Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms, Causes & Side Effects
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Last Updated - 09/13/23View our editorial policy
Vicodin withdrawal can be uncomfortable and unpleasant, but treatment at The Recovery Village at Baptist Health can help ease symptoms.
Deciding to quit Vicodin is a big deal for someone who struggles with the medication. Stopping Vicodin is the first step in recovery from the drug. However, planning for Vicodin withdrawal, or the symptoms your body experiences when you stop taking the drug after long-term use, is important. Knowing what to expect and preparing for Vicodin withdrawal can help increase your chances of long-term recovery.
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Understanding Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
Hydrocodone is an opioid often prescribed for pain relief or cough and is equally as potent as morphine. Although sometimes prescribed on its own, hydrocodone is most often prescribed in a combination pill with acetaminophen and was previously sold under brand names like Vicodin and Norco.
Because hydrocodone is a Schedule II controlled substance, it carries a high risk of abuse, dependence, addiction and even overdose.
What Is Vicodin Withdrawal?
When you take an opioid regularly, your body becomes used to its presence and adapts accordingly. Therefore, if you suddenly stop or cut back on your hydrocodone, your body will struggle to adjust, resulting in withdrawal symptoms as your body recalibrates.
It is important to remember that withdrawal is due to the hydrocodone component of Vicodin, not the acetaminophen. As an over-the-counter analgesic, acetaminophen is not linked to any withdrawal symptoms.
Symptoms of Vicodin Withdrawal
Vicodin withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of other opioids. Withdrawal symptoms typically include:
- Muscle aches
- Abdominal cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sleep problems
- Runny eyes and nose
- Enlarged pupils
Withdrawal symptoms can seem overwhelming and may be hard to manage on your own, so seeking medical advice is key to keeping them under control.
Vicodin Withdrawal Timeline
Vicodin is a short-acting medication whose withdrawal symptoms follow a similar trajectory to other short-acting opioids. While it is impossible to predict a day-by-day timeline accurately, the following general withdrawal time frame is what experts expect:
- Within 12 hours of the last Vicodin dose: Withdrawal symptoms begin.
- Within 24–48 hours of the last Vicodin dose: Withdrawal symptoms peak.
- Within three to five days of the last Vicodin dose: Withdrawal symptoms subside.
- Within weeks to months of the last Vicodin dose: Lower level withdrawal symptoms may persist, especially anxiety, depression and sleep problems.
Causes of Vicodin Addiction
Addiction is complicated, involving the brain’s reward circuit, which Vicodin use triggers. Mental health conditions are also often linked to addiction to opioids like Vicodin. Because Vicodin is hard-wired to trigger the reward circuit, certain risk factors can increase your chances of a Vicodin addiction. These include:
- Taking more Vicodin than prescribed
- Taking Vicodin more often than prescribed
- Taking Vicodin not prescribed for you
- Exaggerating symptoms to try to get more Vicodin
- Going to different doctors and pharmacies to seek Vicodin
Treating Vicodin Addiction
Successfully treating a Vicodin addiction requires a continuum of care to get you off the drug first, then to keep you off the drug long-term. Recovery often includes the following:
- Detox: A medically-supervised detox is often the first step in overcoming a Vicodin addiction. In detox, your withdrawal symptoms are treated as they occur to prevent complications, and you may be a candidate for medication-assisted treatment with meds like buprenorphine if medically appropriate.
- Rehab: After detox, your body has been cleansed of Vicodin. However, it is still important to explore why you began to rely on Vicodin in the first place to avoid sinking back into a reliance on the drug. Rehab combines this self-exploration with intensive therapy to help you create healthy habits and stay off Vicodin over the long term.
- Aftercare: Following rehab, it is important to maintain your lifelong focus on recovery. Aftercare includes alumni groups and support groups like Narcotics Anonymous to help keep you Vicodin-free for life.
Medications for Vicodin Withdrawal
Many different medications can be prescribed during Vicodin withdrawal. These can include expert-recommended buprenorphine as a safer replacement opioid to reduce Vicodin cravings and relapse risk. However, other medications may also be used to help treat withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Promethazine for insomnia
- Metoclopramide for nausea or vomiting
- Hyoscine butylbromide for abdominal cramps
- Loperamide for diarrhea
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen for headaches or muscle pain
Your doctor and medical detox team can help determine the best medications for you throughout Vicodin withdrawal.
Finding Help for Vicodin Addiction
Vicodin withdrawal can be scary, but you are not alone. Vicodin addiction experts can help you every step of the way as you recover. At The Recovery Village at Baptist Health, our doctors and nurses can help you medically detox from Vicodin, maximizing your comfort as you heal from the drug. Don’t wait: contact us today to learn more about how we can help.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any potential long-term side effects of using Vicodin?
Multiple long-term side effects of taking opioids like Vicodin exist. These include:
- Chronic constipation
- Sleep-disordered breathing
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Abnormal hormone levels
- Sexual dysfunction
What are some options for managing Vicodin withdrawal symptoms?
The best option for managing Vicodin withdrawal symptoms is to enroll in a medically-supervised detox facility. You can be gently weaned off Vicodin, and your withdrawal symptoms can be treated and prevented with medications. In some cases, if medically appropriate, you may qualify for medication-assisted treatment with buprenorphine products like Suboxone.
Are there any risks associated with quitting Vicodin cold turkey?
Many risks are linked to quitting Vicodin cold turkey. These include a higher risk of withdrawal symptoms, which can seem overwhelming to manage on your own and may lead you to want to abandon your recovery and relapse. Unfortunately, since your body quickly adapts to the lack of Vicodin in your system, this can increase your risk of overdose. In a medically-supervised detox setting, you receive support every step of the way to minimize relapse and overdose risk.
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World Health Organization. “Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings.” 2009. Accessed July 3, 2023.
American Society of Addiction Medicine. “National Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder.” December 18, 2019. Accessed July 3, 2023.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Protracted Withdrawal.” July 2010. Accessed July 3, 2023.
Baldini, AnGee; Von Korff, Michael; Lin, Elizabeth H. B. “A Review of Potential Adverse Effects of Long-Term Opioid Therapy: A Practitioner’s Guide.” The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders, 2012. Accessed July 3, 2023.
ClinCalc. “Acetaminophen; Hydrocodone – Drug Usage Statistics.” Accessed July 3, 2023.
Drugs.com. “Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen Information.” February 28, 2023. Accessed July 3, 2023.
National Institutes of Health. “When Addiction and Mental Illness Collide.” November 10, 2022. Accessed July 3, 2023.