Hydrocodone Withdrawal: What You Should not Miss

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Symptoms of Hydrocodone Withdrawal

Hydrocodone may sound foreign but it is actually the main active ingredient in a couple of very popular prescription painkillers. The most popular of these being Vicodin. Saying it’s popular is an understatement, considering hydrocodone is the most commonly prescribed drug in America. That’s not to say it is the safest. In 2013 the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) moved it to the Schedule II group of drugs after the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) released a study showing the drug’s potential for abuse.

Hydrocodone: What is it?

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid, synthesized from codeine, found in the opium poppy. To give you an idea of the strength and class of this substance, other drugs derived from the same plant include heroin. It is prescribed orally to help with moderate to severe pain, as well as in liquid form as an antitussive or cough suppressant. Like other opiates, Hydrocodone acts on the opioid receptors in the brain to slow your brain’s response to pain. It has been compared to OxyContin in its strength and effectiveness in fighting pain. Its effects can be felt in about 10-30 minutes and last anywhere from 4-6 hours. Therefore, it is recommended to take every 4-6 hours. Long-term use is habit-forming as it develops a tolerance and when abused one experiences a “high.” When stopped, a set of symptoms occurs that cause health issues. These signs are called withdrawal symptoms.

Popularity in America

The use of prescription pain medication is widespread throughout America.  It is used to control chronic and severe pain, but in addition to that, it also produces happy and euphoric feelings. In America throughout 2013, 207 million people received prescriptions for opioid painkillers, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). That means that Americans consume almost 100% of the world’s hydrocodone.

What are Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms


Hydrocodone’s effect on the dopamine levels of the brain is the reason why the drug is so often abused. When taken for a long period of time, the same levels of hydrocodone may no longer produce the same effect in the brain. This happens because your body develops a tolerance to it. Meaning that you need a higher dose of the drug to get the effects which were once given by a smaller dose. So someone taking their prescribed dosage may suddenly find themselves not feeling that euphoria they originally did when taking the drug. This opens the door for abuse and overdose, because in pursuit of that feeling people may start taking higher and higher doses of hydrocodone, eventually forming an addiction. This is dangerous because by the time the user decides to stop, their bodies have become dependant on oxycodone and without it, withdrawal symptoms may start showing up.

This is a real problem, with as many as 2 million Americans dealing with opioid abuse or prescription drug dependency, they all at some point may experience the unpleasant effects of hydrocodone withdrawal.

Effect Of the Drug On The Body

Opiate drugs such as hydrocodone, attach to opiate receptors which are found in your brain as well as along your central nervous system. Once they’re there, their job is to be a central nervous system depressant, which basically slows everything down. This includes your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and your breathing rate. With continued use of hydrocodone, your body becomes accustomed to its presence and effect on its system. It considers that level of functioning as normal. But when you suddenly take away oxycodone from the body, all of those systems begin to work in overdrive to return to cope and eventually recover. All of those functions we mentioned before, heart rate, breathing, body temperature and blood pressure may all spike dramatically as they speed up without the presence of the depressants. This is especially dangerous if you stop suddenly.

Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms

That is why quitting oxycodone suddenly is not recommended, and it is always a good idea to go through the withdrawal process with the help and support of a medical team.

Symptoms start showing within a few hours after stopping use. The severity and extent of these symptoms are variable depending upon the dosage taken, duration of the therapy and your genetics.

In general, the symptoms last for a few weeks to a month. Withdrawal from Hydrocodone can cause the following:

Early Symptoms

  • Cravings for the drug
  • Pain in the muscle and joints
  • Loss of sleep
  • Tremors
  • Stress
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Tiredness

Later Symptoms

  • Abdominal problems such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Low moods or mood swings
  • Goosebumps

Hydrocodone Withdrawal Timeline: How Long Does it Last?

The start of withdrawal symptoms can change depending on the form in which the drug was taken. For example, extended-release Hydrocodone remains in the body for a longer time meaning that the symptoms will take longer to become clear.

Under normal conditions, you will feel the Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms within 6 to 12 hours after your last use of the drug. The next 72 hours are vital as you will be going through the most unpleasant physical and mental experiences during this period. Within the next few days, most of the symptoms will have faded.

However, your mood and stress can trouble you for next few weeks or even a month.

You can look at the following Table for a quick view of the Hydrocodone Withdrawal Timeline.

Day 1Muscle pain, joint pain, nausea, vomiting, and sweatingModerateThis phase of Hydrocodone withdrawal mainly consists of physiological symptoms
Day 3-5Diarrhea, Vomiting, Excessive sweating, tremors and continued muscle achesHighYou peak at the most uncomfortable phase of the withdrawal. The strong urges to get back to the addiction can ruin all your efforts for a drug-free life
Day 6-7Most physiological symptoms should have subsided by now. Psychological symptoms such as craving, anxiety, and depression may persistModerateThis phase is more troublesome to the mind than the body.
More than 7Anxiety and mood problems may linger for the next few weeks or even a monthModerateThese symptoms do not cause much worry as long as you maintain your routine and treatment guidelines

Treatment for Hydrocodone Withdrawal: You need Medications and Support

With the right mix of drugs or a non-drug treatment plan and a strong will, you can overcome the blues. The answer for Hydrocodone withdrawal includes one or more of the following elements:

  1. Non-drug treatmentThis is an important part of the total therapy for any addiction, irrespective of its type, duration or the causative factor. While the medications for addiction act to lower the severity of the symptoms, a strong support provides you the fuel to continue the treatment. It also reduces your chances of getting back to the addiction. You can also take counseling sessions if you need them. According to a study, addiction therapies work best when helped by the support from your family members and friends. Lifestyle modifications such as rest, proper diet, and physical activities go a long way in helping you deal with the symptoms.
  2. Medical TreatmentIn addition to the non-drug ways, your doctor can also give some medications that lower cravings and manage other symptoms.

Some commonly used medications are:

  • Methadone: Also an opioid, Methadone is used both for the treatment of withdrawal symptoms as well as the therapy. It reduces the symptoms and is an important part of the detox program.
  • Naltrexone: It blocks the opioids from binding to their receptors and may also reverse some withdrawal symptoms. It is also used to treat alcohol dependence.
  • Buprenorphine: Like Methadone, it can be used to treat opioid withdrawal and as long-term maintenance therapy for the addiction. It also helps to reduce the time of the detox program.
  • Clonidine: This medication is used to treat high blood pressure, can assist in easing certain symptoms like stress, restlessness, sweating, and cramps.

To handle other symptoms like headaches, and body pains, you can take acetaminophen or aspirin. For diarrhea, Loperamide can help.

The hospital may be necessary if the symptoms are bad.

What Can You Expect from Hydrocodone Withdrawal Treatment

Hydrocodone Withdrawal

The treatments will lower the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms, may also help or at least manage them.

You have to remember that most drugs are for short-term use only. Many drugs used to treat withdrawal, may themselves cause addiction.

In the long run, a stable support system and counseling provide the best care. Freedom from addiction takes time and rushing for results will only worsen your situation.

Choosing a Hydrocodone Detox Center

If you or a loved one are indeed addicted, physically and mentally, on Oxycodone, a detox center is the safest place to go through withdrawal. These detox centers operate as either inpatient or outpatient, although inpatient treatment is preferred for any opiate detox. Your vital signs will be monitored constantly, in an attempt to keep you stabilized and comfortable. The average stay at a hydrocodone detox center lasts from 5-7 days. You will also have additional medication available to you to help mitigate and alleviate some of hardest withdrawal symptoms. This is the best option if you are looking to minimize the oxycodone withdrawal symptoms, and seek out medical guidance. Their whole goal is to ensure that you go through this process as comfortably and safely as possible. By use of medications as well as a referral to further drug abuse therapy the goal is to help prevent further drug cravings and set you on your way to full and lasting recovery.

The Bottom Line

Addiction is a chronic disorder that requires an effort from family, friends and concerned healthcare professionals. A combination of medications and a healthy support system often works wonders to help you live a drug-free life.

Addiction centers have a qualified team dedicated to providing you all kinds of necessary services to help you get back to normal life. The teams include well trained and skilled physicians, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists and other healthcare professionals. They all work together to design addiction treatment plans that take care of individual needs.

If you or anyone in your family is fighting against Hydrocodone addiction,find help from experts near you.

Hydrocodone Withdrawal: What You Should not Miss

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