Vicodin Withdrawal: Timeline, Side Effects, & Detox

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Vicodin is a commonly prescribed opioid after routine procedures like getting your wisdom teeth pulled or breaking a bone. However, one of the narcotics that has significantly contributed to the current opioid crisis the country still faces today is Vicodin. In 2019, an estimated 50,000 people died from opioid-involved overdoses in the United States. The misuse of these prescription and illicit opioid drugs like heroin and fentanyl has reached levels no one could have predicted. 

It’ll be challenging to find someone who hasn’t been affected by the opioid crisis in one way or another. It’s not uncommon for certain communities to experience mass casualties from these drugs. Unlike other opioids, Vicodin is prescribed at a much higher rate than other opioids, and it’s available in syrup, tablets, capsules, and liquid. 

Despite the risks of this narcotic pain reliever being widely known, it’s still abused on a broad scale. Those who use the medication for pain relief can even develop a drug dependency, which can eventually cause addiction. When a person uses Vicodin, they face another issue – they’re seen as abusing two drugs. Vicodin is a combination of hydrocodone, the active ingredient, and acetaminophen, which is an over-the-counter pain reliever. Each drug carries risks individually, and using them together can lead to significant injuries in the body.

One of the main concerns about heavy Vicodin usage is the other pain reliever, acetaminophen, which is inside a Vicodin pill. Abusing the medication puts the individual at severe risk of developing liver damage or organ failure caused by acetaminophen poisoning. Other adverse effects can occur from hydrocodone alone, and including another dangerous drug in the equation increases the chances of injury.

What Are the Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms?

Vicodin belongs to a class of drugs known as opioids, which belong to a broader category of drugs known as central nervous system (CNS) depressants. Other opioids like heroin and morphine have similar characteristics, but Vicodin is much weaker. Each person will experience a different set of withdrawal symptoms based on specific factors. Vicodin withdrawal will usually come in two phases – the first period of withdrawal will be similar to the symptoms of the common cold, while the second stage will feel more like the worst flu you’ve ever had. 

Opioid withdrawal symptoms are notorious for how awful they are physically, but they can also cause severe psychological and emotional symptoms as well. Anxiety and agitation are common in the first stage, while depression will follow in the second phase. It’s not uncommon to experience suicidal thoughts as a result of Vicodin withdrawal. If this is the case, immediate medical attention is required. A person is not in their right mind and has the potential to hurt themselves. Please report these symptoms to addictions specialists and doctors as it could be the difference between life and death.

The first stage of Vicodin withdrawal includes the following symptoms:

  • Sweating
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Body aches
  • Increased tearing
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Confusion

The following phase of Vicodin withdrawal is when symptoms reach their peak and become unbearable. These symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Pupil dilation
  • Goosebumps

As typical of most drugs, intense cravings are some of the most intense symptoms of withdrawal. When these happen alongside other withdrawal symptoms, it’s quite the challenge to accomplish sobriety on your own accord. 

Although physically severe, Vicodin withdrawal symptoms aren’t dangerous compared to alcohol, barbiturates, or benzodiazepines. However, that doesn’t mean you should attempt to get through them by yourself. Vicodin withdrawal is challenging to get through by yourself, and relapse is common when you do this without the aid of medical professionals. Medical detox is the safest and most efficient means of overcoming a Vicodin addiction.

withdrawal-from-vicodin

What Are the Stages of the Vicodin Withdrawal Timeline?

The symptoms of Vicodin withdrawal that a person experience relates to the level of chemical dependency. These symptoms will vary and can range from mild to severe based on specific factors, including how long Vicodin has been abused, how much of the drug the individual consumed at a time, their standard dosage they’ve become tolerant to, and the size of their last dose. 

The most commonly associated symptom of Vicodin withdrawal is a craving for the substance. Vicodin cravings could lead to drug-seeking behavior, which is when a person looks for alternative opioids like oxycodone or heroin to overcome the severity of their symptoms. At this point, the individual could be inclined to use any opioid drug available to them, which can lead to an even worse addiction. This is extremely dangerous as well because as your tolerance decreases without the drug, consuming more potent opioids can lead to a fatal overdose. 

Cravings will also persist during other withdrawal symptoms and increase in intensity over time. Vicodin will cause withdrawal symptoms to appear in as little as six hours after the last dose, meaning you’ll want to consume more immediately after cessation. 

Cold-like symptoms in the earliest stages will make way for more severe flu-like symptoms. At the 72-hour mark, you can expect the worst of the symptoms, which are compared to the worst flu you’ve ever had. As time moves on, the severity of the symptoms will decrease, and most symptoms will disappear after a week. However, insomnia, depression, fatigue, and anxiety can stick around for a month or more. 

If the symptoms stick around for more than a month, you should speak to an addiction specialist about how to treat them. It could be something known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which is extremely common after prolonged opioid abuse. How long it persists will vary from one person to another.

Why Should I Detox?

Vicodin withdrawal has the potential to push someone right back into using, or worse, seek more potent opioids that can lead to fatal overdoses. If you stop for a few days and go back to your standard dose, it could also lead to an overdose of Vicodin. 

As was mentioned above, Vicodin withdrawal isn’t considered dangerous like benzodiazepines or alcohol, but it could lead to dehydration, which is dangerous. If you experience confusion, vomiting, diarrhea, or extreme fatigue, it might be followed by a deadly situation. Dehydration requires specialized and immediate medical attention. 

Detox will hold the individual accountable for their commitment to getting sober, and medical professionals will help them with this by providing medications that alleviate the symptoms. By doing this, it’ll make the experience tolerable and less agonizing. Attempting to get sober by yourself is not ideal, and you’re likely unequipped to cope with the psychological symptoms that will follow. 

What Is The Next Step in Vicodin Addiction Treatment?

The primary intention of detox is to clear your body of toxins and foreign bodies that invade your system. However, it’s not nearly enough to maintain sobriety in the long-term. It’s vital for a person to commit themselves to long-term care as a means of understanding the root cause of their addiction and establish tools to stave off their cravings once they enter into the world. Long-term treatment gives you the best chance of attaining lasting recovery. A minimum of three months will yield the best results. However, each case will be determined based on the specific needs of the client. 

The continuum of care refers to addiction recovery that allows a client to encounter each stage of care. It starts in medical detox and is typically followed by residential treatment, intensive outpatient, or outpatient treatment. As you transition through the continuum of care, the stages will gradually decrease in intensity as the client works their way through the steps. A stint in addiction treatment will be accompanied by various therapies, including individual, group, cognitive behavioral therapy, and grief counseling. The treatment plan will be based on the client’s specific and most current needs. 

The ideal treatment environment will ensure your addiction support lasts beyond your time in a treatment center. The lasting commitment will be the most important factor that assists you with lifelong sobriety. Once treatment ends, it doesn’t mean your addiction is cured. Addiction is a progressive and chronic disease that requires a lifetime of management, and the right program will make sure you’re taken care of for life. Don’t allow addiction to consume your life for another day.

Sources

NIDA (March 2021) Opioid Overdose Crisis. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis

MedlinePlus (March 2021) Hydrocodone Combination Products. from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a601006.html

NIDA (March 2021) Is There a Difference Between Dependence and Addiction? from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/there-difference-between-physical-dependence-addiction

UCLA (March 2021) Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. from https://www.semel.ucla.edu/dual-diagnosis-program/News_and_Resources/PAWS

MedlinePlus (March 2021) Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal. from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000949.htm

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