Citation: Jack. "Kicking the Crutch: An Experience with Codeine (exp31507)". Erowid.org. Jul 31, 2006. erowid.org/exp/31507
I'm writing this on day one of my latest attempt to kick codeine, so I'm not the most comfortable person in the world right now.
I am 24, male, in the US. I get migraines, which I obviously inherited from my mother, and she gets Tylenol 4s with codeine for them. For a short time I got Tylenol 3s for mine, but when I didn't have health insurance I would just take a few of hers home and keep them in a drawer for the particularly bad ones; mostly I'd just go through extra strength Advil. I remember having four or five Tylenol 4s in my drawer for two years or so. I've always considered myself a drug-free kind of person. I never drank until I was 21 and even then I didn't like it and only tried to get drunk twice. I've never even touched pot or any street drugs of any kind.
I guess it was the spring of 2001 when I really started abusing the painkillers. I was going out with a girl I loved a lot but who, I found out periodically, was cheating on me. We'd fight and make up and then it would all fall apart again. Somehow, after taking a Tylenol for a bad headache and realizing that it made me feel *much* better about what was going on, I started taking them for emotional reasons rather than strictly physical ones. My mom got plenty and was (is) very generous and eager to help me, so she started giving me 30 a month of her prescription for 90. At one point she got a bunch of Vicodin for something and she gave me a pile of them; I remember my girlfriend running off with her ex and being so distraught and taking them simply for relief from that. Not smart.
Anyway, I gradually moved up to 45/month--half my mom's prescription--and I'd end up asking for more before long. I'd also find myself running out before the new script was in, which caused my first withdrawals. The girl and I broke up and the pills were still part of my life. At one point in the spring of 2003 I ran out and determined to endure the ten days until the prescription came in. Since this time around I'm very early in the withdrawal, I'll describe what happened in those ten days.
First there was the misery, which did sort of pass, though it feels like it wouldn't. No more good feelings about being at work or doing anything at home or watching a movie or talking to a friend; everything is a chore, and I mean a CHORE. That's because, coupled with the misery, there's the lethargy and muscle aches, which make just getting out of a chair very difficult indeed.
I don't want to have to *do* anything, since moving around is so unpleasant. There's a general irritability; in my case, however, I've found that I get into very few real arguments with anyone when this is going on because I'm so miserable I don't want to endure any conflict at all. Muscle aches can be quite pronounced; I remember (and anticipate!) throbbing leg muscles that kept me awake at night, only to fade after an hour or so under the warm blankets. Then, when I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and got back in bed, they were howling once again.
My sleep was also affected pretty badly, sometimes on the getting-to-sleep end but more usually in the morning. I would wake up after just a couple of hours no matter how little I had slept in how long, and laying in bed awake staring at the ceiling can be pretty fucking rough, let me tell you. Which brings me to the final and, in my experience, most lasting symptom of codeine withdrawal: depression. In my case this was what did me in. I was very, very extremely depressed about things at certain points--especially the long, lonely, sleepless mornings--and it was during one of those mornings around day ten, when the physical symptoms had lessened a lot, that I woke up and found my ex on the instant messenger and ended up seeing her that morning. After taking her home I was really overwhelmed by depression bordering on panic. Some of this is natural, I suppose, but it went way beyond that and lasted all day in full force, debilitating and frightening.
That day happened to be the day my mom got her codeine prescription refilled. The evening came, she gave me my bottle of 45, and I popped two. The depression evaporated; I could face the world confidently again. Yes, I'm an idiot.
One more thing to report about the withdrawal time--separate from the rest because I'm not positive it was a symptom. I got what felt like a very bad stomach flu roughly between days 3 and 6. As I recall this was going around in some form, so I don't know if it was a bug, a withdrawal side effect, or a combination of the two (I suspect the last). I don't ever recall having a stomach flu before then, and I haven't had one since. This one gave me diarrhea, as well as nausea which would make a normal person vomit plenty. I hate vomiting and don't ever seem to do it, but this stomach flu brought me very, very close. I remember kneeling over the toilet wishing I could.
So that's what happened the last time I went any length of time cold turkey without codeine. Since then I escalated once in a while with the help of a friend who has some serious medical problems and gets high-milligram Oxycodone tablets for pain. He gives me some on occasion and they, of course, feel fantastic. Going off them is a different story, though if I have the old 4s I don't find it to be so terrible.
The other thing this friend has given me is methadone in pill form. He gets it for pain as well. For a while I was out of codeine and I subsisted on these, which made me feel just fantastic. My friend warned me about them and said that when he was hooked on them before it took sixty days of agonizing withdrawal to get off them. I took them every day for just over a week, then ended when I got more Tylenol 4s, thinking everything would be fine.
But I did get a little taste of the methadone withdrawal, I have real sympathy for anyone going through that. Where codeine withdrawal is achingly miserable, methadone (and, I suppose, heroin) withdrawal is terrifyingly hellish. Mine went away after 36-48 hours, thank God, but in that time I was highly unpleasant and non-functional and got into a bitter, silly fight with my girlfriend at the time.
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