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How to Stop Hydrocodone: Quitting Cold Turkey or Weaning Off?

stopping hydrocodone

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Hydrocodone is an addictive opioid analgesic and is a common drug of abuse. People who use prescription opioid for a long duration or at high doses are likely to get addicted to the drug, therefore, necessitating discontinuation. Stopping the medicine requires a careful reduction in the dosage and frequency of use, if it is stopped abruptly, it may cause severe complications. A prescribing physician would direct users on how to wean off hydrocodone.

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Table of Contents

Why Should One Stop Taking Hydrocodone?

Signs that a user needs to quit hydrocodone include developing serious side effects, such as reduced relief of pain from the same dose of opioid painkillers, and development of behavioral disorders.

Extended use, overuse, and illicit use of these drugs are associated with a lot of severe reactions including behavioral disorders, psychosis, depressed respiration, convulsions, loss of consciousness, and death.

More than 40% of all opioid overdose deaths in the United States in 2016 involved a prescription opioid, with more than 46 deaths occurring daily from overdoses involving prescription opioids. These hydrocodone overdose signs are a red flag suggesting that one needs to quit the medicine.
A large proportion of opioid-related deaths are related to non-prescription hydrocodone high dose. In these cases, many patients acquire these drugs from their family and friends. In addition, some hydrocodone brands contain acetaminophen, also a painkiller, which can cause significant liver damage if used for a long period of time. However, hydrocodone without acetaminophen also causes deleterious effects necessitating hydrocodone taper. It is, however, pertinent to know how to stop taking hydrocodone without side effects.

Dangers of Quitting Cold Turkey

People who use opioids often inquire about the consequences of quitting hydrocodone cold turkey. When an individual who misuses or abuses the drug becomes addicted to it, the body becomes adjusted to it in the system. While getting off hydrocodone, it is essential to achieve this slowly, so the body can re-adjust gradually to an opioid-free system. Some of the users even try to recreate the feeling of euphoria with homemade hydrocodone which can have unpredictable consequences.
Users who abruptly quit hydrocodone develop withdrawal symptoms, which result from the body’s adaptation to the medicine in the system. Some of the side effects of stopping hydrocodone include:

  • Flu-like symptoms: Sweating, headache, high body temperature, runny nose, and headaches. woman with high temperature feeling dizzy after stopping the drugs abruptly
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms: These include nausea, vomiting, uncontrollable drooling, diarrhea, and persistent constipation.
  • Cramps, convulsions, and muscle spasms.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Rapid heart rate and blood pressure changes.
  • Muscle pain and general body pains.
  • Physiological symptoms, such as depression and anxiety.
  • Drowsiness, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping.

These symptoms typically begin within 6 to 24 hours of the last dose of an opioid painkiller and usually last a few days to a few weeks, depending on certain factors such as the age of the user, the frequency of use, duration of use, and the dosage used. These signs indicate that the body has become used to the opioid in the system and needs to learn how to stop taking hydrocodone.

Benefits of Tapering Off Hydrocodone Gradually

Stopping hydrocodone may be difficult, but it is possible. The slow tapering off the drug is the better way of stopping hydrocodone without side effects. Tapers are better for the following reasons:

  • Tapers are better because it gives the body time to readjust to a reduced amount of the opioid, then to the absence of the drug in the system.
  • A tapering off hydrocodone schedule prevents withdrawals because the body slowly adjusts to the reduced amounts of the medicine in the system.
  • It reduces the risk of drug cravings.
  • Physicians recommend medically supervised hydrocodone taper schedule instead of home tapers so that a user’s vital signs and treatment progress can be properly monitored.
  • The prescribing physician will also prescribe other medications or recommend certain tips to reduce cravings for the medicine and to cope with the side effects of opioid withdrawal associated with quitting hydrocodone.
Individuals who take this analgesic for medical or non-medical purposes should consult their physicians to learn how to taper off hydrocodone. The physician will create an effective hydrocodone tapering schedule as per the individual’s medical profile.

How to Taper Off Hydrocodone

People who use it should ensure to visit their physicians to determine the best way to taper off hydrocodone. They should avoid creating a plan by themselves.
Each individual will have a taper off hydrocodone schedule that is personalized and based on the following factors:

  • The duration of use of the drug
  • Dosage used
  • Body size
  • Age
  • Sex

These factors determine how long hydrocodone stays in system, and are crucial in creating a plan tapering off the drug. The following are steps involved in weaning off it.

  • Physicians recommend a 25-percent dose reduction every other day for persons who have been using the medicine for a short period of time and a 10-percent weekly reduction for long-term users.
  • This is usually done by reducing the dose of the medicine taken weekly or daily, and reducing it further after a few days. For example. If a user takes medicine 3 times per day, getting off of hydrocodone will involve reducing to 2 times per day for the next one week, then reducing to 1 daily afterward.
  • Once the minimum dose is tolerated by the body, the individual can consider getting off hydrocodone completely.
  • This also applies to users who inquire about how to wean off hydrocodone after surgery.
  • During a hydrocodone taper, physicians will ensure the individual’s blood pressure, pulse, and temperature are closely monitored to forestall any side effects of hydrocodone withdrawal or other complications.
  • During the process of coming off hydrocodone, doctors prescribe other non-opioid painkillers and recommend lifestyle modifications to help control the pain.

Possible Weaning Off Side Effects

People who are addicted to this medicine may develop certain side effects while weaning off of it. Some of these coming off hydrocodone side effects include:

  • Intense opioid craving man clenching at the wall craving for drugs
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety and shakiness
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Tremors
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting

How to Cope with Hydrocodone Stopping Side Effects

People who are weaning off hydrocodone should inform their physicians if they develop any of these symptoms. However, there are a few ways one can cope with these symptoms:

  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Drink lots of water to avoid dehydration which may result from vomiting, diarrhea, and increased sweating.
  • Make use of the moderate exercises such as brisk walking.
  • Perform deep-breathing exercises
  • Practice relaxation techniques including yoga, listening to music or reading.
  • Positive self-talk

When Detoxification is Necessary

If one develops these symptoms while tapering off hydrocodone, it implies that one may have developed an addiction to the medicine, and professional help is needed in these situations. It is essential to visit these professionals trained in the treatment of drug and alcohol addictions, to help one detoxify and eliminate the medicine and its effects from the system completely.

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Medically Reviewed By Michael Espelin APRN
Olivier George

About Author

Olivier George, Ph.D.

Olivier George is a medical writer and head manager of the rehab center in California. He spends a lot of time in collecting and analyzing the traditional approaches for substance abuse treatment and assessing their efficiency.


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