Hydrocodone is one of the most prescribed and most abused opioids in the United States. The American Society of Addiction Medicine called hydrocodone, “America’s favorite opioid,” and with good reason: in 2011, the U.N. International Narcotic Control Board reported that in 2010 the global production of hydrocodone was 36.3 tons, of which more than 99% was consumed by Americans.
People ready to stop their hydrocodone use must first pass through hydrocodone withdrawal as their body undergoes hydrocodone detox (detoxification). Understanding how hydrocodone withdrawal and detox works can benefit people taking their first step toward long-term sobriety during this crucial process.
Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms
Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms are similar to withdrawal from other opioids. The symptom duration and severity depend on individual factors, such as:
- The duration of hydrocodone use
- The amount of hydrocodone used
- Other drug use
- Presence of a co-occurring mental health disorder
- Genetic and biological make up
- General health
- Liver and kidney health
- If detox was attempted previously
- If the withdrawal process is medically assisted
Withdrawal symptoms involve physical and psychological aspects, including:
Hydrocodone Withdrawal Timeline
How long does hydrocodone withdrawal last? Because of the individual factors mentioned, it is difficult to predict the duration of withdrawal. However, hydrocodone withdrawal generally follows a typical timeline.
Hydrocodone has an elimination half-life of four to six hours. The half-life of a drug is the time it takes the body to metabolize and excrete one-half of that drug. Withdrawal symptoms usually develop after one half-life — so about four to six hours after the previous use, in the case of hydrocodone.
Some people metabolize hydrocodone particularly slowly (for genetic reasons), so the onset and duration of withdrawal symptoms may take longer for them.
Acute withdrawal symptoms are the symptoms that occur in the period immediately following the discontinuation or reduction of drug use. Acute withdrawal symptoms typically last 4 to 10 days in most individuals.
Some people may develop symptoms that last beyond the acute withdrawal phase. These symptoms are known as protracted withdrawal symptoms and they may last for weeks or months.
Hydrocodone is a psychoactive drug, meaning that it changes the brain’s chemistry and disrupts its normal functioning. The brain tries to compensate for the drug’s disruptive effects, making adjustments and attempting to function normally despite the drug’s presence.
When the drug use stops or drastically reduces, the brain must adjust. If the brain is forced to do so abruptly (i.e., without a taper) this causes withdrawal symptoms.
The process of hydrocodone detox can be an uncomfortable experience. Fortunately, this process can be medically assisted to minimize the impact on the brain and body to reduce or eliminate the discomfort.
How long does it take to detox from hydrocodone? As mentioned, the process depends upon individual factors, but generally, it takes six to seven half-lives for the drug to be completely detoxified from the body. However, the withdrawal symptoms can continue well beyond that range.
Detoxing At Home
When making the decision to attempt hydrocodone detox at home, individuals should do so in conjunction with their physician or an addiction professional and should be clear about the extent of their drug use. People attempting at-home detox should also involve loved ones in the process and ensure they’re aware of signs indicative of a medical emergency.
People tend to overestimate their ability to stop their drug use on their own, even if they failed attempts to do so in the past. Detoxing from hydrocodone at home may not provide the best opportunity for success, as the hydrocodone cravings may be overwhelming.
At the minimum, people who plan to detox at home should have certain supporting factors in place:
- Consultation with and agreement from their doctor
- A short period of drug use at lower doses
- A stable and supportive home environment
- Not be living alone and the people at home should be aware of the detox situation
- They should be highly motivated to recover
- A safe, drug-free home, away from negative influences such as dealers or drug users
- A set plan of action for treatment and recovery after detoxing
It should be noted that detox does not constitute treatment for hydrocodone addiction. Recovery from drug use takes much more than simply abstaining from drug use. A return to good health and lasting recovery requires addressing the reasons behind the substance use, whatever they might be. This requirement is the main purpose of addiction treatment programs.
Medically-Assisted Detox for Hydrocodone Withdrawal
Medically-assisted detox is the use of proper medical support and supervision — with or without the use of supportive medications — to help people get through detox and withdrawal safely, comfortably and with minimal shock to their body.
Medically-assisted detox provides the option of using opioid replacement therapy to prevent or reduce withdrawal. It also provides:
- A safe place to detox away from distractions, temptations and triggers
- Immediate help if any complications arise
- Proper non-opioid management of side effects, such as insomnia, high blood pressure or diarrhea
- The ability to connect with other motivated people who are detoxing
- The ability to connect with counselors and begin working out an individualized plan of success for long-term recovery
- Access to proper information and facts straight from the professionals, rather than casual advice from the street or the internet
The fear of withdrawal symptoms or the inability to resist the cravings to use again are major barriers to recovery. Medical detox directly addresses these problems and gives the individual a strong opportunity to succeed.
By attending a medical detox program, individuals are able to demonstrate to loved ones that they are serious about recovery.
Some of the medications used in medical detox include:
Tapering off Hydrocodone
People using hydrocodone should consult a medical professional to find out how to taper off hydrocodone when the drug is no longer needed or desired. Many people have difficulty self-tapering off hydrocodone or any other addictive substance because these drugs are addictive precisely because they are difficult for people to control using.
People who find themselves unable to taper themselves off of hydrocodone should consider seeking help at a professional detox center. Substance use is progressive and rarely ends well if left untreated. Tapering is challenging, but trying to taper while struggling with addiction and withdrawal symptoms is even more challenging. It is highly beneficial to let medical professionals assist with the tapering process.
Finding A Hydrocodone Detox Center
Undergoing medically-assisted detox at an accredited facility is the safest and most effective way to rid the body of hydrocodone and transition smoothly into treatment and recovery. It gives the body a chance to properly ease away from the drug use and shift back to normal health and function without the shock of sudden withdrawal.
If you or a loved one struggle with a hydrocodone addiction, contact The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health to speak with a representative about how hydrocodone detox and addiction treatment can help. By using treatment plans that cater to each person’s specific needs, The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health helps people address their addiction alongside any co-occurring mental health disorders. Take the first step toward a healthier future by calling today.
American Society of Addiction Medicine. “National practice guideline for the use of medications in the treatment of addiction involving opioid use.” June 1, 2015. Accessed July 17, 2019.
Cardia, Luigi; Calapai, Gioacchino; Quattrone, Domenico. “Preclinical and clinical pharmacology of hydrocodone for chronic pain: A mini review.” Frontiers in Pharmacology, October 1, 2018. Accessed July 17, 2019.
Coleman, John. “Rescheduling hydrocodone combination products: Addressing the abuse of America’s favorite opioid.” American Society of Addiction Medicine, April 10, 2015. Accessed July 17, 2019.
Drug Enforcement Administration. “Hydrocodone.” October 2018. Accessed July 17, 2019.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Protracted withdrawal.” July 2010. Accessed July 17, 2019.
United Nations International Narcotic Control Board. “Narcotic drugs: Estimated world requirements for 2012 and statistics for 2010.” 2012. Accessed July 17, 2019.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.