Vicodin Withdrawal

Vicodin withdrawal is a typical, expected result of a sudden drop in Vicodin levels in an opioid dependent person. Vicodin withdrawal appears as a set of uncomfortable physical symptoms. These flu-like symptoms can last five days or longer. You can experience psychological symptoms as well; the psychological symptoms can go on longer, especially if you try to overcome Vicodin withdrawal on your own.

Anyone can become physically dependent on Vicodin or other opioids, and suffer withdrawal symptoms upon sudden cessation. Physical dependence and Vicodin withdrawal symptoms are not necessarily an indication that someone has been using Vicodin illegally.

You can be physically dependent on Vicodin, addicted to it, or both. Physical dependence is characterized by flu-like withdrawal symptoms upon sudden cessation, whereas addiction is characterized by craving and drug-seeking behaviors.


Your system reacts to the substances you take, such as Vicodin, by adjusting its own chemistry to maintain a safe chemical balance. When you take certain substances for a long time, your body starts to depend on you to consume that substance; if you miss a dose or take an inadequate dose, your body struggles to maintain chemical balance. You feel this struggle for stability through Vicodin withdrawal symptoms.

Doctors call this process detoxification. The detoxification process causes Vicodin withdrawal symptoms.

Some drugs, such as naloxone, bring down opioid levels quickly. Emergency room physicians administer naloxone to patients who have taken too much Vicodin.

Taking Vicodin for a long time may cause your body to become increasingly tolerant to the drug's effects. When you become tolerant, you must take an ever-increasing amount of Vicodin to soothe your pain or get you high. The rate at which someone becomes tolerant varies between individuals, and often depends on the dose or frequency at which the person takes Vicodin.

Without help, your Vicodin withdrawal symptoms will disappear after a few days. You can reduce withdrawal symptoms by taking an assortment of anti-withdrawal drugs or by using a drug that mimics the effects of Vicodin, such as methadone. Taking more Vicodin also stops withdrawal symptoms.

It may help to wean your body from Vicodin by taking smaller doses increasingly further apart. If your withdrawal symptoms prevent you from quitting Vicodin, talk to your doctor or seek help from a qualified rehabilitation clinic. Physicians are aware of the potential for physical dependence when prescribing Vicodin for long-term use.

Facts about Vicodin

Vicodin contains two pain relievers. Hydrocodone is a powerful opioid painkiller. Acetaminophen is a less potent analgesic. Together, these two medications ease pain better than either could alone.

Physicians prescribe Vicodin to patients suffering from moderate to severe pain. Vicodin also soothes a nagging cough. In addition to relieving mild pain, acetaminophen brings down a high fever.

Drug makers obtain opioids such as the hydrocodone in Vicodin from the poppy plant. Hydrocodone works directly on your central nervous system, or CNS, to change the way you perceive pain. The pain-relieving action of Vicodin is similar to morphine.

Doctors write more prescriptions for hydrocodone than for any other type of drug. Pharmacists gave out more than 139 million prescriptions for drugs with hydrocodone in 2010. In the American market, more than 200 products with hydrocodone fill the shelves.

You can only get hydrocodone with a doctor's prescription. Federal law requires hydrocodone be combined with another analgesic; Vicodin contains acetaminophen to satisfy this requirement.

Some people like to use Vicodin to get high because of the way this drug produces a relaxing, euphoric feeling. Getting high on Vicodin for a long time increases your risk for become physically dependent on it, eventually suffering Vicodin withdrawal.

In 2010, one American in 20 used a prescription opioid to get high or to treat a condition for which it was not prescribed. Doctors refer to this as non-medical use of a drug. Non-medical opioid use increases your risk for physical dependence and subsequent Vicodin withdrawal.

More Americans are abusing prescription drugs than ever before. In fact, more people in the United States are now addicted to prescription drugs like Vicodin than to heroin. In 2010, an estimated 1.9 million Americans were addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers but only 329,000 heroin addicts.

Substance abuse specialists associate the hydrocodone in Vicodin with more drug abuse than any other drug. The Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, ranks drugs by their relative potential for abuse. Vicodin contains less than 15 mg of hydrocodone, so the DEA categorizes it as a Schedule III narcotic. According to the DEA, Vicodin carries a relatively moderate potential for abuse.

Symptoms of Vicodin Withdrawal

The detoxification process causes you to feel physical and psychological symptoms of Vicodin withdrawal. Without the help of specially-trained professionals, these physical and psychological symptoms increase your risk for relapse.


The physical symptoms of Vicodin withdrawal are similar to the flu, but withdrawal lasts much longer than the typical flu bug. While physical withdrawal symptoms are not usually life threatening, severe withdrawal symptoms cause many individuals to relapse to Vicodin abuse.
Physical symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Goose Bumps
  • Weird feelings in the skin
  • Hot sweats along with cold sweats
  • Inability to sleep
  • Lack of energy
  • Sore muscles
  • Feeling sick to the stomach
  • Throwing up
  • Pain
  • Fast pulse
  • Stiff muscles
  • Shivering
  • Shaking
  • Watery eyes
  • Yawns a lot


The psychological aspects of Vicodin withdrawal are demoralizing, making you feel unfit or incapable of recovery.
Psychological symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Feelings of agitation
  • Anxiousness
  • Depression
  • Seeing things that are not there
  • Being irritable
  • Being unable to focus mentally
  • Feeling restless
  • Isolation from friends and family

Possible Complications

Complications of Vicodin withdrawal can be dangerous. One complication, aspiration, involves throwing up and then inhaling the vomit. Aspiration might cause fluid in your lungs or infection in your lungs.

Excessive vomiting or diarrhea may cause dehydration. Without medicine to stop vomiting and diarrhea plus intravenous fluids, dehydration may result in electrolyte imbalances and other dangerous conditions.

The most common Vicodin withdrawal complication is relapse to drug abuse. Substance abuse problems typically involves cycles of remission and relapse.

Someone who has recently attempted recovery and relapses stands a greater chance of toxic overdose. Any amount of detoxification reduces your body's tolerance to Vicodin. You can potentially overdose on a much smaller dose of Vicodin that you used to take before experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Treatment options

You are not alone - more than 23 million Americans needed treatment for substance abuse problems in 2010. Fortunately, treatment for substance abuse is becoming more widely available and some ingenious medical specialists are introducing new, more effective treatment options every day.

You can engage in inpatient or outpatient therapy, once a month or in a long-term residential setting. Treatment facilities help you endure Vicodin withdrawal and change the behaviors that trapped in the cycle of substance abuse.

Treatment consists of detoxification and rehabilitation. Detoxification focuses on Vicodin withdrawal, while rehabilitation teaches you how to live without Vicodin. Effective rehabilitation helps you break the cycle of remission and relapse, reducing the number of times you have to endure Vicodin withdrawal.

Self Detoxification

Self-detoxification, or "going cold turkey," describes your attempt to overcome Vicodin addiction by yourself, without the help of medical professionals. Cold turkey refers to your skin's poultry-like appearance during self-detoxification: pale, cold, clammy with goose bumps.

Self-detoxification affords no protection against uncomfortable Vicodin withdrawal symptoms or complications. Without such protection, relapse rates are high.

The Thomas Recipe

Some people use medicine to reduce withdrawal symptoms during self-detoxification. One homemade treatment plan is The Thomas Recipe, which includes valium or another drug that relaxes you and helps you sleep. Vitamins and minerals soothe muscle aches, while Imodium addresses diarrhea. L-Tyrosine with B6 boosts energy levels, helping you overcome malaise.

The Thomas Recipe eases Vicodin withdrawal symptoms but it does not protect you from complications or relapse. Without professional guidance, your relapse to substance abuse may lead to toxic overdose.


Vicodin overdose is a medical emergency that could result in stopped breathing, circulatory collapse, heart attack or death. Go to the hospital right away. If you cannot get yourself to the hospital, call for an ambulance or contact poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

You can overdose on either active ingredient in Vicodin, hydrocodone or acetaminophen. Each of these substances presents different overdose symptoms.

Hydrocodone overdose symptoms:

  • Respiratory depression
  • Extreme sleeping that progresses into stupor or coma
  • Limp muscles
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Sometimes slow heartbeat and low blood pressure

Acetaminophen overdose frequently occurs after a patient takes two or more products that contain acetaminophen. Acetaminophen overdose may cause a serious liver problem known as hepatic necrosis. Symptoms of an overdose affecting the liver include nausea, vomiting, excessive sweating and general malaise. Evidence of hepatic toxicity may not appear on lab tests or upon examination for 48 to 72 hours after the dose of Vicodin.

Acetaminophen overdose may also cause kidney problems, coma and blood clotting problems.

An overdose of Vicodin can kill you -nearly 15,000 people in the United States died from prescription drug overdoses in 2008 killed. About 500,000 people go to the emergency room each year to get help with problems caused by prescription painkillers.

To help overdose patients, doctors and nurses administer naloxone to decrease Vicodin levels. Nurses then monitor the patient's condition, watching for complications. They may also establish an airway to help him breath, pump his stomach to remove excess Vicodin or perform CPR to save his life.

Drug Replacement Therapy

Drug replacement therapy, uses medications that mimic the effects of Vicodin, so you do not feel withdrawal symptoms when you stop using opioids. DRT medications do not cause euphoria, so you do not get high. Methadone, Suboxone and buprenorphine are types of DRT medications.

DRT allows you to temporarily put off the detoxification process and dive right into rehabilitation. Once you participate in some measure of behavior modification, you wean yourself from the DRT drug.

Standard Detoxification

Doctors perform the most common detoxification procedure in a hospital. Standard detoxification usually entails admission to an inpatient facility, where doctors administer naloxone to decrease Vicodin levels plus other medications to ease the subsequent withdrawal symptoms.

Rapid Detox

Rapid detox offers patients an efficient and humane alternative to detoxification. During rapid detox, board-certified anesthesiologists give you the standard detoxification and anti-withdrawal drugs, but also administer anesthesia and sedatives so that you doze in a comfortable "twilight sleep" during the detoxification process. When you awaken, you will not remember the unpleasant symptoms associated with standard detoxification, putting you in a better frame of mind for the rehabilitation process.


The detoxification process is only the first step of treatment for your substance abuse; treatment for your withdrawal symptoms does not change the behaviors associated with long-term drug use.

Substance abuse is a complex condition that requires long-term, professional treatment including behavior modification along with individual, family and group counseling. Every person experiences substance abuse and Vicodin withdrawal differently, so no single treatment is right for everyone.

Rehabilitation should be readily available so that it is convenient and affordable. It is important that you stay in rehabilitation long enough to learn how to live without Vicodin and reduce your risk for relapse.

Your treatment plan should tend to your multiple needs, not just your Vicodin withdrawal. Many people struggling with substance abuse have coexisting mental illness or social needs that could benefit from medical treatment or counseling.

While in treatment, your counselor will monitor your progress and modify your treatment plan accordingly to be sure it fits your changing needs. Your counselor may require drug testing, as relapses to substance abuse are common.

Your counselor will also asses you for infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and tuberculosis. She may also provide education to reduce your risk for contracting or spreading these diseases.