Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline and Detox Treatment Options
Vicodin is a combination medication prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. This drug contains an opioid pain reliever (hydrocodone) and a non-opioid pain reliever (acetaminophen). Hydrocodone is a synthetic derivative of opium and in cases of abuse, users take more than recommended, often through methods other than intended by the manufacturer. For example, Vicodin may be smoked, snorted, or injected.
Drugs like Vicodin are effective and serve a purpose in the medical community. However, they are also fueling the current opioid epidemic.
Hydrocodone is one of the most common pain medications prescribed by doctors. However, it’s also one of the most addictive. Typically prescribed to patients post-surgery, trauma patients, or patients with cancer, anyone can become addicted to Vicodin.
There is no shame in seeking help once you begin experiencing Vicodin withdrawal symptoms. Reaching out to a professional substance abuse and mental health facility is the best thing you can do.
Whether you or your loved one are struggling with Vicodin, here’s what you can expect from the Vicodin withdrawal process. Help is available, but your road to recovery must begin with a detox period.
What Are the Symptoms of Vicodin Withdrawal?
Since Vicodin is made with an opioid, Vicodin withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of other pain medications.
Common symptoms include:
- Psychological changes, including mood swings, anxiety, and irritability
- Increased cravings
- Physical symptoms, including tremors, sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, etc.
- Sleep disturbances, such as insomnia and exhaustion
- Cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny rose, and chills
In most cases, Vicodin withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening. However, they can be incredibly uncomfortable. If you have been combining various substances of abuse, the withdrawal process (and associated symptoms) becomes more complex.
The above Vicodin withdrawal symptoms typically begin anywhere between six to 12 hours after your last dose and last about two weeks. However, it’s also possible to develop post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Symptoms associated with this syndrome can continue for 18 to 24 months. Although these symptoms vary, you may experience:
- Anxiety and depression
- Irritability and aggression
- Low energy
- Mental fog
- Chronic pain
- Lack of focus
- Severe mood swings
To address these ongoing symptoms, it’s important to stick to your recovery plan. For many, outpatient services are highly beneficial after the detoxification process. Others benefit from an inpatient program, followed by a structured aftercare plan.
Symptoms of Vicodin withdrawal can be unpleasant. However, if you cannot successfully control your current addiction, it could become deadly. Accidental overdoses continue to plague the nation, contributing to the current opioid epidemic.
What Causes Vicodin Withdrawal?
To better understand how Vicodin withdrawal syndrome develops, you must first focus on this drug’s mechanism of action — which involves two separate drugs.
Hydrocodone is an opioid agonist that interacts with mu and delta receptors. When these receptors are activated, pain is inhibited, yet sensory input, such as touch, remains unaffected. Acetaminophen’s mechanism of action is not fully understood but involves multiple pathways.
As with other opioids, tolerance begins to develop when a user starts taking increasing doses to maintain the same effect. As a result, physical dependence develops. Once you become dependent on Vicodin, that is when withdrawal syndrome becomes an issue following discontinued use. The symptoms that surface can be severe.
There are many variables to consider concerning Vicodin withdrawal syndrome, including:
- Length of use — If you have been taking Vicodin for a few weeks only, the withdrawal symptoms will likely be minimal. If you are someone who has been taking Vicodin compulsively for years, then you can expect more significant withdrawal symptoms.
- Dosage — If you continue to take Vicodin, you’ll develop a tolerance. To experience the same effects from the drug, you’ll need to take higher doses to feel the same effect. If your body is used to large doses of Vicodin, you can anticipate more severe symptoms compared to someone who took small doses.
- Addiction — A Vicodin addiction is more than tolerance and physical dependence. It involves psychological cravings and compulsiveness. Psychological symptoms can make physical symptoms seem more difficult.
How Long Does Vicodin Withdrawal Take?
Vicodin has a short half-life, being just four hours. That means when you take a dose of Vicodin, the drug is eliminated from your body after around eight hours. At this point, withdrawal symptoms can begin.
The average timeline for Vicodin withdrawal is around seven to 10 days. However, certain symptoms can last for weeks or even months, especially psychological symptoms. That is why it’s so crucial to seek professional support. That way, you’ll gain access to a structured treatment plan that focuses on holistic healing. This approach is essential to successfully recover long-term.
Like all other drugs of abuse, cravings for Vicodin may suddenly surface years after you have stopped taking it. That is why it’s important to have ongoing support, especially if you begin abusing Vicodin because of other underlying factors, such as a mental health condition.
The Vicodin withdrawal process is very much an individualized experience. For most, symptoms subside within one to two weeks. However, it isn’t easy to estimate an accurate timeline for each person. Many variables need to be considered, including whether or not there is a history of other substances of abuse. This initial withdrawal period is known as the acute withdrawal process.
Psychological symptoms can also be tough to determine and may last months or years. These symptoms are often part of what’s known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), as discussed above. This syndrome refers to a set of impairments that can last weeks, months, or in some cases, years. This syndrome is most commonly associated with alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioid withdrawal (including Vicodin withdrawal). Data shows that approximately 90% of recovering opioid users will experience symptoms of this syndrome. The cause of these symptoms results from changes in the brain.
Again, this is why you should continuously seek the support of a professional substance abuse and mental health team. An individualized, holistic plan is essential when aiming to treat ongoing symptoms of Vicodin withdrawal, especially when there are underlying mental health concerns. Treating you as a whole person, focusing on both Vicodin addiction and mental health, is what’s known as a dual-diagnosis treatment.
- Symptoms of Vicodin withdrawal will typically begin around six to 10 hours following your last dose.
- Acute withdrawal symptoms are the most significant in terms of intensity and last an average of one to two weeks.
- Following this period, you may experience PAWS. Some users never have symptoms following the acute withdrawal phase and others experience symptoms for months or years.
How To Safely Manage A Vicodin Detox
Once a Vicodin addiction develops, the beginning of treatment must begin with detoxification. This process is best within a controlled and medically supervised environment. By seeking the support of a clinical detox facility, you will ensure the safest, most comfortable Vidocin withdrawal process possible.
A medication-assisted detox is often an option when opioids are involved in the withdrawal process. However, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach here. Common medications used are buprenorphine and methadone. These are partial opioid agonists that make your body think it’s getting opiates, preventing the development of Vicodin withdrawal symptoms. A tapering plan is generally created. Users receive lowered doses of these supportive medications over time until they are completely drug-free. Throughout this process, ongoing therapy is often essential.
In most cases, buprenorphine (Suboxone) is the preferred choice. Data shows that buprenorphine has cut overdose deaths in half, allowing recovering addicts to continue living productive and fulfilling lives. Based on how this medication works, it blunts detoxification of other opiates. In turn, you will experience fewer and less intense cravings.
The key is to understand that no single approach works for all individuals.
One of the greatest considerations is what other substances you were using. For example, many people addicted to Vicodin will take an array of opioids, resulting in opioid use disorder. Some opioids are short-acting, whereas others are long-acting. This can influence your tapering plan.
If other substances are involved, such as alcohol, the withdrawal period can become more dangerous. When seizures become an area of concern, you mustn’t go through the detox period unsupervised.
The combination of Vicodin with alcohol or other drugs is incredibly dangerous because of Vicodin’s main active ingredient, hydrocodone. When you take Vicodin alongside other substances that depress the central nervous system, including alcohol, barbiturates, antihistamines or benzodiazepines, this can result in life-threatening respiratory issues.
One medication often used for alcohol withdrawal that can also be administered for opioid withdrawal is Naltrexone. This medication blocks euphoric effects and dampens intoxication.
Another medication often studied for opiate withdrawal is clonidine. Studies in both animals and humans have shown that clonidine helps reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms. Being relatively safe and effective, it is best suited as a transitional treatment between opioid dependence and the introduction of Naltrexone.
However, when this medication is administered, it is a highly individualized dosage regimen. Those receiving this medication must be closely monitored. Researchers also suggest a primary focus on other treatment options, such as psychotherapy, to maintain abstinence.
Please note that although opioid dependence offers more treatment agents than other substances of abuse, none act as a cure. In many cases, they can help diminish withdrawal symptoms, especially when these symptoms are dangerous.
Once your body is rid of substances of abuse, therapy will begin. Under federal law, patients in a medication-assisted detox program must receive counseling, which often includes several forms of behavioral therapy. Although supervised withdrawal is the first step, most individuals require more to completely sustain abstinence from opioids. This Vicodin withdrawal process does not address why you began using it. Successful transition to follow-up treatment is highly recommended.
Research shows that medication-assisted detox is more effective when counseling and behavioral therapies are included in a patient’s program. To ensure the best outcomes, you must receive treatment that takes a whole-person approach. Today, many treatment facilities will offer a range of unique, evidence-based programs, such as art therapy or equine-assisted psychotherapy.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Vicodin withdrawal can be daunting. However, Vicodin withdrawal symptoms no longer need to be the barrier that stops you from getting the help you need. When you seek the assistance and ongoing support of an expert substance abuse and mental health team, you will benefit from an individualized, evidence-based treatment program.
If you fear the Vicodin withdrawal process, know that an expert facility makes this process safe and comfortable. Unlike trying to quit cold turkey, you’ll gain access to the resources and support you need to complete the detoxification period. You will then move into a more comprehensive treatment plan that addresses your personalized needs.
It’s normal to be anxious about Vicodin withdrawal symptoms. However, without completing this step, you will not be able to achieve a life of sobriety, free from the chains of addiction. As scary as this step can be, it’s important to remember the risks associated with Vicodin addiction, especially if you often mix substances of abuse.
Drug overdoses continue to rise as a result of prescription opioids. As reported by the CDC, over 70% of the 70,630 overdose deaths in 2019 involved an opioid. So, if you’re willing to take the next step, you must follow through.
Today is the day you begin your new life — one full of hope. Seek assistance with Zinnia Health today. Help is standing by.