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Vicodin Withdrawal

The most common reason Americans access the healthcare system is pain. It impacts more Americans than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined, and it’s the most common cause of a long-term disability. In 2019, the projected revenue in the U.S. for prescription painkillers is $5.36 billion, according to Statista Market Forecast.

This quest for pain relief has largely driven the ongoing opioid epidemic, which is considered the worst drug crisis in U.S. history. However, that quest can lead users to decline into dependency and addiction.

Vicodin is one of the most widely prescribed medications in the U.S., and it has helped fuel this scourge. The drug consists of hydrocodone (a powerful opioid) and acetaminophen (a pain reliever).

This opioid has long been an abused drug, as it’s capable of producing profound euphoria. But its unique formulation of hydrocodone and acetaminophen means that each ingredient can produce its own negative effects.

When Vicodin is overused or recreationally used, it can quickly create tolerance that can descend into addiction, even when taken as prescribed. In addition, prolonged use can lead to severe liver damage.  Particularly when taken with alcohol and narcotics, Vicodin abuse can cause permanent bodily damage and even death.

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What Is Vicodin?

The first medical use of acetaminophen occurred in 1893. Almost 30 years later, a German pharmaceutical company named Knoll synthesized hydrocodone. Then in in 1978, Knoll introduced Vicodin to the U.S, and a generic version of the drug hit the market five years later. Norco and Lortab are other well-known drugs with the same ingredients.

Vicodin is available as a tablet, capsule, or liquid. In terms of potency, it rivals morphine. Vicodin works by reducing the experience of pain and producing feelings of pleasure.

What Is Physical Dependence?

When the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reclassified Vicodin from Schedule III to Schedule II under the Controlled Substances Act, it served as a testament to the drug’s potential for harm and abuse. The DEA essentially recognized Vicodin’s ability to inflict physical and psychological dependence. This reclassification also served as an assent to the drug’s dangerous effects.

In addition, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel suggested that the regulatory body ban medications like Vicodin because the use of it increases the risk of overdose and acute liver injury. As a result, the FDA requested that pharmaceutical companies limit the amount of acetaminophen in its products.

Unfortunately, such efforts haven’t deterred the abuse of Vicodin. When a user exceeds the prescribed dosage, they can quickly develop a mental and physical dependence, which is especially true if it’s abused for recreational purposes.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines dependence as a state when the body only functions normally when the drug is present. When a person stops using the drug, they almost immediately experience withdrawal symptoms. This withdrawal can quickly morph into addiction, as users will start compulsively seeking the drug and using it despite adverse consequences. Vicodin is particularly pernicious because it can rewire the brain after repeated use, which profoundly impacts its reward pathways.

Withdrawal Timelines and Symptoms

A standard dose of Vicodin can provide up to eight hours of pain relief. The acetaminophen in Vicodin has a half-life of up to three hours, depending on the health of an individual’s liver.

Most of the drug leaves the body within 24 hours, although traces of it can remain in the body for far longer. For example, a hair follicle test can reveal Vicodin use up to 90 days afterward.   When the drug eventually leaves the body, users can start experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Vicodin Withdrawal Timeline

For most users, the acute symptoms of Vicodin withdrawal can last up to ten days. The first few days tend to produce the most severe symptoms, which include physical and psychological effects. However, many people feel better within two weeks of the last use.

Still, the length of withdrawal varies greatly. Some users can even develop post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).

Generally, the withdrawal symptoms associated with Vicodin use include:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Abnormal happiness or sadness
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Pinpoint pupils

Treatment for Vicodin Withdrawal

Opioid withdrawal tends to produce flu-like symptoms. While it’s rare for opioid withdrawal to be fatal, the symptoms can be painful and uncomfortable, enough to compel someone to reuse. This impact is especially true if a person has engaged in long-term opioid abuse, as this type of drug use produces intense withdrawal symptoms.

However, a professional treatment program can safely and comfortably address the worst of those withdrawal symptoms. If your Vicodin dependence has caused you to experience intense symptoms, a professional treatment program can effectively alleviate those effects while equipping you with the tools to remain sober.

A professional program begins with a medical detoxification. In this program, Vicodin and other toxins are safely and comfortably removed from your body. To block the symptoms of detoxification, patients will be given medications such as Suboxone or Subutex. This process typically lasts up to seven days.

In this phase, medical care will be administered round-the-clock, and you will be monitored for any potentially dangerous medical issues. Due to the risks involved with an opioid addiction, the medical staff will slowly and comfortably wean you off it, in order to alleviate your worst symptoms.

Residential treatment is one of the most critical stages in the continuum of care. It will give you access to an array of evidence-based therapies that are tailored to treat the root causes of Vicodin abuse.

Here are the most commonly used therapy models:     

  • Group therapy sessions provide you the support you need to know you’re not alone in your addiction recovery journey.
  •     You’ll receive personalized treatment to address the emotional issues that contribute to addiction.
  •     With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), you’ll receive treatment that addresses the negative thoughts and actions associated with addiction. In this stage, you’ll learn practical strategies and skills to combat old habits.
  •     Through dialectical behavioral therapy, you’ll learn about the triggers that lead to substance abuse.
  •     In motivational interviewing, you’ll identify key issues, learn how to think positively, and embrace changes that can improve your life.
  •     You’ll learn how to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into your daily life.
  •     Since addiction is often described as a family disease, family therapy will help you heal some of those wounds.
  •     In order to ensure your post-treatment success, you’ll go through aftercare planning, which helps prevent relapse.

In addition, residential treatment can ultimately determine whether your recovery will be successful. Research indicates that the longer you stay in residential care, the more likely you’ll be to have long-term sobriety.

Outpatient treatment is the stage after residential. It will provide additional recovery services to help address any concerns about Vicodin abuse. It’s less intensive than residential, but it possesses many of the same evidence-based therapies that have consistently treated substance abuse issues.

Get Help for Your Vicodin Dependence Today

Is your loved one struggling with Vicodin abuse or addiction? Are you? If so, it’s important for you to treat it with the seriousness it requires and get help before it’s too late.

For a free and confidential consultation with a specialist at California Highlands, call 855-935-0303 or contact us online now. These professionals are available around the clock to help you navigate your treatment options, verify your insurance, and answer any questions you might have.

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Statista Market Forecast. (n.d.). Analgesics: United States. from

Fogoros, R. N. (n.d.). Is Withdrawing from Vicodin Dangerous for You? from

Fogoros, R. N. (n.d.). How Long Does Vicodin Remain in Your System? from

MedlinePlus Drug Information. (n.d.). Hydrocodone Combination Products from MedlinePlus Drug Information. (n.d.). Hydrocodone Combination Products

National Institutes of Health (n.d.). Fact Sheets: Pain Management. from

Mental Health Daily. (2014, August 04). Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms Duration. from

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