Hydrocodone Withdrawal Length and Treatments
What is The Withdrawal Length of Hydrocodone?
Like most prescription narcotics, hydrocodone cessation can spark withdrawal symptoms, which may include:
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
- Mood swings
- Drug cravings
Symptoms last 5-7 days, in most cases. A medical detox program can shorten recovery times. Medications and therapy can soothe distress and reduce the risk of drug relapse.
Hydrocodone is one of the main active ingredients in several common prescription painkillers, probably the most notable being Vicodin.
Hydrocodone products are the most commonly prescribed drugs in America, according to Consumer Reports. Because of their high incidence for diversion and abuse, not to mention addiction potential, hydrocodone products were moved to the more tightly controlled Schedule II Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classification after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) completed a scientific review and requested the change in 2013.
Prescription narcotics are used to control chronic and high amounts of pain, although they also positively alter moods and can produce happy and euphoric feelings. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that opioid painkiller prescriptions reached 207 million in the United States in 2013, and America consumes practically 100 percent of the world’s hydrocodone.
Hydrocodone is an opiate drug that affects levels of dopamine in the brain. When an individual takes hydrocodone regularly for a length of time, the brain can become tolerant to the amounts taken, and in order to continue to feel its effects, more of the drug will need to be taken each time. Taking more hydrocodone at once may increase the brain’s level of dependency to the drug, however, and an addiction may form.
Almost 2 million Americans are considered to be dependent on prescription drugs, or dealing with opioid abuse, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) reports. One of the side effects of dependency and addiction is the onset of withdrawal symptoms when the drug leaves the system.
Timeline for Withdrawal
Most forms of hydrocodone products, including Lorcet, Lortab, and Vicodin, are for immediate release and generally rendered inactive in about 4-6 hours, the Journal of Pain Research publishes, although there are a few extended-release formats that last up to 12 hours per dose.
This correlates with the drugs’ half-lives, which is related to when withdrawal symptoms will start.
Generally speaking, hydrocodone withdrawal will start between 6 and 12 hours after the last dose, depending on which specific drug the individual was dependent on. Opiate withdrawal usually peaks within 72 hours and can last anywhere from a week to a month. Drug cravings and some of the emotional side effects may last longer than a month without the help and support of a mental health specialist.
The amount of time an individual took hydrocodone, as well as the dosage amount and exact formulation of the drug may make a difference in the duration of withdrawal.
The longer a drug is taken, the more dependent the brain is likely to be on it. Injecting or smoking hydrocodone may increase dependence faster than swallowing pills, which also affects the withdrawal timeline. Some underlying medical or mental health issues may also change how long withdrawal will last, as the brain works to restore itself to where it was before hydrocodone was introduced.
Hydrocodone Withdrawal SymptomsSide effects of hydrocodone withdrawal range from mild to moderate to severe and may differ from person to person. Just as the withdrawal timeline can be influenced by the level of dependency the brain exhibits to hydrocodone, so can the intensity and variety of withdrawal symptoms.
Opiate drugs bind to the multiple opiate receptors in the brain and central nervous system, and they act as non-traditional central nervous system depressants, reducing breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure, and decreasing body temperature. When someone is dependent on an opioid drug like hydrocodone, the sudden removal of it can have distressing consequences as the brain and body work in overdrive to recover. Blood pressure, respiration, body temperature, and heart rate may all spike if hydrocodone use or abuse is stopped suddenly. It is therefore not recommended to stop taking a hydrocodone product “cold turkey” or without medical supervision and input.
Specific withdrawal symptoms when stopping hydrocodone may include:
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
- Excessive tearing
- Nausea and abdominal cramps
- Trouble sleeping
- Irregular heart rate
- Difficulties focusing or concentrating
- Mood swings
- Trouble feeling pleasure
- Night sweats
- High blood pressure
- Drug cravings
- Thoughts of suicide
Finding and Evaluating Hydrocodone Detox Centers
When an individual is addicted to or dependent on hydrocodone, detox is the method of removing the drug from the body. Detox can be performed in either an outpatient or inpatient capacity, although a medical professional should always closely supervise opiate detox. Often the most effective method of treatment is attendance at a hydrocodone detox center.
Medical detox is the optimal choice for helping to minimize hydrocodone withdrawal and ensure an individual’s safety and comfort. Hydrocodone detox programs monitor vital signs around the clock and use medications to keep patients comfortable and stable for a period of 5-7 days in most cases. There are several pharmaceutical options used during medical detox from hydrocodone that reduce withdrawal symptoms and help to prevent relapse in part by lowering the amount and intensity of drug cravings.
Medications for Hydrocodone Dependency Treatment
An opiate like hydrocodone should not be stopped suddenly.
Oftentimes, dosages of hydrocodone are slowly tapered down via dose reduction in medical detox. A medical professional will slowly wean the drug out of the body in a controlled way in order to keep withdrawal symptoms controlled.
There are also several medications approved to treat opioid dependency as listed by the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), which include:
- Buprenorphine products like Subutex: Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, meaning that it fills the opioid receptors in the brain, therefore stopping withdrawal symptoms from being as powerful. It is also longer-acting than hydrocodone, so it stays in the body longer and does not have as high of an abuse potential. Buprenorphine’s effects plateau after a set amount of time so even if someone does try to take more or abuse the drug, it is not likely to get that person “high.”
- Buprenorphine and naloxone combination products, such as Suboxone and Zubsolv: In addition to the opioid agonist buprenorphine, these drugs also contain naloxone, which is an opioid antagonist. Opioid antagonists block other opioids from reaching the opioid receptors in the brain and central nervous system, rendering them ineffective. Therefore, if an individual attempts to abuse hydrocodone while taking one of these drugs, it will not produce the desired effects. The naloxone component can also precipitate, or bring about, rapid withdrawal symptoms when triggered and works as a deterrent for abuse. Naloxone generally remains dormant in these combination buprenorphine products unless the drugs are tampered with and injected.
- Methadone: A long-acting opioid drug, methadone can be substituted for hydrocodone during detox. Dispensed in federally regulated clinics in pill form usually once per day, methadone can stay in a person’s system for up to 30 hours, and it can keep withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings to a minimum. It does have the potential for abuse itself, and its use should be closely monitored.
- Naltrexone products, including Depade, Vivitrol, and ReVia: Like naloxone, naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that blocks opioid receptor sites. These drugs are generally used after the initial stages of detox are finished. They help to prevent relapse and deter future opioid abuse.
A hydrocodone detox program first works to stabilize an individual physically, and generally lasts about a week. A comprehensive hydrocodone detox center will likely include both pharmaceuticals and holistic methods to accomplish this. For instance, a healthy diet plan, exercise program, and structured sleep schedule may all be included at a medical detox center to help the body heal faster, as may meditation, yoga, spa treatments, and/or massage therapy. Detox is likely to be smoother and go faster if all physical elements are attended to so that the psychological side effects of withdrawal and addiction can be managed as well.
The detox center should be only one part of a more comprehensive substance abuse treatment plan that will also include therapy, counseling, and relapse prevention techniques.
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