What is Vicodin? Vicodin is a prescription drug owned by the pharmaceutical company AbbVie. This medication is a combination of two drugs. The first is the opioid hydrocodone. And the second is the over-the-counter pain reliever acetaminophen, commonly known as Tylenol.1
Whether a person is taking Vicodin as prescribed or abusing Vicodin, they will have Vicodin withdrawal symptoms. But the timeline for Vicodin withdrawal varies.
Vicodin Use & Abuse
Medical professionals may prescribe Vicodin for patients who experience pain after surgery. Patients typically take one to two every four hours, as directed. But all medications that contain opioids can be addictive. The same is true even when people are trying to take it responsibly for pain.
To make matters worse, when people take it for an extended period, they will build up a tolerance. As a result, they feel the need for more pills to experience the same relief.
Because they are taking more than is prescribed, they may run out before they can refill. When this happens, many people begin to supplement their prescription with street-obtained Vicodin. Or they take from someone who has a legal prescription. This is not uncommon.
18 million people in the US have abused prescribed medications in the past year. The majority of these abused drugs are opioids.2
As the dependence progresses, a person may feel compelled to try other opioids or opiates if Vicodin is not available. These may even include heroin, even though this person would never have otherwise considered using it. At this point, the compulsion is overruling the person’s better judgment.
Dangers of Vicodin Abuse
With Vicodin, the opioid isn’t the only thing to worry about. Vicodin has acetaminophen in it, so it can cause liver damage. The liver is the organ that processes drugs. But it also breaks down nutrients so the body can use them. Liver damage can be detrimental to your overall health.
For an adult who weighs 150 pounds, 4000mg of acetaminophen is the daily limit for occasional use. That’s the same as 8 extra-strength Tylenol pills. Those who use acetaminophen regularly should not exceed 3000mg a day.3 Just 10 Vicodin pills taken in one day would exceed this limit. For those who have built up a tolerance, that number is not out of the question.
Using other painkillers, certain cold medicines, or alcohol with Vicodin can increase liver damage risk. This means overdosing on Vicodin is easier than it may seem.
Common Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms
When someone uses an opioid, even as prescribed, the brain and body can become dependant on it. When the brain no longer has the opioid, it becomes disoriented. It must adjust to not having that substance. This is what causes Vicodin withdrawal symptoms.
Psychological Symptoms of Vicodin Withdrawal
Vicodin withdrawal can be especially psychological. One of the way opioids manages pain is by activating the limbic system in your brain. This system manages emotions. That’s why taking a Vicodin can cause feelings of pleasure, relaxation, and contentment. When a person stops taking Vicodin, they experience the effects of no longer having a chemical causing these feelings.4
Common psychological symptoms of Vicodin withdrawal:
- Mood swings
Physical Symptoms of Vicodin Withdrawal
Opioids like Vicodin also interact with the brain stem. The brain stem controls automatic body functions like breathing, coughing, and body temperature. For this reason, Vicodin withdrawal is also very physical.
Physical Vicodin withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Intense craving for Vicodin
- Appetite changes
- Enlarged pupils
- Nausea and Diarrhea
- Insomnia and restlessness
- Runny nose and stopped up nose
- Fever and chills
Vicodin Withdrawal Timeline: Everyone’s Different
The average timeline for Vicodin withdrawal is 7 to 10 days. Many people will notice some lesser symptoms after that but will be well-past the worst of it by day 10. Cravings are both physical and psychological, so they can appear years down the road to recovery. It’s critical that those in recovery develop a plan for these cravings. You can learn skills to manage these cravings and the emotions surrounding them in addiction treatment.
It only takes about 8 hours for Vicodin to leave the body. That’s when withdrawal symptoms start. But like so many things in life, every person is unique and responds a little differently to ending Vicodin use. Some factors can determine if someone will be at the low or high end of that timeline.
Because a person needs to take more to feel the same effects, the Vicodin dose a person takes will keep going up. Those who are taking more pills at higher doses will typically take longer to complete a withdrawal.
Vicodin Use, Abuse, or Addiction
Use, Abuse, Addiction–these are three distinct stages.
- Vicodin Use – Someone is using a substance as directed by their medical provider. Or they take it occasionally and responsibly. They may or may not have a prescription. People can just “use” a drug. But it’s rare that they remain in this state.
- Vicodin Abuse – A person begins to take more than the recommended dosage or use the drug in less responsible ways. They are not yet fully dependant on the drug and may be able to stop with some support.
- Vicodin Addiction – A person who is addicted no longer has good control over their drug use. They may suffer in finances, relationships, health, and happiness, but they cannot bring themselves to quit on their own. This is because the Vicodin has changed the way the brain thinks and responds. Addiction hijacks the brain’s ability to reason or act in its own best interest.
Vicodin withdrawal symptoms will be more intense and long-lasting when someone is addicted.
Length of Use
Length of use can correspond to the level of addiction. But it doesn’t always. If a person has been “using” but not “abusing” for a longer period of time, they may find their withdrawal more intense and long-lasting.
Vicodin Detox Methods
The way a person chooses to quit also impacts the length and severity of withdrawal.
- Cold Turkey – Going cold turkey will bring all of the withdrawal symptoms down on a person at once. During a cold turkey detox, the craving is strong and can easily overcome someone’s willpower if they can access Vicodin or another opioid. Not only does this person want to use it because of the cravings. They know that using will end the suffering, so it takes incredible mental fortitude not to use for those 7 to 10 days.
- Medical Detox – Medical detox is performed in a center under the 24/7 supervision of medical professionals and trained care staff. In this setting, the person doesn’t have the potential to give in to their cravings. Professionals can ensure a more comfortable and safe withdrawal. They can provide psychological care, compassion, and medication to ease withdrawal symptoms.
- Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) – MAT is a type of medical detox. It involves taking a prescribed “substitute” for Vicodin in a controlled setting for a time. Because MAT uses a step-down approach (lowering the dose over time) people experience fewer if any withdrawal symptoms.
How to Treat Vicodin Addiction
Medication-Assisted Treatment for Vicodin
Because Medication-Assisted Treatment takes place over a period, the brain has time to adjust to living without Vicodin. But the goal of MAT is generally to get a person to such a low dose that they no longer need it.
For this reason, a person receiving a medication substitute must learn addiction management skills. This includes working through any physical, mental, or emotional barriers. MAT should, therefore, always be a combination of medication and behavioral therapy to sustain recovery.
MAT facilities typically use two medications for their program:
- Suboxone (buprenorphine) OR
These medications interact with the same parts of the brain that Vicodin and other opioids do–but only in a partial way. They make the brain think it’s still getting Vicodin. So the withdrawal does not start. Both of these medications are opioid-based. They can also be addictive, so they are administered in a controlled setting.
Naloxone, known by the brand name Narcan, is another medication-assisted treatment. Naxalone blocks the ability of receptors in the brain to latch onto opioids. This reduces its effects. The FDA has also approved a combination of Naloxone and Suboxone for the treatment of opioid addiction.5
Naloxone is also used to treat opioid overdose. Since it blocks the brain’s receptors from latching onto opioids, it can reduce their effects.
Warning: Taking any kind of opioid while in a MAT program could turn deadly. Naloxone and Vicodin are a hazardous combination. Because the Naloxone blocks some of the opioids, someone might take more Vicodin, leading to an acetaminophen overdose.
Behavioral Therapies & Counseling
To experience lasting recovery from Vicodin addiction, one must address factors complicating recovery. These include things like emotions, circumstances, relationships, and behaviors. Behavioral therapies and counseling help people:
- Identify harmful behaviors
- Replace those behaviors with more constructive ones
- Explore who they are and who they want to be
- Identify triggers
- Manage cravings
- Manage tough emotions without substances
- Repair relationships that matter to them
- Eliminate toxic relationships
- Learn to live a more fulfilling life without substances
- Set goals and achieve them
Behavioral therapies and counseling are the evidence-based sides of Vicodin addiction treatment. It’s critical that addiction treatment be individualized and the results verified. Why people use, when they use, and how they use are all unique to a person. They must be addressed on the individual level.
Common behavioral therapies include methods like:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavioral therapy
- Psychodrama Psychotherapy
- Psychodynamic Psychotherapy
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Narrative Therapy
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)
- Couples Counseling
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
Holistic Treatment for Addiction
Increasingly, holistic addiction treatment has become the gold standard in treatment programs. Also called integrative treatment, it recognizes the connections among body, mind, spirit. To heal one, all aspects need to be addressed. So holistic treatment employs treatments that address the whole person
A holistic program should include evidence-based treatments plus integrative health like:
- Mindfulness and Meditation
- Energy work
- Chiropractic care
These types of treatments help get to the root causes of addiction. They support the body and mind’s natural ability to be healthy. When people are healthy mentally and physically, they can respond more effectively to life’s stresses and events. People learn more about who they are and why life is worth living without substances through these holistic addiction treatment methods.
Continuum of Care
Vicodin addiction treatment is a journey along the recovery path. As such, levels of care exist for each step of that journey.
- Detox – The period of time it takes for the worst of Vicodin symptoms to stop (usually 7-10 days)
- Residential Treatment – 24/7 care in a comfortable, safe home-like setting where a person can attend therapies and focus on healing
- Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) – A person attends treatment at least five days a week for full days while living in a transitional living facility or their residence if they have strong support from family or friends.
- Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) – A step-down from PHP with at least three days a week for three or more hours in treatment. This person may live in a transitional living home or their home but is capable of living more independently. Family support is still important.
- Outpatient Treatment – A person may attend one or more therapy sessions a week.
- Aftercare and Alumni Programs – A person who completed their program continues to stay connected, attend events, and meet with their therapist once a week or less. They continue to develop new goals and stay committed to sustaining their recovery.
- Dual Diagnosis Treatment – A person who is suffering from addiction may also have another mental health disorder. Treating these together is key to lasting recovery.
Integrative Vicodin Addiction Treatment
At Harmony Place, we take an integrative treatment approach to treatment. We recognize that those struggling with addiction are “whole people” who need to heal “wholey”. We work with each individual to address the root causes of addiction so that you can heal body, mind, emotion, and spirit. Your addiction treatment plan may include a combination of MAT, evidence-based treatments, and integrative therapies.
Are you looking for a safer and more caring way to manage Vicodin withdrawal symptoms? Harmony Place is a comfortable place to do the difficult work of recovering. Give us a call 24/7 at 1 (855) 652-9048.
1AbbVie Pharmaceuticals. Hydrocodone Bitartrate and Acetaminophen Tablets, USP: Vicodin
2National Institute on Drug Abuse (2020). What is the scope of prescription drug misuse?
3Harvard Health (2020). Acetaminophen safety
4National Institute on Drug Abuse (2014). Opioid Infographic
5Food and Drug Administration (2019). Information about Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)