For those who struggle with severe or chronic pain, a prescription medication like Vicodin can be a godsend, helping minimize painful symptoms. As a combination of two types of pain relievers (acetaminophen and hydrocodone), Vicodin is commonly prescribed in the United States. However, as a Schedule II controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), it also has a high potential for abuse.
Abusing Vicodin or other opioids can cause dependence and addiction, not to mention causing serious harm to an individual. Even those who take Vicodin as prescribed can become dependent on it, making it challenging to function normally without it. Misusing or abusing Vicodin has been known to lead some people to liver damage, as well as overdose.
When taken as prescribed, pain relievers can help those struggling with mild to severe pain. The problem arises when someone begins to take more than the prescribed amount, either because their tolerance has increased or they’re enjoying the relaxed, euphoric feeling they get. Either way, becoming dependent on Vicodin can produce withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop taking the medicine.
Common Vicodin withdrawal symptoms include:
The thought of going through Vicodin withdrawal can cause some people to become anxious and not understand the detox process or withdrawal timeline.
However, you should not allow the fear of withdrawal symptoms to keep you from reaching out for help in finding freedom from Vicodin addiction.
The pace at which one goes through withdrawal can vary from person to person. The severity of withdrawal symptoms may vary as well, depending on various factors like:
The following are the common stages of Vicodin withdrawal:
Day 1 – You may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms within the first 24 hours of your last dose of Vicodin. Some people experience mild flu-like symptoms and some anxiety within the first 12 hours of the last dose.
Days 2-3 – Symptoms may peak during this period, with common ones being body aches, sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, insomnia, cravings, and anxiety.
Days 4-7 – Heavy users may continue to struggle with uncomfortable symptoms for few more days. For others, symptoms may start decreasing in intensity for the rest of week one. You may still feel some nausea, loss of appetite, insomnia, agitation, cravings, and fatigue.
Week 1 and beyond – Most people will begin to feel better once they hit week two. However, for those that were heavily addicted, post-acute withdrawal symptoms can linger on for weeks or even months. Thus, it’s helpful to have a strong support network, including substance abuse professionals at an inpatient or outpatient rehab.
Opioids are potent painkillers – even with the risks involved, they are still considered the most effective form of treatment for acute, and short-term pain. Doctors prescribe Vicodin for pain after surgery or a traumatic injury.
If you’ve taken the medication for less than two weeks, it will be easier to stop as soon as the prescribed dose runs out. Unfortunately, if you’ve been taking Vicodin for more than two weeks, you must stop using the medicine immediately to prevent the consequences attributed to opioid addiction.
When it’s time to stop taking Vicodin, you must ask for your doctor’s help to develop a medication withdrawal plan, also known as a taper. Opioid withdrawal, while not deadly, can be dangerous and include severe side effects.
Depending on the dose, it may take weeks or months to reduce the dose gradually in a safe manner. Stopping Vicodin alone can be challenging.
Give yourself the best chance of maintaining long-term sobriety by checking into medical detoxification.
More than 12 million people in the United States used prescription painkillers for nonmedical use. Many of those who abuse painkillers will move onto illicit substances like heroin.
For some, an at-home detox may seem like their best option, which is not the best choice. Experts will always recommend medical detox.
Anyone choosing sobriety is making a healthy choice. You must be prepared to overcome your Vicodin dependence, and as mentioned above, tapering will help reduce the intensity of the symptoms.
Using the correct doses of over-the-counter medications will help alleviate symptoms. Make sure to have Imodium on hand for diarrhea, and Dramamine for nausea. Tylenol can help with aches and pains. You must remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
While there are ways to navigate through on your own, if you’ve become addicted to Vicodin, detoxing at home is not enough to address the underlying issue of what got you there. Individuals who detox at home are much more likely to relapse as a result of not treating their addiction. Medical detox is the safest way to get sober, and the clinicians will then determine where to place you after you complete your stay.
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When you’re struggling with any addiction,medically-supervised detox is the first step to becoming free from drugs. Detox is the body’s way of ridding itself from the toxins associated with the drug so it can get back to balance.
The brain can be modified with drug use, so it takes some time for it to get used to being without the drug. It also tends to cause the body to experience some uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Quitting a drug as powerful as Vicodin should be done under the supervision of medical professionals since this will help you avoid relapsing or overdosing. You should never quit taking Vicodin cold turkey, as this can be very harsh on your body.
The best way to come off of Vicodin is to work with an addiction specialist or physician in creating a taper schedule. This means that you decrease the dosage of the drug a little bit over time until you’re free of it.
Some detox programs will give you medications such, as buprenorphine or naltrexone to help ease withdrawal symptoms.
The best way to get free from Vicodin addiction is to get professional treatment in the form of residential or outpatient rehab.
When you commit to attending a residential treatment center, you reside at the facility for the duration of your treatment. This is a great option for those who feel as if they would benefit from leaving their home environment and have access to addiction specialists 24/7. Knowing that you’re in a safe and structured environment can help when it comes to preventing relapse and recovering from addiction.
You can attend a local treatment center, or you can travel outside of your area for residential treatment. Your decision will depend on what you need.
You’ll have access to a physician, a therapist, and peers that will be recovering from addiction, as well. Many people opt to stay at the treatment center anywhere from 30 to 90 days. Upon discharge from a residential facility, some decide to continue treatment at an outpatient center or Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP).
An IOP program provides a level of care between residential and outpatient treatment. It’s one step lower than residential treatment, allowing you to live at home. However, IOP involves more hours of treatment than you would have at a typical outpatient center. Many intensive outpatient programs require that you attend at least 12 hours per week for treatment. This is also a great option for those who complete residential treatment but need more intensive programs before dropping down to outpatient.
If you cannot live at the treatment facility, outpatient treatment may be an option for you. With this type of treatment, you’ll live at home and commute to sessions throughout the week. The number of sessions can vary from three to seven. You’ll still have access to a physician and therapist, and you may receive individual and group therapy. This is a great option for those who have work or family obligations.
Regardless of what type of treatment you decide on, remember that your first step is to detox. Some residential treatment centers even have a detox program at their facility. From there, you can transfer right into the residential treatment program. You’ll also have a chance to create a relapse prevention plan for when you do return home. It will be important to continue having a solid support network.
Web MD. Vicodin. from https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-3459/vicodin-oral/details
Cichocki, Rick. (2018, February 27). Very Well Health. How to Use Vicodin Safely. from https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-dangers-of-vicodin-49331
Healthline. Symptoms of Vicodin Withdrawal. from https://www.healthline.com/health/symptoms-vicodin-withdrawal
“What to Do When It's Time to Stop Opioids.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 10 Jan. 2018, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prescription-drug-abuse/in-depth/tapering-off-opioids-when-and-how/art-20386036
“Home Remedies for Opiate Withdrawal.” Healthline, Healthline Media, from https://www.healthline.com/health/home-remedies-opiate-withdrawal#athome