Vicodin is one of many available brands of a prescription medication comprised of two substances: hydrocodone and acetaminophen 1,2.
- Hydrocodone is an opioid painkiller used to treat high levels of pain. It is also used to relieve cough.
- Acetaminophen is a pain reliever used to treat minor pain and reduce fever.
Vicodin and other products containing hydrocodone are the most frequently prescribed opioid medications in the U.S 1. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that more than 136 million prescriptions for hydrocodone products were written in 2013 with hydrocodone/acetaminophen being the most common combination 1. High prescription rates often correlate with high rates of abuse—in the case of Vicodin and other similarly formulated drugs, there are more than 24 million people abusing hydrocodone products. The risk of Vicodin addiction and dependence increases markedly when the drug is abused, but adverse effects are also possible when Vicodin is used as prescribed 1,2,3. The DEA lists Vicodin and all hydrocodone products as Schedule II controlled substances due to their abuse potential 1.
Quitting use is, of course, a prerequisite for recovery from Vicodin addiction, but when a person dependent on the opioid stops using, very uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms arise 3. These symptoms can create new issues and worsen preexisting physical health and mental health concerns, which can result in serious complications.
Will A Rehab Center Help?
For the best chance at success, time spent in a drug detox rehab program may be necessary. With the help of a detox program, the addict can pass through the withdrawal process with as little discomfort as possible while under medical supervision. Read More
What Are the Signs of Vicodin Abuse?
It can be difficult to discern whether a loved one has a problem with Vicodin abuse and would benefit from detox and addiction treatment. Those who abuse Vicodin may display some common warning signs you should be aware of, including 5:
- Obtaining Vicodin prescriptions from different doctors without informing those doctors of past problems or prescriptions.
- Needing frequent refills on the prescription.
- Taking a larger dose than prescribed.
- Taking the pills more often than directed.
- Demonstrating secretive behavior.
- Taking Vicodin without a prescription.
- Noticeable intoxication, marked by euphoria, drowsiness, incoordination, memory problems, or stupor.
- Constricted pupils.
- Intravenous effects, such as track lines, puncture marks, abscesses, scars, or lesions.
- Intranasal effects, such as nosebleeds or perforated nasal septum.
Long-term Vicodin abuse can progress into an addiction, a chronic condition characterized by compulsive use in spite of harmful consequences. Vicodin addiction is almost always accompanied by dependence. When someone is dependent on the opioid, they are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms with the sudden discontinuation of use. People who attempt to detox alone are at risk for relapsing due to these unpleasant symptoms.
Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms
A range of Vicodin withdrawal symptoms may emerge once someone abruptly decreases or quits use. Not everyone will encounter the exact same withdrawal symptoms, but some of the most common Vicodin withdrawal symptoms include 5,6,7:
- Stomach cramps.
- Profuse sweating.
- Heightened pulse.
- Increased blood pressure.
- Rapid breathing.
- Increased body temperature.
- Goose bumps.
- Dilated pupils.
- Runny nose and tearing eyes.
During withdrawal, the individual’s body will be processing and removing the Vicodin from the system in an act called detoxification (detox) 6. Detox also refers to professional interventions and strategies used to safely and effectively treat a person experiencing withdrawal 6. Drug detox is a unique process for each person, but there are some general timelines that apply to opioid detox. In the case of Vicodin detox 5:
- Withdrawal symptoms will begin between 6 and 12 hours after last use.
- Symptoms often peak between 1 and 3 days.
- Symptoms begin to subside within 5 to 7 days.
When acute withdrawal symptoms end, an individual in recovery from Vicodin addiction will face another detox complication known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Sometimes called protracted or extended withdrawal, this new set of symptoms will lead to strong cravings for more Vicodin as well as symptoms like 7,8:
- Emotional blunting.
Vicodin Detox Effects
In some case, Vicodin detox and withdrawal may be associated with a number of serious medical and mental health complications that may not be obvious initially. Some of the most significant effects of Vicodin withdrawal include 6,7:
- Pain: Vicodin works to change the way pain is perceived in the body. With the absence of the opioid medication, an individual can expect to experience increased sensitivity to pain and discomfort, which can be difficult to manage.
- Dehydration: With the tendency to lose fluids during detoxification, dehydration becomes a concern. With dehydration, there is a danger of electrolyte imbalance as well.
- Heart problems: As illustrated, Vicodin withdrawal triggers many effects on the heart and cardiovascular system. This can cause hazardous cardiac effects, especially if the person has preexisting heart issues.
- Mental health concerns: Detoxing is a stressful time that may give rise to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Symptoms can be severe in some cases.
- Overdose: Some people may be unable to avoid relapse while detoxing from Vicodin. This can end in overdose and death, though, as their tolerance will be reduced.
All told, the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, the formidable duration of symptom progression, and the potential complications that arise in connection with the Vicodin detox process serve to make attempting to withdraw at home quite challenging. For these reasons alone, many people seek formal detox services. Professional detox services are offered in a number of treatment settings, each suitable for differing individual needs 6. Options include 6,7:
- Inpatient/residential: An inpatient/residential setting may be best for people with significantly severe addictions and serious risks associated with detox. Offering 24-hour care, these programs can manage symptoms while providing a safe, supportive environment for the individual to reside during treatment.
- Hospital: Hospital detox offers intensive, around-the-clock support and monitoring in the intensive care unit or other acute care setting. Some people may wind up detoxing in the hospital after experiencing a medical emergency.
- Outpatient: Less intense, outpatient options can be located in standalone clinics, doctors offices, and community health centers. Outpatient detox means that the individual can stay at home, work, and tend to other responsibilities between appointments. Outpatient detox and treatment interventions will be a better fit for people with strong supports and fewer medical or mental health issues, if any.
For many, Vicodin detox is vital, but it is not enough to maintain a drug-free life 9. No matter the stage of recovery, professional addiction treatment is a beneficial tool to maintain sobriety, connect to supports, and improve coping skills 9.
- Drug Enforcement Administration. (2014). Hydrocodone.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Medline Plus. (2017). Hydrocodone Combination Products.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. (2016). Prescription Pain Medications: Opioids.
- Medscape. (2016). Withdrawal Syndromes.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.
- World Health Organization. (2009). Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Setting.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2010). Protracted Withdrawal.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide.