Hydrocodone, also known by its brand name Vicodin, is a type of medication made out of opiates and acetaminophen. Each year, doctors hand out millions of prescriptions for the pills to those who suffer from health issues that cause pain.
Unfortunately, the opiates in hydrocodone are highly addictive. If a person forms an addiction to or dependence on hydrocodone and tries to stop taking their prescription, they can experience pain and other uncomfortable symptoms as part of the withdrawal process.
With the current opioid epidemic, there are now many forms of treatment available for opioid withdrawal and addiction, including behavioral therapies and medication-assisted treatment.
How Long Does Hydrocodone Withdrawal Last?
Hydrocodone has a half-life of about six hours in the body. If a person doesn’t take more of the medication within 12 hours of the last dose, they will start to feel some discomfort.
The most severe hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms begin after 72 hours of discontinuing the medication. This severe stage of the hydrocodone withdrawal timeline usually lasts for about one or two weeks.
The amount of time that it takes for a person to get through hydrocodone withdrawal can vary depending on how long they took the medication, the dose that they were given, and whether they were using any other drugs along with it.
What Are the Symptoms Of Hydrocodone (Vicodin) Withdrawal?
The following is a list of the physical, psychological, and behavioral hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms that occur during the hydrocodone withdrawal timeline:
- muscle aches and pain
- dry mouth
- runny nose
- high blood pressure
- trouble concentrating
- mood swings
- depression and anxiety
- suicidal thoughts and actions
- constant cravings
- lying or stealing to get more of the medication
- going to different doctors in different cities for extra hydrocodone prescriptions
- taking more than the prescribed amount
- avoiding friends and family members
- struggling at work or school
- committing crimes to acquire the medication
- buying hydrocodone from drug dealers
How To Cope With Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms
Getting through the withdrawal process for any opiate isn’t easy because of how quickly the body becomes dependent on it. Opiates suppress the central nervous system, which means that they lower the heart rate and blood pressure, decrease the body temperature, and increase fatigue and drowsiness.
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When medications that contain opiates are suddenly stopped, it takes time for the central nervous system to start functioning normally without them. In some people, the opioid withdrawal process can take up to a year.
Medically Assisted Detox Programs
Because withdrawing from opiates causes serious physical and psychological symptoms, it is best for anyone who is addicted to hydrocodone to detox in a medical facility that can help them get through the process safely by monitoring their health and giving them medications to reduce the severity of their symptoms.
Otherwise, there is a chance they could become very ill or even die from dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea (the flu-like symptoms experienced at the height of hydrocodone withdrawal).
If hallucinations, severe depression, or suicidal thoughts develop, these could also be dangerous for someone to go through alone because they might attempt to harm themselves or others.
Getting help for hydrocodone withdrawal at a rehab facility means a person has access to medical care as well as medication to stave off cravings and ease pain and discomfort. Some of the types of medications that doctors can give to ease the symptoms of withdrawing from hydrocodone include:
Buprenorphine affects the same opioid receptors as hydrocodone, but with a greatly reduced effect. Because of this, medications that contain the substance are called partial opioid agonists.
The way that buprenorphine works is by tricking the body into thinking that it is still getting a constant supply of opiates. This doesn’t mean that a person can get high from taking a large dose of the substance, though. One of the best features of buprenorphine is that its effects can only reach a certain limit in the body.
Naloxone works in the opposite way of buprenorphine. Instead of activating the opiate receptors in the body, it blocks their ability to be triggered by opiates. For this reason, naloxone is an opioid antagonist.
This feature is especially helpful if a person is suffering from an opiate overdose. Naloxone (Narcan) can also be useful for those who are struggling to stop taking hydrocodone because of their addiction to the substance. Brand-name medications, like Suboxone, combine naloxone and buprenorphine together for an even more effective treatment.
Another opioid antagonist is naltrexone. It is added to brand-name medications, like Vivitrol, that are given to people who have made it through the worst phase of the opiate-withdrawal process because it helps prevent relapses from occurring.
Methadone is an opioid, too, which means that it can potentially be abused if it isn’t used properly. Since it affects the body and brain in the same way as morphine, it is sometimes used as a substitute to help alleviate the withdrawal symptoms that people have from hydrocodone.
Treatment For Hydrocodone Withdrawal And Abuse
Drug treatment for hydrocodone abuse begins with helping a person get through the physical symptoms of withdrawal. Once this inpatient portion is completed, outpatient treatment that involves cognitive behavioral therapy and medications to help alleviate any depression and anxiety due to withdrawal can begin.
A number of rehab centers throughout the nation now offer opioid treatment programs. The very best will offer a well-rounded, whole-body approach to addiction treatment. In order to find the best rehab center to help with hydrocodone withdrawal and abuse, addicted individuals can contact one of our treatment specialists for more information.
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- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Hydrocodone
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Opiate and opioid withdrawal