Hydrocodone has been widely prescribed to people struggling with pain. Unfortunately, it is one of the main drugs included in today’s opioid crisis as a result of its use across the country. Once touted as a drug that would not cause addiction, that has been proven patently false. The over-prescription of this drug has led to addiction and dependency across many sectors of the population.
That’s why medically monitored detoxification, and a solid understanding of the withdrawal process, is essential for anyone who is struggling with opioid misuse or abuse. Following detoxification, it is a good idea for all patients to go through drug addiction treatment and to be under the watchful eye of their medical team.
What Is Hydrocodone?
Hydrocodone1 is an opioid pain reliever that is used to treat serious and chronic pain conditions. It is a prescription drug, so it is available through pharmacies in the United States. Hydrocodone is a Schedule II drug, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.2 Substances that are listed as Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse. They are known to cause severe physical dependence as well as psychological dependence.
Unfortunately, the use of hydrocodone can lead to opioid use disorder, or OUD, so prescribers now need to speak with anyone who receives hydrocodone about also obtaining a prescription for Naloxone. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that stops the effects of opioids in the body.
Hydrocodone comes in a few different forms. It can be prescribed as an extended-release capsule or tablet, depending on the patient’s needs.
Hydrocodone can be habit forming, especially when it’s taken in high doses or over a longer period of time. It should only be taken as directed to prevent tolerances from building, dependencies from forming or addictive habits from being created.
Is Hydrocodone Dangerous?
Hydrocodone can be dangerous1, even when it is taken as prescribed. It can slow or stop a person’s breathing, especially during the first three days of treatment. Any time the dosage is increased, that effect is also possible.
This is another reason why misusing hydrocodone is so dangerous. Without monitoring, a person could accidentally overdose or stop breathing with no one to assist them.
In the case of an overdose, it’s important to seek medical care immediately. Overdose symptoms1 may include:
- Narrowed or widened pupils
- Cold, clammy skin
- Muscle weakness
- Slowed breathing
- Slowed heartbeat
Can You Quit Hydrocodone Cold Turkey?
It is not a good idea to quit hydrocodone cold turkey. Quitting cold turkey refers to suddenly stopping a medication. The reason that’s not a good idea is that the body may be dependent on the drug. Stopping suddenly could result in serious, potentially life-threatening, withdrawal symptoms.
Instead of quitting cold turkey, a better option is to quit using a tapering method.3 A detoxification clinic, or a private medical provider, may put someone on a tapering program to slowly reduce the amount of hydrocodone they’re taking over time. This is beneficial because it minimizes the risk of withdrawal and relapsing.
Keep in mind that short-term users, and those on low dosages, may be able to stop cold turkey with no ill effects. That is something to discuss with a detoxification clinic or other medical provider before deciding to do so.
What Are Common Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms?
Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person, but some of the most common symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- Mood swings
- Cravings for the drug
- Runny nose
- Trouble focusing
- Night sweats
- Trouble concentrating
- An inability to feel pleasure
- High blood pressure
- Thoughts of suicide
If a patient shows signs of cardiovascular depression, thoughts of suicide, depression or high blood pressure, it’s necessary to call 911 or to take them to the hospital for monitoring.
Are There Drugs to Help with Hydrocodone Withdrawal?
The good news about hydrocodone withdrawal is that it’s usually manageable. With a tapering program, a doctor can usually reduce the dose down to a manageable level and help minimize the severity of the withdrawal symptoms.
Sometimes, medications are also prescribed to help manage withdrawal symptoms or to minimize the risk of a relapse. These medications include:
- Buprenorphine mixed with naloxone
These drugs may be prescribed as part of a long-term recovery program and are known as medication-assisted treatment. Medication-assisted treatment is not just substituting one drug for another. Instead, it is used in combination with other therapies, like group talk therapy or detox, to get the patient sober and stable.
Buprenorphine/naloxone combination drugs
Burrenorphine and naloxone combination drugs, like Suboxone or Zubsolv, are opioid agonist and antagonist mixtures. One of the drugs blocks the “high” from the other, rendering the effect on the brain’s opioid receptors null. Naloxone can bring on withdrawal symptoms quickly in the presence of opioids, which is how it’s used as a deterrent against drug use. So long as the drug isn’t tampered with, the naloxone usually won’t activate.
Methadone is a long-acting opioid. It is a substitute for hydrocodone and will be given to patients in regulated detoxification clinics in some cases. The long-acting opioid can last in the body for up to 30 hours, making it helpful in reducing cravings and the risk of relapse, which is especially important if a patient will not be under 24-hour monitoring.
Buprenorphine is also sold under the brand name Subutex. As a partial opioid agonist, it activates the opioid receptors in the brain. It will minimize withdrawal symptoms and has a lower risk of being abused because of its longer-acting, weaker effects. Buprenorphine is unlikely to give patients any kind of high.
Naltrexone, which is also sold under the name Vivitrol, is an opioid agonist. It blocks the opioid receptors in the brain. As an opioid agonist, it prevents relapse by bringing on withdrawal symptoms if opioids are mixed with it.
What Is the Timeline for Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms?
Everyone who goes through detoxification is going to have a slightly different experience. That’s because each person has a different physiology and may react differently to tapering or taking medications to minimize the withdrawal symptoms.
However, detoxification does follow a pretty specific timeline. From the time of your last dose, you’ll likely start having withdrawal symptoms within six to 12 hours.4 Then, the withdrawal symptoms should peak in around 72 hours. After that, the remaining symptoms, which should be weaker over time, will occur for the next week to month.
It is normal for some drug cravings, as well as emotional side effects, to last for a month or longer without additional support and treatment.
The exact length of time that withdrawal will last depends on a few factors such as:
- How long the individual took hydrocodone
- The dosage of hydrocodone that was normally in the body
- Whether the drug was or was not abused in higher doses than normal
- If other drugs or alcohol were taken in combination with the hydrocodone
What Happens During Hydrocodone Detoxification?
When a patient goes to a detoxification clinic, the goal is to help them get off hydrocodone without serious withdrawal side effects. Also known as medical detox, this treatment is designed to clear the drug from the body without life-threatening or uncomfortable symptoms.
Medical detox is an excellent choice for the majority of patients, because it minimizes their discomfort while getting through the withdrawal period. In most cases, the detox period is limited to between five and seven days, though some people may go through a tapering program that is much longer.
What Should You Know About Detoxification?
Patients need to know that detoxification may not be completely comfortable, but it will be much safer and more comfortable than trying to stop cold turkey. Drug detox does need to happen before a patient can move on to receive treatment and counseling. Most programs will only start counseling and other forms of treatment once the patient is stable following a completed detoxification program.
While there is a timeline for detoxification, that timeline won’t apply to everyone. Every person is different, and what takes only a day or two for one person might take a week or two for another. It’s essential that patients don’t compare themselves to others, because no two people are alike when it comes to detox.
Finally, know that detox is a process. Some people will need to go through multiple attempts before they can complete it. For this reason, having medical supervision is essential. With medical supervision, it’s much more likely that a patient will graduate from the detoxification program rather than relapsing back onto hydrocodone or another substance.
Detox is the most challenging phase of drug addiction treatment, but it’s not insurmountable. There are people who will help and who can assist in minimizing the discomfort that patients face.
What Is the First Step in Hydrocodone Detoxification?
The first step is to get the person stable physically. The detoxification program addresses symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, anxiety or depression, so that the individual feels more comfortable without the hydrocodone in their system.
After this, they may provide them with medications (like those mentioned above) to minimize drug cravings and to limit the risk of a relapse.
Should People Go to Rehabilitation Following Detoxification?
After going through detoxification, the next step is to move on to a comprehensive rehabilitation program. There are different options available to patients, such as:
- Partial hospitalization programs
- 24-hour residential treatment
- Inpatient treatment
- Outpatient treatment
- Intensive outpatient treatment
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Sober living
Each of these programs is designed to encourage sobriety and a drug-free lifestyle. If the patient is still struggling with medical issues, like chronic pain or depression, then those dual-diagnosis issues should also be addressed to minimize the need for opiates in the future.
Get Help with Hydrocodone Detoxification at Harmony Place
At Harmony Place, we know how hard it can be to deal with a substance use disorder. Addiction, dependency and substance use disorders can have a lasting impact on your life. That’s why we offer a number of services that may suit your needs, such as:
- Dual-diagnosis treatment
- Treatment for professionals
- Holistic therapy
- Clinical care
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Relapse prevention
Whether you need addiction help for yourself or a loved one, we are here to assist you. Our facility is a comfortable place to do the difficult work of getting sober and treating this condition. Our helpful staff members are here to guide you. Call today to set up an appointment or to learn more about treatment at 1(855) 652-9048.