real concern for the majority of people that go into treatment for any addiction. This is why top rehab centres include aftercare programmes, aimed at helping you to remain focused and drug-free in the weeks and months following the completion of treatment and rehab. Before you leave rehab, you will be reminded of these programmes and the need to stay involved with them. They don’t always entail travelling to a distant location. Depending on the structure, you might find these programmes close to you. Some rehab centres also allocate resource people that will meet you at work or at home.

Tips for Handling Cravings

To handle cravings when they arise, there are many natural techniques that you can practice, anywhere and anytime. They do not require special training and include the following:

  • Finding a distraction from the cravings by reading a book, taking the dog for a walk, calling a partner from your addiction therapy class, watching a movie or just simply going outside for some fresh air.
  • Get involved in a regular exercise routine. Ideally, you should squeeze in 30 minutes of exercise every day. However, once you find yourself staring down the relapse barrel, quickly adopting an exercise routine can reset your nervous system.
  • Meditation can help. Register for a yoga class if it wasn’t part of the therapy sessions during treatment. Practice what you learnt during the classes when any cravings surface.
  • Deep breathing for a few minutes can also be beneficial.
  • Grab a healthy meal that appeals to you. Sometimes, all you need is a healthy-balanced diet.

People that yield to cravings often spend far too much time thinking about their relationship with cough syrups. Therefore, to fully avoid cravings, you need to fill the gaps in your day with as many wholesome activities as possible. This will drastically reduce the duration, intensity and frequency of cravings.

When these options aren’t working, consider re-enrolling for self-help meetings. These can be very helpful for people in your position. The support from other people can be all you need to stay drug-free. If you choose to this option, consider going back to your original rehab facility for the sake of continuity. Here, some medications can also be recommended to help you in the fight against cravings.

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Find a treatment centre

When it comes to choosing a treatment centre for your cough syrup withdrawal and detox, it’s important to find a facility that places emphasis on bespoke service. The ideal treatment centre should also be one that has handled a lot of cough syrup addiction cases in the past. With such versatility, you can be certain to get the best care possible, regardless of whether your addiction is mild, moderate or severe.

Can’t make a decision? Talk to your doctor or other professionals in the addiction niche for the best solution. When you’ve found the right treatment centre, you still need to keep in mind that success is also dependent on your willingness to cooperate and follow through the programmes that have been designed for you.


Why Do You Experience Withdrawal Symptoms?

Withdrawal symptoms occur when your body attempts to function in the absence of cough syrup elements in your system. When you’ve become dependent and addicted to cough syrup, your brain and other components of your nervous system will start to regard the substance as part of the chemical composition of your body. In its absence, the body will react negatively – sometimes very harshly. These effects are known as withdrawal symptoms.

When Do Withdrawal Symptoms Begin to Occur?

Depending on the type of cough syrup you’re abusing (and the ingredients it’s made up of), you can expect withdrawal symptoms to manifest within 12 hours of your last dose. Symptoms will then progressively worsen until around the third day (if you’ve not yielded to them already). Withdrawal symptoms clear up gradually from here, but the cravings and other psychological symptoms might not go away for weeks – and could in fact worsen. Consequently, the cessation of withdrawal symptoms doesn’t automatically translate to a cured addiction and is why you still need to seek professional help.

How Long Does Cough Syrup Withdrawal Last?

There is no fixed timeline for cough syrup withdrawal, as most people are affected in different ways. However, you can expect the withdrawal symptoms to last between three days and a week.

Are There any Home Remedies for Getting Clean Safely?

Many people attempt to stay at home and go ‘cold turkey’ whilst practicing a collection of alternative therapies, such as clean eating and yoga. However, there is no proof that this works. In fact, the withdrawal symptoms can lead to more serious and damaging health issues. The only home remedies for getting clean safely are those recommended by professionals, after you’ve been evaluated. If it’s established that you can get clean on an outpatient basis as a result of your specific addiction, then you can complete detox at home. This will most likely involve medication being prescribed.

Are there ways to prevent or reduce withdrawal symptoms?

Withdrawal symptoms can be prevented or reduced by the use of professionally administered medications.

Can You Die From Cough Syrup Withdrawal?

The symptoms of cough syrup withdrawal can be very dangerous. If you attempt to detox on your own, there’s a chance that any complication could prove fatal. Cardiac related symptoms of withdrawal can trigger a heart attack in some people. Seizures can also occur. In some cases, the mental changes that manifest can in turn trigger suicidal thoughts.

Can Medications Help?

Cough syrup addiction can be treated using a variety of medications, such as methadone and suboxone. However, some medications are a danger when used without proper monitoring and management. This is why they’re often applied only when they’ve been ruled as the best option for a specific case.

What Is Cough Syrup Withdrawal?

Withdrawal refers to the actions (and inactions) involved when breaking free of addiction to cough syrups.

Is Cough Syrup Withdrawal Dangerous?

Cough syrup withdrawal on its own is not dangerous, but the myriad of withdrawal symptoms that follow can be fatal if withdrawal is not carried out under professional guidance. This is why it’s not advisable to attempt withdrawal and detox at home, unless already sanctioned by a professional.

Can I Find Help?

Yes. There are many cough syrup withdrawal and detox centres across the UK that can help you beat your addiction. Can’t find one? Seek the help of medical professionals. During your consultation, they will listen and note your specific needs, before helping find the best rehab centre for you.

Is Detox from Cough Syrup dangerous?

Detox from cough syrup is only dangerous when you attempt to go through it on your own. In the right environment, you can complete detox and proceed to completing comprehensive addiction treatment and rehab.

How Long Does it Take to Detox from Cough Syrup?

The length of detox is determined by the severity of your addiction. In some people, detox can be completed in a week. In others (especially those where slower tapering is the best solution), detox can take up to a month. Speak with a professional for a more bespoke outlook.

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