Vicodin is an opioid painkiller that combines the medications hydrocodone and acetaminophen. It is also one of the most commonly abused opioid painkillers responsible for addiction today. Like addiction to other opioids, Vicodin dependence can cause severe withdrawal.
When an opioid enters a person’s brain, it activates certain receptors that are designed for naturally occurring opioid substances in the body. With repeated use, the body begins to believe that it no longer needs to fully rely on its own chemicals. Instead, it counts on the influx of the drug to balance and normalize its chemical functions. This is called a dependency.
Once a dependent person quits using Vicodin, or if they drastically reduce their dosage, withdrawal may set in. While opioid withdrawal isn’t in itself deadly, certain complications may be. Because of this, a person may find better success in the safe environment of a medically supervised detoxification program.
Signs And Symptoms Of Vicodin (Hydrocodone) Withdrawal
As an opioid, Vicodin holds a powerful potential to create a dependent state. Once a person is dependent, there is a strong chance that their body will become sick if they stop or reduce their drug abuse. This sickness, called withdrawal, can become extremely painful and uncomfortable. People who abuse opioid drugs may continue to take them in order to avoid these symptoms.
The timeline of acute Vicodin withdrawal may vary somewhat per person, but typically, withdrawal symptoms last four to ten days. In this time, a person will experience a variety of intolerable symptoms, some of which happen fairly quickly, and others as withdrawal progresses.
Early Withdrawal Symptoms Of Vicodin (Hydrocodone)
As a short-acting opioid, withdrawal from hydrocodone can begin in as little as eight hours to one day after a person last abuses the substance. At the onset of withdrawal a person may begin to develop:
- Achey muscles
- Runny nose
- Teary eyes
Opioid withdrawal can feel like the flu, especially once late withdrawal symptoms begin.
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Late Withdrawal Symptoms Of Vicodin (Hydrocodone)
As withdrawal from hydrocodone continues, gastrointestinal distress and other physical symptoms may develop, including:
- Abdominal cramps
- Dilated pupils
Throughout withdrawal, a person may experience cravings of varying intensities. Without treatment, cravings and withdrawal symptoms may drive a person to relapse as a means of reducing these feelings.
Vicodin (Hydrocodone) Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)
While many people reach a more physically stable state shortly after acute withdrawal ceases, certain people may continue to experience withdrawal for an extended period of time. Without treatment, these symptoms may become debilitating or significantly reduce a person’s quality of life. In the most severe of cases, they may lead a person back to drug abuse.
Vicodin post-acute withdrawal syndrome (also referred to as protracted withdrawal or protracted abstinence) may affect some individuals after acute withdrawal symptoms wane. Protracted withdrawal from opioids may last anywhere from weeks to months, with symptoms including:
- Dulled emotions (dysphoria)
- Sleeping problems
One of the biggest dangers of protracted withdrawal is a relapse. Some individuals may not realize that the symptoms they are experiencing are a form of withdrawal. These symptoms may disrupt a person’s job, relationships or schooling. As they struggle to cope with these conditions or the damage caused by them, it could become tempting to return to Vicodin to self-medicate their struggles or this sense of discomfort.
Treating post-acute withdrawal for hydrocodone may be best achieved in an inpatient treatment setting. Living on site at a treat facility gives treatment providers an opportunity to pinpoint PAWS systems and adapt the treatment accordingly. Therapists and counselors can also help a person to develop coping and sober living skills that can help them better manage these symptoms, both within the treatment and after in their day-to-day lives.
The Dangers Of Do-It-Yourself Vicodin (Hydrocodone) Detoxes
Unsupervised at home detoxes, or do-it-yourself detoxes can be both dangerous and unsuccessful. These approaches are different than outpatient detox programs that allow a person to detox at home under the supervision and guidance of clinicians.
Detoxing at home often involves methods and treatments that have not been researched or determined to be safe or effective. They may even suggest the misuse of other potentially addictive prescription medications, such as benzodiazepine (benzos) drugs.
Benzodiazepines have a high potential for abuse. Some people may experience a sense of reward or pleasure when they use these drugs that makes them want to use them again. Additionally, benzodiazepines and opioids can be fatal when mixed together. If a person self-treats Vicodin withdrawal with benzo and relapses, they could experience respiratory depression, coma or death.
Unsupervised withdrawal lacks the 24-hour care and guidance that inpatient detox programs provide. If a person becomes overwhelmed by withdrawal, they’re lacking access to support and encouragement that could help prevent relapse.
Additionally, while the side effects of hydrocodone withdrawal are typically not in themselves life-threatening, certain complications from them may be. For instance, if a person chokes on their vomit they could suffocate and die. Enrolling in a detox program helps to protect from these and other risks.
Further, detox works best when paired with rehabilitation services. If a person does a do-it-yourself detox it could be tempting to skip the next stage of treatment. This can drastically decrease a person’s chance of success and the ability to live a balanced, drug-free life.
Vicodin (Hydrocodone) Withdrawal Treatment: Medical Detox Programs
Detoxing in a professional treatment program provides a safer and more comfortable environment for people seeking to withdrawal from Vicodin.
While some people find success in outpatient detox programs that allow them to detox at home, residential inpatient detox treatment programs often produce better outcomes.
Inpatient detox programs offer a safe environment and around-the-clock access to trained clinicians. These individuals are at the ready to administer medications or treatments as they become necessary. During this time, a person’s vitals will be consistently monitored to ensure a person is as comfortable as possible.
Not everyone should complete withdrawal prior to progressing to treatment. Clinical guidelines on opioid withdrawal recommend that pregnant women and individuals who will be beginning methadone maintenance treatment should typically not complete withdrawal.
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Medications Used To Treat Vicodin (Hydrocodone) Withdrawal
In certain cases, mild withdrawal may be effectively treated at home, with a more minimal approach, including frequent water intake and vitamin B and vitamin C supplements. However, moderate to severe withdrawal frequently requires medications and professional treatment.
Medical detox for Vicodin withdrawal may use the following medications to reduce or alleviate withdrawal symptoms:
- Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone)
- Lucemyra (lofexidine)
Chronic drug abuse can cause malnourishment and dehydration. To counter these states, and to initiate healing, IV fluid hydration and various nutritional supplements may be administered to support these medications.
For the maximum chance of recovery success, a person should consider attending a rehab program that treats opioid use disorders. Inpatient drug rehab centers typically provide more time, greater access to treatments and more sessions with treatment providers. This combination of attentive care and resources can give a person a strong foundation for a more fulfilling, sober life.