Vicodin is a prescription pain reliever, and it’s one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S. Vicodin can be used to treat pain that ranges in intensity from moderate to severe, but it has risks.
Characterized as a combination pain reliever, Vicodin contains hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Hydrocodone is an opioid, also called a narcotic. Acetaminophen is available over-the-counter and is in brand-name medicines like Tylenol.
Vicodin is a schedule II controlled substance in the United States, meaning that while it has approved medical uses, it also carries with it the risk of abuse, addiction, and dependence.
When someone uses Vicodin, the hydrocodone activates opioid receptor sites. These sites are in the brain and central nervous system. Opioids are central nervous system depressants, so along with changing how pain signals are sent and experienced, opioids slow all the body’s essential functions. These functions include breathing, heart rate and blood pressure.
Addiction to Vicodin can form because the hydrocodone can trigger the release of neurotransmitters that cause euphoria, such as dopamine. This then leads to a reward response in the brain, which is a part of an addiction forming.
Dependence is separate from addiction, although the two do often occur together. When someone is dependent on a drug like Vicodin, their brain has adjusted to its presence through repeated exposure. If someone is dependent on Vicodin and then they stop using it cold turkey, they may have withdrawal symptoms.
Opioid withdrawal symptoms can vary in their severity and duration, and there are approved medications that can be used to help treat these symptoms.
The longer someone uses Vicodin, the more likely a dependence is to form, and the more severe the symptoms are likely to be. Even if someone takes Vicodin as prescribed and only for a short time, they may still experience withdrawal if they stop suddenly. That’s why a doctor may advise patients prescribed Vicodin to gradually lower their doses, rather than stopping cold turkey.
Symptoms of Vicodin Withdrawal
While the symptoms of Vicodin withdrawal can vary depending on the person and the extent of their use, they may include:
- Tearing of the eyes
- Insomnia or changes in sleep patterns
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches
- Cramps in the abdomen
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dilated pupils
Vicodin withdrawal can be very uncomfortable, especially for people who were long-term or heavy users. Despite the discomfort, it’s not usually life-threatening.
The main complications that can occur include aspiration, which is vomiting and then breathing it in, or dehydration from gastrointestinal symptoms.
Vicodin Withdrawal Timeline
Just as the severity of Vicodin withdrawal symptoms can depend on an individual, so can the duration of the symptoms. However, there is a general Vicodin withdrawal timeline that might indicate how long symptoms will last and when certain symptoms could occur.
During the first 48 hours after the last dose of Vicodin is used, most people will start to experience milder withdrawal symptoms. The earliest symptoms may feel like having a mild case of the flu, and for light Vicodin users, they may not even realize they’re going through opioid withdrawal.
The initial symptoms of Vicodin withdrawal can include muscle and joint paint and aches, sweating, and maybe nausea or cramping.
From days three to five after the last dose of Vicodin is used is when symptoms are most likely to peak, or reach the height of intensity. Symptoms of withdrawal that may occur during this time can include vomiting, diarrhea, shakiness, changes in mood, anxiety, agitation and perhaps depression or other psychological symptoms.
Within seven days after the last dose of Vicodin is used, the majority of people will start to see their symptoms subside. Some people may have ongoing psychological symptoms for weeks or more after they stop using Vicodin though. These symptoms may include anxiety, depression or insomnia.
Treating Vicodin Withdrawal
Unlike a lot of other substances, with opioids, there are medications specifically approved for use during the treatment process. There are weak, long-acting opioids like methadone and buprenorphine. These are drugs that prevent withdrawal because they activate the same receptors as hydrocodone. They’re not always preferred, however, because they are ultimately replacement drugs.
Recently the FDA announced the approval of the first medication that can be specifically used to treat symptoms of opioid withdrawal. The drug is marketed under the name Lucemyra.
In addition to drugs that are approved by the FDA to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms, there are other medications that can be used on an as-needed basis to treat symptoms.
Vicodin Detox Centers
When someone is going through opioid withdrawal, while it’s not very likely to be deadly, complications can still occur. It’s also uncomfortable, and when people don’t have the proper medical care, it significantly increases the likelihood of a relapse. If someone relapses after a period of abstaining from Vicodin, it can raise the chance of an overdose occurring.
For that reason, it’s typically recommended that someone who is going to go through opioid withdrawal does so either under medical supervision on an outpatient basis or in a medical detox treatment center.
Individuals most likely to need a medical detox include someone who has underlying mental or physical health concerns that could increase the risk of complications, has tried unsuccessfully to detox from Vicodin in the past or is a heavy, long-term opioid user.
Vicodin detox centers offer the highest level of care and supervision. These treatment centers allow for around-the-clock medical monitoring. Patients can be provided the necessary medicines to treat physical and mental symptoms of hydrocodone withdrawal, and this increases the chances they will be successful.
Only once someone has completed a full Vicodin detox are they able to then begin addiction treatment. Some rehab centers offer an onsite inpatient, medical detox facility as part of their program.
If you would like to learn more about Vicodin detox and withdrawal including medical detox centers, please contact Amethyst Recovery Center.