Opioid analgesics are generally easy to obtain and deemed “safer” than street drugs since they are often prescribed by a doctor or found in a medicine cabinet. Vicodin is a combination of the opioid narcotic hydrocodone and the fever reducer acetaminophen, and it is prescribed to relieve intense pain. The Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, recognizes that hydrocodone is potentially addictive, and lists Vicodin as a Schedule II drug. Drug scheduling refers to a drug’s medicinal value in relation to its potential for abuse and dependency, with Schedule I drugs being considered the most dangerous and Schedule V the least dangerous.
The most current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists tolerance and withdrawal symptoms as criteria for a substance abuse disorder. When you take or abuse a substance like Vicodin for a length of time, the brain develops a tolerance to the substance and begins to expect its presence in the body. A physical and psychological dependence may occur, and when the drug leaves the bloodstream, after about eight hours, the individual may begin to feel withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are the manifestation of the brain attempting to restore balance without the chemical interference it has become used to.
Factors Influencing Withdrawal
There is no specific timeline for Vicodin withdrawal, as it depends on several factors and can be different for each individual user. Typically, symptoms will start within a few hours of the drug leaving the bloodstream, peak between 7 and 10 days, and generally last a few weeks total. Protracted withdrawal, or post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), may occur in some cases wherein withdrawal and some symptoms may persist for up to a few months.
The duration and severity of withdrawal from Vicodin may depend on how much you took and how long you have been taking the drug. Opioid drugs, like Vicodin, act on opioid receptors in the brain. Vicodin blocks pain sensations, which is what makes it an effective pain reliever, although it also interferes with certain neurotransmitters that are responsible for the regulation of moods, emotions, motivation, and pleasure. As you take more Vicodin over time and tolerance levels increase, natural neurotransmitter production is disrupted. The more these levels are chemically altered, the harder the brain has to work to regain balance when they are removed. Thus, someone with a higher tolerance to Vicodin, who has been taking or abusing it longer and in larger amounts, is likely to suffer from a longer and more intense withdrawal period.
The manner in which Vicodin is taken may also influence the withdrawal timeline and severity. For instance, abusers who alter the drug, crushing tablets to snort or inject the substance, are likely to have more intense withdrawal symptoms as well as increase the risk factors for a potentially life-threatening overdose. Altering the drug’s composition and ingestion method and snorting or injecting it bypasses the stomach and sends the it directly across the blood-brain barrier and into the bloodstream, which may have disastrous consequences.
Physiological factors also influence one’s individual withdrawal timeline. Everyone reacts differently to drugs and may develop tolerances at different levels. While one person may experience PAWS with a certain level of abuse, another person with the same level of abuse may not. There is no way to conclusively predict which person’s symptoms will be worse, although certain aspects such as general overall health, sensitivity to drug interactions, and emotional well-being may play a role. One’s impulse control and ability to deal with stress may influence substance abuse patterns as well as recovery time also. Someone who has more difficulties coping with stressful situations and regulating his emotions may have a harder time during withdrawal from Vicodin.
Side Effects of Withdrawal From Vicodin
Opioid withdrawal is rarely life-threatening, although it can get pretty uncomfortable. The physical symptoms of Vicodin withdrawal are similar to a bad case of the flu, and include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Muscle aches
- Trouble with temperature regulation
- Runny nose
- Irregular heart rate
- Excessive tearing
- Chills and/or gooseflesh
- Dilated pupils
Vicodin withdrawal also includes emotional side effects, and symptoms may include:
- Mood swings
You should not attempt to stop taking or abusing opioid drugs like Vicodin “cold turkey” or suddenly without the help of a medical professional. Many times, the medical professional will help you work out a slow and controlled method of weaning, or tapering off, your drug intake until you are completely drug-free. This helps to ease withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. Sometimes, the use of medications is recommended to assist with the detox of Vicodin from your system. This is called medical detox and should be performed in a safe and secure medical detox facility with 24-hour medical supervision and care available. Substitution medications may be used instead of Vicodin to taper the opioids out of your system.
Methadone and buprenorphine products, such as Subutex and Suboxone, are partial opioid agonists used during medication-assisted treatment, or MAT. A partial opioid agonist effects the same opioid receptors in the brain that full agonists like hydrocodone do, although to a lesser extent, thus dulling any euphoric feelings. Partial agonists also tend to have a longer half-life, meaning that you can take a lower dose and it will stay in your system longer, mitigating withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Buprenorphine also plateaus after a certain point, which means that increasing the dosage past a particular level will not increase any desired effects. Suboxone contains the partial opioid antagonist naloxone, which blocks opioid receptors and deters further opioid abuse.
These medications are opioid narcotics that need to be managed and monitored as they still may have the potential for abuse and misuse. Other medications including mood stabilizers and antidepressants may also be used to help manage psychological withdrawal symptoms. The best way to ensure a safe and controlled withdrawal from Vicodin and prevent relapse is to seek substance abuse treatment. Behavioral therapies can help you learn to manage self-destructive behaviors and mannerisms, giving you the proper tools for coping with life stressors and potential triggers that may induce negative thoughts or patterns. Boosting self-esteem and improving self-image can go a long way toward developing a desire to avoid self-destructive behaviors, such as substance abuse.
Get Help For Vicodin Abuse Today
Withdrawal from a drug such as Vicodin may not be enjoyable, but it is manageable and part of the path to a healthier, happier future. At Futures of Palm Beach, we employ the latest evidence-based treatment models, tailoring care plans to the specific needs of clients. Offering a variety of treatment levels, including specialized treatment for co-occurring disorders, we are dedicated to providing each individual person with the highest level of care possible. Luxurious surroundings and tranquil accommodations provide the perfect healing environment.
Compassionate and professional staff members are standing by to answer any questions you may have. Contact Futures now.