Detoxing from Vicodin, an opiate used to treat moderate to severe pain, is often a challenging and uncomfortable process. While many of the symptoms of withdrawal from this prescription drug are similar to the flu when these physical symptoms are combined with psychological withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, depression, or anxiety the detox process can be agonizing.

In this article, we’ll outline the timeline for Vicodin detox. We’ll look at how long it takes to detox from Vicodin and provide a general overview of the detox process. Going through detox for opiate drugs should be done under medical supervision when feasible. As such, we’ll also take a look at what the advantages of medically-managed detox are, and how those advantages translate to an easier transition into a comprehensive treatment program.

What is Vicodin?

If you’ve ever wondered, “Is Vicodin is an opioid?” it’s actually a very popular opiate analgesic. Analgesics are medications used for pain management. There are many opiate analgesics on the market, most of which have unique formulations that make them ideal for the treatment of certain types of pain.

Vicodin is the brand name for a combination of the drugs hydrocodone, a semi-synthetic opiate,  and acetaminophen. This combination is also seen in other drugs marketed under different names, such as Lorcet, Lortab, and Norco. Vicodin specifically contains hydrocodone in 5, 7.5, and 10-milligram concentrations alongside 300mg of acetaminophen.

Vicodin is one of the most common prescription painkillers in the United States. It is used for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. For example, if you recently had surgery you may be prescribed Vicodin to help ease the pain as the surgical site heals. Vicodin is also frequently used to treat conditions which cause chronic pain. The long-term use of Vicodin has many areas of risk associated with it. Foremost among these is the risk of substance abuse and dependence, as well as the potential for liver damage stemming from large amounts of acetaminophen.

Timeline for Detox

Detoxing from Vicodin is an uncomfortable and difficult process in most cases, yet is a crucial component of recovery. Before you can begin to address a Vicodin addiction you must navigate the detox process. Understanding how long to detox from Vicodin is important so that you or your loved one can go into the detox process fully aware of what lies ahead.

Detoxing is the process through which you are removing any remnants of Vicodin from your system. Detox starts when the effects of the drug wear off, which will result in the onset of withdrawal symptoms in the absence of more Vicodin. Then you must allow your body to reacquire a state of equilibrium in the absence of the drug. Once your body begins to return to normal, the Vicodin detox period is mostly over and you can begin to pursue your recovery process.

There are two different methods of detoxing from Vicodin. The first involves quitting the use of Vicodin suddenly, often referred to as “cold-turkey”, and without the benefit of medical management. The second method is to detox from Vicodin under medical supervision, also known as medically-managed detox. Here, we’ll outline what the Vicodin detox timeline looks like if you were to quit “cold-turkey”.

4 – 30 Hours After the Last Dose

Vicodin is an opiate with a relatively slow action when compared to other opiates like heroin or morphine. This slow action results in a slower onset of withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms will begin to appear anywhere from 4 – 30 hours after your last dose. The wide range for the onset of withdrawal symptoms is affected by individual factors, such as the dose of Vicodin you have been taking, the length of time you have been abusing Vicodin, and your metabolism.

1-3 Days After the Last Dose

Once Vicodin withdrawal symptoms begin they will gradually increase in intensity over the first 72 hours. These withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Runny Nose
  • Aching Muscles
  • Agitation
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Goosebumps
  • Stomach Cramps
  • Desire to Use Again
  • Insomnia

Most people describe the symptoms they experience during this period of withdrawal as similar to the flu. While these symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable, they aren’t usually life-threatening, though they can lead to other health complications such as dehydration.

These symptoms will increase in intensity over the first 3-4 days. This period of time is very challenging for most people trying to get clean on their own. Not only do the physical symptoms continue unabated, but many people have difficulty sleeping during this time as well. This gives the individual experiencing the symptoms no break from the physical and emotional toll of withdrawal symptoms.

1 Week After the Last Dose

For most people, any physical withdrawal symptoms are much less intense or have already disappeared completely by the end of the first week. The flu-like symptoms should have peaked in intensity around 3-4 days after the last dose, and then begun to slowly subside. Around a week after the last dose, your body is slowly normalizing the lack of opiates in your body. You’ll begin to feel physically stronger, more aware, and able to keep food down. Normal processes such as hunger will begin to take hold, signifying a gradual return to a healthy state.

There are a couple of things to note about the Vicodin detox process which is particularly relevant if you are not going through detox in a medically managed program.

 

  • Withdrawal Symptoms Vary

 

Opiate detox symptoms are highly individual and subjective. Each person will experience withdrawal differently, including what symptoms they experience, how long those symptoms last, and the intensity of the symptoms they do experience.

 

  • Some Symptoms May Last Longer

 

If you are quitting opiates on your own, you may still continue to experience some psychological symptoms after physical withdrawal symptoms have subsided. Many of the psychological symptoms of withdrawal can persist weeks or even months after you have stopped the use of opiates. These include anxiety and depression, as well as insomnia. These symptoms can be difficult to deal over time and should be addressed in order to give yourself the best chance for a successful recovery.

Medically-Managed Detox

The detox process can be daunting, particularly if you do it on your own. Thankfully, there are ways to make the detox process much more bearable. This is referred to as medically-managed detox. Medical management of the detox process is the integration of healthcare professionals into the detox process. Through the use of medications and monitoring, healthcare professionals can ensure that you are comfortable and safe during the detox process.

There are a couple of different ways that the detox process for Vicodin can be medically managed. The first is a tapering process, which is usually the choice for people who have developed a physical Vicodin dependency but don’t meet the criteria for drug addiction. The second is through the use of medication to ease the onset and intensity of withdrawal symptoms. This latter approach is used in cases where a Vicodin addiction is present.

Before we explore these approaches to medically-managed detox, there is another layer to the process that is important to note. An advantage to medically-managed detox is that it is conducted under medical supervision. Your vital signs will be monitored for the duration of the detox program, and you’ll be kept comfortable and safe throughout the process. Though withdrawal from opiates isn’t usually life-threatening, certain health complications can arise during the process, so it’s important to go through detox treatment under medical supervision.

Tapering

Tapering is simple in concept. A healthcare professional, usually the doctor who prescribed Vicodin, well guide the individual through a slow but steady reduction in the dose of Vicodin they are taking. The idea behind tapering is to slowly reduce the dose to a level that is low enough so that it can be safely eliminated without incurring withdrawal symptoms.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

In a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program you’ll be given one of several drugs that can help you navigate the detox process safely. For opioid dependency, these drugs are methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone. Both methadone and buprenorphine function in a similar way by activating opioid receptors in the body, making it think that it is still getting Vicodin. This helps to reduce cravings and also eliminates many of the withdrawal symptoms since the body still thinks it is getting opiates.

Naltrexone, in contrast, binds to the opiate receptors, effectively blocking them. This makes it so that the euphoric and sedative effects of opiates are no longer felt. There are some caveats with naltrexone, such as the need to have completely withdrawn from opioids before starting it. A benefit of naltrexone is that there is no abuse potential with the drug, making it an important tool for maintaining long-term sobriety for some people.

Signs of Vicodin Abuse

With prescription drugs, it is sometimes difficult to tell when the use of the drug has turned into substance abuse. Understanding the signs of Vicodin abuse can help inform decisions about when you should reach out for help. Here are some key signs that your Vicodin use may be a problem:

  • Using more Vicodin than you’ve been prescribed.
  • Needing to use more Vicodin over time to have the same effect.
  • Withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking Vicodin.
  • Trying to stop using Vicodin but not being able to.
  • Withdrawal from other activities to use Vicodin.
  • Your Vicodin use has an impact on your employment, relationships, or life at home.

When to Seek Treatment

A challenge many individuals that struggle with Vicodin addiction have is recognizing when to seek out help. The signs of drug abuse that we outlined in the preceding section should serve as a useful benchmark for when Vicodin use may be problematic. If you meet one or more of the signs in the list above, it may be a good idea to consult with an addiction specialist.

One of the most important signs that it’s time to seek out Vicodin addiction treatment options is if you want to quit using Vicodin but find you are unable to. Many people who are addicted to Vicodin try to overcome their addiction and end up relapsing. There are many reasons that a relapse can occur. Quitting Vicodin cold turkey will result in powerful withdrawal symptoms, one of which is a strong desire to return using. Individuals who are trying to detox on their own will often find that as the withdrawal symptoms progress it becomes unbearable, pushing them to return to using Vicodin so that withdrawal symptoms stop.

Many of the other signs we listed above stem from the ongoing destruction that addiction to opiates can bring. As addiction to Vicodin progresses, other aspects of the addict’s life begin to suffer. It is not uncommon for individuals suffering from opiate use disorder to experience damage to personal relationships, difficulty maintaining employment, financial trouble as they fund their drug habit and negative health outcomes associated with risky behavior. Though there is no single determining factor that defines when to get help, it is often the impact of drug use on your life that can serve as a clear indication that treatment is needed.

Closing Thoughts

Vicodin detox can be a difficult process if it is done without medical intervention. Withdrawal symptoms will begin to manifest between 6-30 hours after the last use of Vicodin and progressively get worse over the first 72 hours. By the end of the first week, most of the physical withdrawal symptoms will have subsided, but anxiety, depression, and insomnia may persist past this point.

Due to the difficulty of Vicodin withdrawal symptoms and their impact on continued sobriety, it is important to go through a medically-managed detox process. Medical management of the detox process will ensure that you are safe and comfortable. In medically-managed detox, you’ll also be given medications that will help alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

With a better understanding of what the detox process is and how long it lasts, it is important to take the next step. Recognizing the signs of Vicodin abuse can help you or your loved one identify when it’s time to get help. Take time to assess whether you or your loved one’s Vicodin use has become abuse. If so, be sure to consult with an addiction specialist to chart out a detox and treatment plan that will give you or your loved one the best chances for a successful recovery.

To learn more about medically-managed detox and treatment options for Vicodin, please contact Apex Recovery today.

Sources

  1. https://www.addictioncenter.com/opiates/hydrocodone/symptoms-signs/
  2. https://americanaddictioncenters.org/withdrawal-timelines-treatments/opiate
  3. https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment/naltrexone
  4. https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment#medications-used-in-mat