Hydrocodone is the main ingredient in several very common prescription pain killers. Vicodin being the most well knows. Like most prescription medications, abruptly stopping the use of hydrocodone can cause hydrocodone detox or withdrawal symptoms. These may include:
- Mood swings
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
- Drug cravings
In most cases, symptoms can last up to 7 days. Medical detox, combined with medications and therapy, can reduce recovery time and the risk of relapse.
According to Consumer Reports, hydrocodone type products are the most commonly prescribed medication in America. Because they have the risk of addiction and a high incidence of abuse, hydrocodone has been moved to the Schedule II Drug Enforcement Administration classification. This means the medication is more tightly controlled. The FDA requested this change in 2013 after a scientific review.
A report by the National Institute on Drug Use (NIDA) reported that prescriptions for opioid painkillers had gone up to 207 million in the U.S. in 2013. It is also reported that Americans consume almost 100% of the world’s hydrocodone. According to the ASAM (American Society of Addiction Medicine) almost 2 million Americans are thought to be addicted to or dependent on prescription drugs, or are abusing opioid medications.
These medications are prescribed to those in chronic or extreme pain. However, they can also alter mood and make a patient feel happy or euphoric. This is caused by the increase in dopamine in the brain. The brain can become tolerant to the amount of hydrocodone taken over a period of time. When this happens, more of the drug is needed to feel the effects. This may increase the brain’s dependency and this is when an addiction can form. Once a person stops taking the medication and if they have become dependent on it, the onset of withdrawal symptoms will occur.
Withdrawal from hydrocodone will usually begin 6 – 12 hours after the last dose, depending on the specific drug. Usually peaking around 72 hours, opioid withdrawal can last up to a month. Without the support of a mental health specialist, some emotional issues and cravings may last longer.
Various forms of hydrocodone, including Lorcet, Lortab and Vicodin, as well as the amount of the medication taken, may affect the withdrawal timeline. The brain will be more dependent on the drug if it is taken for a longer period of time. Smoking or injecting hydrocodone will cause faster dependence on the drug, thereby affecting the time withdrawal will last as well. As the brain tries to restore its natural chemical balance prior to use of the drug, previous health or mental issues may also affect how long withdrawal will last.
Hydrocodone detox or withdrawal symptoms range widely from person to person, from mild to severe, depending on the level of dependency. Opiates act as central nervous system depressants, reducing heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and reducing breathing rate. This is caused by the binding of the opioid to the opiate receptors in the brain. Once the brain is dependent on an opioid like hydrocodone, the sudden absence of the opioid can cause severe symptoms as the body and brain go into overdrive to try and rebalance. All vital signs may spike if hydrocodone use is stopped “cold turkey”. Medical supervision is advised.
Withdrawal symptoms may include: nausea and cramps, muscle aches, diarrhea, vomiting, tearing of the eyes, runny nose, sweating, chills, goosebumps, yawning, night sweats, difficulty concentrating, headache, mood swings, depression, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, irregular heart rate, restlessness, fatigue, high blood pressure, drug cravings and thoughts of suicide.
Hydrocodone Detox Centers
Detox is the method of removing a drug from the body. Once someone is dependent on or addicted to hydrocodone, detox is needed. A medical professional should closely supervise a hydrocodone detox, either with an inpatient or outpatient program. Attendance at a hydrocodone detox center if often the best method of treatment. These programs monitor vital signs around the clock and use medications that will keep a patient comfortable and safe for 5 – 7 days. The medications used will reduce symptoms and help prevent relapse by lowering the intensity of cravings.
A hydrocodone detox center should be one part of a substance abuse treatment plan that should also include counseling, therapy and relapse prevention techniques.
Hydrocodone Withdrawal Medications
Opiate use should not be stopped suddenly. During medical detox, the dose of hydrocodone will be tapered slowly. In this way a medical professional can wean the body of the drug in a controlled manner and keep symptoms from becoming too uncomfortable.
Buprenorphine, or Subutex, is a medication approved to treat opioid dependency. This medication is a partial opioid agonist, which means that it fills opioid receptors, stopping withdrawal symptoms from being too overpowering. It is also made to be longer acting, staying in the body longer than hydrocodone and has a lower potential for abuse because it does not give the effect of being “high” to the patient.