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A Clear Vicodin Withdrawal Timeline


Vicodin abuse and addiction is a big problem in the country, and one of the key antagonists in America’s fight against opioid abuse. The current U.S. opioid epidemic has gotten so bad that it is now lowering the life expectancy in the country.

Unfortunately, Vicodin is an extremely effective pain reliever when used as prescribed, so it remains one of the most popular drugs for doctors to give patients for pain management. And it’s easy to see why the drug is popular for recreational use: it’s easy to find, it’s relatively cheap, and it offers a great, euphoric high.

Of course, using any drug recreationally is dangerous, but especially a high-powered opioid painkiller like Vicodin. Made up of a mixture of hydrocodone and acetaminophen, Vicodin is highly addictive and can cause a litany of problems when used improperly. Once these issues set in, a user may, whether on their own or with the help of others, decide to stop taking the drug.

And that’s great! But it’s only a first step. It doesn’t mean it’s over and everything is going to be fine. That’s because Vicodin is an extremely difficult drug to quit and recover from, depending on a person’s history with the drug. This is mainly due to the withdrawal most users will have to endure.

A period of withdrawal is part of the process of quitting any drug. Some drugs have rather mild withdrawal symptoms, but an opioid-like Vicodin is among the worst. Vicodin withdrawal can be so bad, it is often what leads users into relapsing, going back on the drug to avoid its withdrawal symptoms.

The experience will vary from person to person, but anyone who has used Vicodin could potentially encounter withdrawal symptoms. Generally, those who have abused the drug for a long period in high doses can expect severe withdrawal symptoms, while those who have used the drug briefly or in small doses should have a milder experience. But even those who took Vicodin only as prescribed may encounter some symptoms of withdrawal.

We’ll take a look at the factors that lead to withdrawal, as well as what a general Vicodin withdrawal timeline might look like.

Developing A Tolerance

Vicodin withdrawal, or any drug withdrawal, will have a long precursor before it can set in. This involves a person being introduced to the drug and taking it for the first time, whether it be recreational use or having it prescribed by a doctor. Either way, if a person uses the drug over a length of time, they will build a tolerance.

This is one of the most common long-term effects of Vicodin. When you build a tolerance to Vicodin, it means you will need more of the drug to achieve the same effect as when you began taking the drug, whether it be the relaxation and pain relief, or the profound feeling of euphoria that recreational users seek.

Over time, the strong effects you first felt will no longer be enough, and you will begin to crave more. You might up your dosage or take the drug more frequently. The problem is, your tolerance can keep up with you, and you will eventually build a tolerance to your new dosage level. There is no maximum dosage to which your body cannot build a tolerance.

This is often how a person becomes addicted to Vicodin and puts themselves at greater risk for overdose.

Developing A Dependence And Addiction

Eventually, you might feel like you need Vicodin to feel normal. This is called being dependent upon the drug. When you are dependent upon a substance, you will keep taking the drug and do anything you can to acquire it despite knowing the negative consequences. This is a painkiller addiction.

Vicodin is a highly addictive opioid, and addiction to the drug is prevalent. Those who abuse the drug are more likely to become addicted, especially those who crush the pills to snort or inject the drug for a quicker and more intense high. But prescribed users can develop a Vicodin addiction as well.

When a person becomes addicted, their brain tells their body the drug is good for them, because it causes the good feelings and takes away the bad. At this point, work and relationships become unimportant. The only thing an addict cares about is their next high. They might begin going to dangerous lengths to acquire the drug or turn to others, like heroin, when they are unable to score.

Factors That Influence Vicodin Withdrawal

Hopefully, at some point, you decide you need to stop taking Vicodin because of the negative long-term side effects it is causing your life. Maybe your family and friends held an intervention and convinced you, or forced you out of love. Maybe your prescription simply ran its course after surgery, and you don’t have any more Vicodin to take.

Either way, you may experience withdrawal. And if you were a long-time abuser and addict, it’s probably going to be pretty intense.

There are several factors that play into how a person experiences withdrawal. The duration and severity of a person’s withdrawal symptoms may depend on how much Vicodin you took, and for how long. Vicodin withdrawal can be mild for those who only used the drug as prescribed, or rather severe and dangerous for those with a long history of Vicodin abuse. It may last just a few days for some, while others may deal with Vicodin addiction symptoms for weeks or months. It all depends.

But in general, think of it this way. An opioid-like Vicodin affects the opioid receptors in your brain and changes the way you perceive pain, altering your pleasure center and changing your mood and emotions. As you build a tolerance to the drug and take more to meet your needs, your natural neurotransmitter production is disrupted, and your pain receptors are further altered.

The more they are changed, the harder it will be for your brain to get back to “normal,” or your “pre-Vicodin” levels. By this process, those who have abused the drug for a long time are most likely to have a long and intense withdrawal period.

The withdrawal period can also be influenced by how you take the drug. Those who snort or inject Vicodin are even more likely to have intense withdrawal symptoms, especially those who altered the drug or took it along with any other substances.

A final factor that will influence a person’s withdrawal from Vicodin is how they decide to quit. If you choose to quit cold turkey, you will probably experience more severe withdrawal symptoms. The safer and more preferred method is to taper off the drug in a professional medical detox center. This will involve the use of a replacement medication like methadone, perhaps on a long-term basis. Those who did not have a long relationship with Vicodin most likely are safe to stop taking the drug and deal with it on their own.

Vicodin Withdrawal Phase 1: Withdrawal Sets In

It’s difficult to set a hard timeline for Vicodin withdrawal because the experience is subjective to each individual and may depend on any number of the factors we mentioned above. It can last just days, while for others withdrawal may last months. What is agreed upon is that withdrawal generally begins once the drug has left the bloodstream.

The appearance of withdrawal symptoms is also influenced by a drug’s half-life. Since Vicodin has a longer half-life, it leaves your bloodstream slowly, delaying the withdrawal symptoms. Other drugs with a shorter half-life will leave the bloodstream more quickly, causing withdrawal to start much faster.

In general, Vicodin withdrawal will begin six to 12 hours after the last dose. The first symptoms of withdrawal will start to appear during this time. Early symptoms are typically moderate, including:

  • Sweating
  • Muscle aches and pain
  • Joint pain
  • Yawning
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose

Vicodin Withdrawal Phase 2: Days 1-3

During days 1-3 of Vicodin withdrawal, your symptoms will begin to intensify. You may become more easily agitated and anxious and even deal with some insomnia. Some minor nausea will often begin to set in. The sweating and muscle and joint pain will start to intensify. You may even experience some tremors.

Vicodin Withdrawal Phase 3: Days 3-5

This is the most difficult and uncomfortable phase of Vicodin withdrawal. During this time, your symptoms peak, and the urge to go back to using the drug will be strong.

Symptoms during this phase may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and bouts of vomiting
  • Excessive sweating, cold sweats
  • Intense aches and pains, particularly abdominal cramps
  • Dilated pupils
  • Chills
  • Depression
  • Confusion and delirium
  • Mood swings
  • Panic attacks

Some of these symptoms can be dangerous and lead a person to suicidal thoughts. If a person relapses and takes more Vicodin, they are at high risk for overdose because of the temptation to take a lot right away to get rid of the withdrawal symptoms.

Vicodin Withdrawal Phase 4: Days 5-7

During this time, you should start to improve and see the intense withdrawal symptoms slowly dissipate. This phase is more about the mind than body. Some depression, cravings for Vicodin, and anxiety may remain, but most physical symptoms should have lessened in severity or gone away.

Vicodin Withdrawal Phase 5: Beyond Week 1

Past the first week or so, withdrawal symptoms of both mind and body should be mostly gone. Lingering effects may include some problems with your mood or anxiety, but for the most part, you should be physically and mentally back to normal.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

Most of the time, Vicodin withdrawal will end somewhere between seven to 10 days, but some symptoms may linger for a few weeks.

If symptoms persist longer than a few weeks, you are dealing with what is called post-acute withdrawal symptoms, or PAWS. The causes of symptoms that last this long are still being researched but believed to be associated with changes in the brain in those who have a long history of Vicodin and other substance abuse.

Symptoms of PAWS may include:

  • Difficulties with learning, memory, and problem-solving
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Cravings
  • Low motivation
  • Insomnia
  • Sensitivity to stress

How To Safely Recover From A Vicodin Addiction

Dependence and addiction to Vicodin are inevitable if you abuse the drug for a long period.

Once you are dependent and have an addiction, it is nearly impossible to stop taking Vicodin on your own. The safest way to recover and deal with these withdrawal symptoms is to check into a professional detox center.

The detox process provides the addict with constant medical supervision while they deal with some of the more dangerous symptoms of withdrawal. A prescribed and closely supervised dosage of methadone is often part of the recovery process. This “tapering” method is thought to be the safest way to recover from an opioid addiction and helps to avoid the more dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, staying productive and socializing, and getting plenty of rest will also help speed up the withdrawal process. Detox centers will provide a nutritious diet and encourage patients to engage with each other in therapeutic activities.

Following detox, many recovered addicts will continue treatment through inpatient or outpatient programs, recovery groups, therapy and other means. For some, the tapering off of their addiction with methadone may last for up to a year. Detox is the safest first step to recovery, but follow-up care is the best way to help make sure a person does not relapse.

At Luminance Recovery, a rehab in Orange County, we utilize a variety of therapy methods when helping people undergo Vicodin withdrawal. Call us today for more information on our treatment programs.

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