Hydrocodone is a potent opioid used to treat moderate to chronic pain. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, hydrocodone is the most frequently prescribed opioid in the country. The drug can treat a wide range of conditions from arthritis to cancer. However, hydrocodone is highly addictive and can take time to leave the system, causing tolerance and dependence.
Hydrocodone is an opioid used to treat pain, as well as function as a cough suppressant. Most people take hydrocodone as Vicodin, a branded medication that combines hydrocodone with acetaminophen. It’s also available in other brand names, such as Norco, Lortab, and Lorcet. These drugs combine hydrocodone with ibuprofen, aspirin, and antihistamines.
How Long Until Hydrocodone Wears Off?
Hydrocodone is a relatively fast-acting opioid, which begins to work in as little as 30 minutes. Peak effects occur about 60 minutes after ingestion but then extend for up to 6 to 8 hours. There’s extend-release hydrocodone with effects that last for about 12 hours.
Besides having a high potential for psychological dependence and abuse, hydrocodone also leaves traces in the body for extended periods of time. On average, hydrocodone reaches peak concentrations in the body after 3.8 hours of ingestion. However, it takes the body between 18 to 24 hours to clear hydrocodone. Still, the timeline for how long hydrocodone stays in the system varies tremendously.
A healthcare professional can detect traces of hydrocodone through various tests, for example:
- Urine tests: 4 days
- Blood tests: 24 hours
- Saliva tests: 12-36 hours
- Hair tests: 90 days
Knowing how long hydrocodone stays in your system can help you avoid dangerous interactions with other medications, as well as side effects and overdose.
Nonetheless, factors such as liver damage, metabolism, age, obesity, and alcohol use can affect how long hydrocodone stays in the system. How long has someone been using the drug, and the dosage will also interfere. Combining hydrocodone with alcohol or other substances can lead to dangerous side effects, including overdose.
How Long to Get Hydrocone Out Of Your System
Some people try to flush hydrocodone out of their system by exercising or drinking water. They do this to try to pass a drug test. However, these “hacks” won’t speed up the process. The only way to get hydrocodone out of your system is to stop taking the medication.
The fastest and safest way to get hydrocodone out of your system is through medical detox. Because hydrocodone causes physical and psychological dependence, withdrawal symptoms can become severe. Although hydrocodone withdrawal doesn’t cause life-threatening symptoms, people who have built a dependence on the drug are more likely to relapse or overdose without proper guidance.
Symptoms of Withdrawal
Quitting hydrocodone cold turkey can cause severe withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Muscle cramps
- Joint pain
- Accelerated heartbeat
- Fast breathing
The best way to get off hydrocodone is to ask a medical professional to give you a tapering plan. In this treatment, a doctor will gradually decrease the dosage by 25 to 59 percent over a period of time. Throughout this process, it’s essential to monitor any signs and symptoms of withdrawal carefully. Most symptoms will improve within 72 hours and significantly improve within a week.
As people try to quit hydrocodone, they’re likely to attempt this process at home. It’s essential to become aware of the signs and symptoms of overdose as it can be life-threatening. The most common symptoms of overdose include:
- Slowed heartbeat
- Shallow breathing
- Muscle weakness
- Cold and clammy skin
- Low blood pressure
- Sudden death
If you suspect someone is suffering from a hydrocodone overdose, call 911 immediately. Opioid overdoses can be reversed with Narcan (naloxone).
Signs of Hydrocodone Abuse
Hydrocodone can be highly addictive and in short periods of time lead to physical and psychological signs of abuse, including:
- Taking higher doses of hydrocodone
- Inability to quit hydrocodone use despite harmful consequences
- Experiencing strong urges or cravings to take hydrocodone
- Social, relationship, and professional problems due to drug abuse
- Seeking risky behavior while under the influence
Finding Help for Addiction
Whether you’re taking hydrocodone as prescribed or misusing it, quitting cold turkey can be dangerous. Talk to your doctor if you believe that you might be addicted to hydrocodone. They can help you set up a tapering treatment and find another medication to alleviate your pain. It’s also essential to speak with an addiction specialist to work on long-term recovery goals. Depending on your addiction’s severity, your doctor may recommend an inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment or a local support group like Narcotics Anonymous. No matter what, please know finding help for addiction is easy and recovery is possible.