Hydrocodone is a semisynthetic opioid derived from codeine. It is the most widely prescribed opioid in the U.S. (there were over 83 million prescriptions dispensed for it in 2016). Technically, it’s an antitussive — meaning it’s a cough medicine — but it’s used as a pain killer. Stronger than codeine and a little milder than morphine, hydrocodone is often combined with other medications, such as acetaminophen, to create powerful pain-relieving medications such as Vicodin.
However, just because hydrocodone is a prescription medication doesn’t mean it’s not addictive. In fact, hydrocodone is highly addictive. And once you’re addicted to it, hydrocodone withdrawal can be a difficult and dangerous process. Learn more below about hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms and addiction treatment.
Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms usually aren’t life-threatening, but they can be very uncomfortable.
Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms may include:
Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms range from mild to severe. They usually begin about 24 hours after last using the drug and peak within a few days. Withdrawal symptoms start to subside after about a week, but they can last about a month or longer.
Early symptoms of hydrocodone withdrawal may include:
As hydrocodone withdrawal continues, later symptoms may include:
While the physical hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms may subside, emotional symptoms and cravings may last longer than a month. This is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).
Symptoms of PAWS due to hydrocodone withdrawal may include:
Withdrawing from opioids can be hard and unpleasant. While you may want to try withdrawal on your own, it’s best to get professional medical support to help you detox rather than trying to quit opioids “cold turkey.”
Participating in a professional, medically-assisted detox program ensures that you are carefully monitored in a safe environment while your body goes through the difficult, and sometimes painful, detoxification process. During the detox process, your body is eliminating the physical need for the drug.
Your medical team will include doctors and nurses who can administer medications such as buprenorphine or naltrexone to help relieve the cravings. They will also make sure your body has enough vitamins, fluids, and electrolytes. Professional mental and emotional support will also be part of your therapy during this challenging time to help ensure a successful withdrawal from hydrocodone.
Hydrocodone addiction treatment includes different stages but following a full continuum of treatment is the most comprehensive approach. This provides you with the best chance of recovery. A full continuum of treatment begins with the highest and most intense level of care during the detox phase and then progresses through less intense levels of treatment. Stages of opioid addiction treatment include:
The goal during the first stage of opioid withdrawal treatment is medical stabilization. Depending on the severity of your addiction, this stage will last about three to seven days. Your medical team will include doctors, nurses, and support staff.
When you arrive, you will receive a complete medical assessment to determine your level of addiction and any additional medical needs you may have. The assessment will include a medical exam and urine or blood tests to screen for drugs. Depending on these results, you may also require additional testing such as: additional blood tests, including a CBC (complete blood count), chest X-ray, ECG (electrocardiogram), and testing for other diseases.
A detox plan will be created for you once the doctor has these test results. Then you will begin the detox process under the care of your medical team. Detoxing includes a combination of detox drugs, such as methadone, buprenorphine, clonidine, and naltrexone. During this time, you will be under 24/7 clinical supervision.
As you begin addiction therapy your treatment plan will also include emotional support because many people also experience anxiety, depression, and other emotional and psychological challenges as they detox.
After the detox phase of treatment, the next stage is to continue treatment in a residential facility or as an outpatient depending on the severity of your addiction. If you have a co-occurring medical or mental condition or addictions to other substances, you will most likely continue treatment as an inpatient.
A residential treatment stay allows you to focus solely on your psychological and emotional recovery. You’ll live full-time at the residential treatment center while undergoing a supportive, rigorous, and structured treatment program at least five days a week. Your goal will be to learn positive life skills, coping mechanisms, and techniques to help prevent relapse. These skills will help better prepare you for long-term recovery.
The goal of each stage of the full continuum of treatment is to help you slowly move back toward a healthy life outside the rehab facility. The intensive outpatient stage (IOP) allows you to either move back home or possibly into a “sober home.” This is a facility that provides a more structured lifestyle for those newly recovering from substance abuse. Your therapy sessions at this stage won’t be as frequent. However, you will still attend intensive therapy sessions and continue with medication management if needed. You will continue to be accountable for your recovery. This stage will also include periodic weekly drug testing.
The outpatient stage of opioid recovery usually lasts several months. This stage helps you regain responsibility for your life as you continue to adjust to being back at home. At this stage, you will have much more independence. You will typically only attend therapy sessions for about an hour each week. You will also be required to participate in random drug testing to help you stay on track with your recovery.
Once you complete the treatment program, you will have the opportunity to join other treatment center graduates during weekly support groups and social events. Meeting other program alumni during these opportunities can help you develop new friendships. This new-found social network can be a vital source of support for your long-term success.
If you’re ready to begin the hydrocodone withdrawal process, the staff at Ocean Breeze Recovery can provide the guidance and support you need to start your recovery. Contact our admissions specialists for free and confidential help. Our specialists can answer any questions you may have so that you know what to expect from our evidence-based services.
After speaking with a specialist, you will feel prepared to make an informed decision about your treatment plans. Our specialists can also check with your private health insurance to see if your treatment costs will be fully covered. Help is available. Call us today at 844-554-9279 and let us help you get started on your journey to recovery
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Drug Enforcement Administration. (2018, October) Hydrocodone. Retrieved from https://www.dea.gov/galleries/drug-images/hydrocodone
U.S. National Library of Science. (2019, October 15) MedLine Plus. Hydrocodone. from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a614045.html
healthline. (2019, January 8) Understanding Hydrocodone Addiction. Godman, Heidi Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/opiate-withdrawal
Psychology Today. (2015, May 26) Detoxing After Detox: The Perils of Post-Acute Withdrawal. Mager, D. MSW Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/some-assembly-required/201505/detoxing-after-detox-the-perils-post-acute-withdrawal
Mayo Clinic. (2020, February 4)Tapering off opioids: When and how. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prescription-drug-abuse/in-depth/tapering-off-opioids-when-and-how/art-20386036
American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2015, May 13) ASAM Continuum. What are the ASAM Levels of Care? Retrieved from https://www.asamcontinuum.org/knowledgebase/what-are-the-asam-levels-of-care/
Case-Lo, Christine (2017, July 26) Withdrawing from Opiates and Opioids. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/opiate-withdrawal