Vicodin Withdrawal and Detox
Last Updated: December 22, 2022
Vicodin is a prescription painkiller consisting of the opioid hydrocodone and acetaminophen, a pain reliever. This combination is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, as it carries a high potential for abuse, dependence and addiction.
When someone becomes dependent on Vicodin, they will experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug. If you or someone you love takes Vicodin, it’s important to understand the risks of withdrawal and learn how medical detox can help address symptoms.
What Does Vicodin Do?
Vicodin is the brand name for a combination painkiller consisting of the opioid hydrocodone and acetaminophen. This combination is a Schedule II medication under the Controlled Substances Act. The hydrocodone portion of Vicodin medication activates mu-opioid receptors in the same way as oxycodone, morphine and other opioids.
By activating opioid receptors, these medications change the body’s response to pain. However, Vicodin and other opioids can also create feelings of relaxation and euphoria. Some people misuse opioids like Vicodin in an attempt to feel these pleasurable effects — an action that can lead to the development of addiction.
Vicodin Side Effects
The most common side effects of Vicodin include constipation, lightheadedness, dizziness, sedation, nausea and vomiting. However, rare but serious side effects can also occur. These include:
- Chest pain
- Severe muscle stiffness or twitching
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Inability to get or keep an erection
- Irregular menstruation
- Swelling of your eyes, face, lips, tongue or throat
- Changes in heartbeat
Quitting Vicodin Cold Turkey
Quitting Vicodin cold turkey can be problematic because it is very uncomfortable and will often lead to severe withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes, these withdrawal symptoms are so unbearable that they cause people to return to Vicodin use in an attempt to relieve symptoms. Before you stop taking Vicodin, it’s important to talk with your health care provider to receive a personalized recommendation for how to quit.
Signs of Vicodin Withdrawal
If you stop taking Vicodin abruptly or decrease the amount you take too quickly, you may experience hydrocodone withdrawal. Signs of withdrawal are objective, meaning they are laboratory values or other characteristics that your doctor can measure.
Signs of Vicodin withdrawal include:
- Dilated pupils
- Fast heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms
Unlike signs of Vicodin withdrawal, withdrawal symptoms can be felt but not measured. When it comes to Vicodin withdrawal, these are categorized as early and late symptoms. For many, one of the first symptoms is a painful and persistent Vicodin withdrawal headache.
Early symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Muscle aches
- Increased tearing
- Runny nose
Late symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Abdominal cramping
Vicodin Withdrawal Timeline
Each person’s Vicodin withdrawal timeline is different. These differences typically depend on how much Vicodin you take, how long you’ve taken it, the use of other substances and liver and kidney function.
Generally, Vicodin withdrawal begins eight to 24 hours after the last dose and can last 10 to 20 days. Many describe the first few days after stopping Vicodin as painful, and vomiting or diarrhea is often prevalent.
The next few days typically include psychological symptoms like mood changes, insomnia or chills.
In the following weeks, depression and anxiety are often the most significant challenges.
The Vicodin withdrawal process generally follows this timeline because the drug is an intermediate-acting opioid. Other opioids may have longer or shorter timelines based on how quickly they act. For example, heroin is fast-acting, while methadone is long-acting.
Can Vicodin Withdrawal Be Fatal?
Vicodin withdrawal can lead to potentially fatal complications. For example, people going through withdrawal can accidentally inhale their vomit, which can lead to pneumonia. Severe electrolyte disturbances can also occur due to vomiting, diarrhea or sweating. These electrolyte disturbances can cause cramping or even profound changes to heart rhythms, which can be fatal. Vicodin withdrawal can also exacerbate underlying medical conditions that you may or may not be aware of.
Vicodin withdrawal is typically not fatal, but it can be highly unpleasant. Fortunately, professional Vicodin detox programs can help keep you safe and comfortable by addressing withdrawal symptoms in a supportive medical setting.
You may wonder, “How long does it take to detox from Vicodin?” Vicodin detox will vary from person to person, and it can depend on how much and for how long Vicodin was used. For those who take higher doses or have used the drug for longer periods, Vicodin withdrawal can be more severe.
It is vital for people who are undergoing detox to be monitored at least three to four times per day by a medical professional. Monitoring by a medical professional, or undergoing medical detox, is essential for identifying and treating severe or uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal. People may be given fluid and electrolyte replacement to prevent electrolyte disturbances and dehydration, and medications are often used to combat symptoms as well. For example, clonidine can help with symptoms including sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, chills, anxiety, insomnia and tremor. Buprenorphine or methadone can be helpful for treating withdrawal symptoms in the short term and cravings over the long term.
Vicodin Addiction and Withdrawal Treatment in Columbus, OH
If you or someone you love is struggling with Vicodin abuse and addiction in Ohio, The Recovery Village Columbus is here to help. Our multidisciplinary team of experts provides a full continuum of evidence-based care, including medical detox, inpatient treatment, outpatient programming, aftercare services and more.
- Abbott. “Vicodin Package Insert.” November 2006. Accessed August 14, 2022.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Hydrocodone.” MedlinePlus, January 15, 2021. Accessed August 14, 2022.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Opiate and opioid withdrawal.” MedlinePlus, May 10, 2022. Accessed August 14, 2022.
- World Health Organization. “Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Manag[…]e in Closed Settings.” 2009. Accessed August 14, 2022.
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