Vicodin is a common medication that includes a potent opioid called hydrocodone in its ingredients. As an opioid medication, Vicodin can effectively treat pain from a variety of causes, but it can also cause dependence, addiction, and withdrawal symptoms. Opioid addiction is a serious disease that can start to affect multiple aspects of your life, including your health, finances, and personal relationships.
To get out from under opioid dependence, you will have to go through the withdrawal phase, which can mean uncomfortable symptoms. Learn more about addiction, Vicodin withdrawal, and how you can safely achieve freedom from active opioid addiction.
Vicodin is a brand name for a drug that combines the opioid hydrocodone and the mild pain reliever acetaminophen. Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid, which means that it’s made by altering a naturally occurring opioid like morphine. Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in over-the-counter pain relievers like Tylenol.
Vicodin is used to treat moderate-to-severe pain that’s acute and chronic. Because it contains an opioid, it can effectively modify the way pain signals are sent in the body by binding to your natural opioid receptors and activating them. This block pain signals at the site of pain, in the spine, and in the brain.
Vicodin is a commonly prescribed opioid medication for post-surgery pain and to help recovery from injuries. However, it also comes with some potential side effects, including:
Vicodin can also cause tolerance, dependence, and addiction if it’s abused or used for too long. Prescription opioid abuse can increase your risk factors for illicit drug use and addiction.
Dependence can also lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that make it difficult to get out from under active addiction. However, both withdrawal and opioid addiction are treatable, with the right help.
Vicodin withdrawal is a result of your brain and nervous system’s dependence on the opioid in the drug. Since your nervous system is reliant on the drug to maintain normal brain chemistry, the sudden lack of Vicodin will cause a chemical imbalance that will cause uncomfortable symptoms.
Symptoms can range from mild mood changes to severe flu-like symptoms. Because opioids bind to receptors all over the body, you may feel symptoms throughout your whole body.
Opioid withdrawal is rarely life-threatening, and treating it may be similar to treating a bad case of the flu. It’s important to stay hydrated and get plenty of rest. However, going through withdrawal alone can be risky, especially if you have a heart-related condition. Plus, withdrawal will likely come with powerful cravings that compel you to use the drug again, which can jeopardize your attempt at sobriety.
It can be hard to pinpoint an exact timeline on which you will experience withdrawal symptoms. The timing of your withdrawal phases will depend on how long you were dependent, how high your normal dose was, and the size of your last dose. However, you may experience withdrawal on the following general timeline:
Medications containing opioids like Vicodin aren’t known for their deadly withdrawal symptoms. However, opioid withdrawal is notoriously uncomfortable. It’s often described as the worst flu you’ll experience. It’s so unpleasant for some that it creates a significant barrier to sobriety.
Many people try to get through withdrawal to sobriety multiple times without success. Going through withdrawal on your own may not be life-threatening, but it can threaten your chances at sobriety. Medical detox can help you avoid any serious complications and ease the uncomfortable symptoms you might experience.
Though rare, some situations involving opioid withdrawal can become dangerous, especially if you’re on your own. Withdrawal symptoms can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and sweating.
These symptoms can lead to dangerous complications like the aspiration of vomit and life-threatening dehydration in rare instances. Withdrawal can also cause changes to your heart rate and blood pressure.
People with heart-related problems or hypertension should be monitored through withdrawal to avoid potentially dangerous complications like heart failure or stroke.
Detox involves 24-hour medically managed treatment each day. It can also involve medications and therapies designed to mitigate your uncomfortable symptoms. The goal of detox is to guide you through withdrawal safely and to help you break drug dependence. Detox typically take between five and 10 days, depending on your needs.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), detox is often not enough to effectively facilitate a long-term change toward sobriety. Instead, the full continuum of care in addiction treatment may be necessary to help address underlying issues that may contribute to your substance use disorder.
After detox, if you still have high-level medical or psychological needs, you may need to go through an inpatient program that continues to provide 24-hour support daily. Inpatient programs also include residential treatment, which involves onsite housing and 24-hour access to care.
If you can live on your own, you may go through an intensive outpatient program (IOP). IOP is the highest level of care that allows you to live on your own. It involves nine or more hours of care each week, but more intensive levels under this category like partial hospitalization can involve as much as 20 hours of care per week.
As you progress in treatment, you may move on to a standard outpatient program that involves between one and eight hours each week. This is the lowest level of care in addiction treatment, but it’s still an important step between complete independence and higher levels of care.
Throughout all of these levels of care, you will go through a personalized treatment plan based on your specific needs. You will sit down with a therapist each week to create and reassess your treatment plan. You may go through several therapies like individual, group, family, and behavioral therapies.
Finally, when you complete treatment, aftercare programs can help connect you to community resources like career centers, support groups, and housing.
If you or someone you know might be experiencing symptoms of Vicodin withdrawal, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Call 911 or go to a hospital or urgent care for immediate care.
Dependence and addiction to opioids can lead to serious consequences like the use of more dangerous illicit drugs, overdose, and the contraction of infectious diseases. However, with the right help, opioid addiction can be treated effectively.
Learn more about addiction treatment and how it can lead you to sobriety by calling an addiction treatment specialist at Arete Recovery. Call at any time to take your first steps toward lasting recovery.
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National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016, February). 8: Medical detoxification. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification
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