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What are the Side Effects of Vicodin? Withdrawals and Vicodin Detox

Vicodin is a prescription medication given to patients experiencing moderate to severe pain. For millions of people, Vicodin represents an effective way of dealing with chronic pain. However, it is prone to produce dependence and often requires higher and higher doses for continued effectiveness. Because of the growing tolerance rate with Vicodin, the risk for opioid addiction is high in anyone using the drug for more than 2 weeks.

It is estimated that over two million people in the United States abuse prescription pain relievers each year. Because of it is a powerful pain reliever, Vicodin is one of the most popular medications prescribed in the United States, and — unfortunately — one of the most abused. 

How Vicodin Tolerance Develops 

The brain and body begin to not only tolerate Vicodin, but once dependence has set in, the body begins to need it to function normally. The first sign of Vicodin tolerance is the need to take higher dosages to receive the same effect. The desired effect could be either to numb pain, or to get the euphoric feelings that the drug can give. A person who is starting to become addicted to Vicodin and opioids might easily recognize the increased tolerance, but usually doesn’t have any idea an addiction is setting in until they attempt to quit taking the pills.

Once addiction has set in, it can be difficult to stop, even in its early stages. When you recognize that you cannot quit Vicodin, and start taking it to avoid negative feelings and withdrawals, the addiction is in place. At this point it is imperative to seek Vicodin addiction rehab help, before the addiction strengthens.

What Is Vicodin? 

Vicodin is a combination drug made up of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. It is regularly given for pain due to injuries, dental pain, and post surgical pain. Most Vicodin prescriptions are written for short term use, in cases where the pain is expected to be temporary. These temporary prescriptions are often where many addictions develop, either by the individual abusing their prescription, taking more than the reccomended dosage, and/or seeking more vicodin or opioid based medications after their prescription has run out.

What Schedule Drug is Vicodin and Hydrocodone?

Vicodin is a Schedule II narcotic medication. In an effort to curb abuse, it was classified as a Schedule II controlled substance in 2014. This classification means that penalties for possession and distribution of Vicodin without a prescription are significantly tougher than drugs in higher numbered classes. Due to the scheduling of the drug, combined with prescription drug monitoring programs, doctors are limited in how they can prescribe Vicodin and in their ability to prescribe refills of the prescription. These limits vary by state.

Vicodin’s main intended effect is to lower the perception of pain by blocking pain signals to the brain through various chemical receptors. While the main use for Vicodin is to treat pain, it can also suppress coughing and produce feelings of calm and euphoria. Vicodin is a depressant, which means it tends to inhibit arousal or stimulation in the brain. Like all medications, Vicodin also has unintended side effects that may be present when used.

Vicodin Side Effects:

  • Confusion
  • Slowed breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Marked drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Constipation 
  • Unconsciousness

The effects, both intended and unintended, may be greatly heightened when Vicodin is combined with other drugs or alcohol. Because alcohol is also a depressant, taking it with Vicodin, greatly increases the risk of overdose through suppressed breathing function. When this happens, users may experience a loss of consciousness or even stop breathing altogether.

Long-term side effects of Vicodin use may include a heightened sensitivity to pain, mood changes including increased irritability, heightened anxiety, difficulties with memory, and frequent sedation. These are in addition to the dependence it builds in the body and the tolerance which demands increased usage.

Vicodin And Opioid Addiction 

The main ingredient of Vicodin, hydrocodone, is an opioid. Opioids bind to receptors in the brain, causing them to release dopamine. Dopamine, in turn, spurs feelings of euphoria and pleasure – they make people feel good. When the opioid releases from the receptors, the dopamine levels begin to drop quickly, and the body may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms within only a few hours.

Vicodin and other prescription opioids and painkillers require a prescription to obtain them, however overprescription and their wide availability on the streets has led to an unprecedented amount of people who have become addicted to vicodin. In 2010, there were an estimated 210 million prescriptions filled for opioids in the United States. 

Perhaps more alarming is that opioid addicts are much more likely to use heroin, if an adequate source of Vicodin or other prescription opioids cannot be found. Heroin and Vicodin are both opioids, so the use of either will stave off opioid withdrawals in addicts.

When users build a tolerance to opioids, they often turn to mixing the drug with alcohol or other drugs to experience the high they were previously able to obtain with opioids alone. This creates an often deadly combination for users. Overdose deaths from opioids have tripled over the past few decades, reaching over 16,000 in 2010. Hospitalizations from opioid abuse rose to over 300,000 in 2008. While other drug use has declined in America, the problem of opioids has continued to increase.

Vicodin And Opioid Withdrawal Timeline

Vicodin detox results in withdrawal symptoms that can begin only a few hours after the last dose.

The Vicodin withdrawal timeline follows.

Vicodin Withdrawal: Six to twelve hours 

Early withdrawal symptoms begin, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Sweats
  • Fever
  • Insomnia
  • Yawning
  • Fast and irregular heartbeat
  • Muscle aches
  • Runny nose
  • Watering eyes

Vicodin Withdrawal: Three days 

Late withdrawal symptoms peak, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Craving for drugs
  • Painful stomach cramps

Vicodin Withdrawal: One Week And Beyond

Late withdrawal symptoms begin to subside. Psychological symptoms and craving for opioids may continue, however.

Post Acute Withdrawal and Prolonged Withdrawal from Vicodin

Acute withdrawal usually follows the 3 phases of intensity in the majority of users. However, just like with any other drug or alcohol, some users may find that withdrawal takes longer or shorter than the average Vicodin withdrawal timeline. For some, the acute withdrawal stage could last weeks or even several months — this is called prolonged or protracted withdrawal.

Post acute withdrawal happens when an person has been addicted to Vicodin for an extended amount of time. In these cases, the body has grown so accustomed to the chemical being present in the body, that the body takes longer to recover after detox.

The timelines for post acute withdrawal vary depending on the length of time using the drug, and the amounts of the drug that were used. However, the important thing to note is that the symptoms of PAWS (Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) will subside eventually. 

Vicodin Risk Of Liver Damage

Vicodin contains acetaminophen as well as the opioid pain reliever. Taking more than the accepted dosage or drinking alcohol with acetaminophen can cause liver damage. Long term use of the drug carries a greater risk of liver damage.

Symptoms of liver damage include nausea and vomiting over the first 12-24 hours, followed by a relief of symptoms over the next 12-24 hours. Yellowing of the skin (Jaundice) and underneath the tongue is a characteristic of severe liver damage. Surprisingly, liver pain is not a symptom of long term liver damage. Rather, if you have been abusing Vicodin or alcohol and have liver pains, this is a sign of inflammation around the area of the liver. Liver pain is a very good warning from your body that you risk liver damage if you keep ingesting a substance like opioids or alcohol.

Compassionate Help for Vicodin and Opioid Addiction

If you or a loved one has gotten trapped in a downward spiral of Vicodin dependence and addiction, there is help available. Harmony Place provides Vicodin addiction treatment that can bring you through the symptoms of opioid withdrawal safely and comfortably. Their treatment program is located in Los Angeles and places you in an environment to return to health and freedom from addiction.


Vicodin addiction can be serious and even toxic when a person takes too much of the drug. Harmony Place provides a supportive, welcoming environment in which to pursue treatment for addiction.

Call us at 855-652-9048 to find out how we can help support you or your loved one in seeking treatment.