Hydrocodone is the most commonly abused prescription opioid. The American Society of Addiction Medicine found that in 2014 alone, 1.9 million Americans ages 12 and up abused prescription pain relievers. The most advisable way to recover from hydrocodone abuse is to seek treatment at a rehab center that is equipped to:
Recovery from hydrocodone is always possible.
American society is considered worldwide to be a “pill culture.” The US has received this reputation due in part to the many advancements made in pharmacology here. However, medications that can be therapeutic, such as hydrocodone, can also become drugs of abuse.
These statistics reflect the magnitude of the prescription drug and opioid epidemic while also highlighting the interrelatedness of prescription opioids and heroin. Individuals who abuse hydrocodone may easily swap out this drug for another opioid, such oxycodone and, in some cases, even heroin. For this reason, it is a good idea to learn about hydrocodone abuse specifically, but also opioid abuse in general.
As the National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, the two main features of physical dependence are tolerance and withdrawal. In short, people who continually abuse hydrocodone will need to take more of this opioid over time in order to experience the desired psychoactive effects, such as a hydrocodone high. After a period of hydrocodone abuse, if a person stops using or significantly reduces the regular level of intake, then withdrawal symptoms will emerge. The following is a sample of some of the possible withdrawal symptoms that may be experienced:
It is important to understand that hydrocodone, as well as other opioids, can present particularly significant health risks during the withdrawal process. For this reason, there is a general recommendation that individuals who are seeking recovery undergo medical detox or substitution therapy. For instance, during the intake process at a rehab center, when the addiction team members learn that the person has been abusing oxycodone, they may advise that the safest approach is to start the person on narcotic-based medication (substitution therapy). After the recovering individual is safely stabilized on a substitution therapy program, primary addiction treatment will begin.
For a public that is unfamiliar with opioid addiction treatment, it may seem illogical that narcotic-based medications are used to treat narcotic abuse. However, at present, this approach is the most effective one available. To illustrate, if a person has been abusing hydrocodone and stops, withdrawal symptoms will typically emerge within 30 -72 hours. Individuals with a history of hydrocodone or other opioid abuse report that at some point they want to continue to take these drugs just so they don’t have to go through withdrawal. It is particularly frustrating to consider that individuals may stay addicted to dangerous opioids because they, understandably, do not want to suffer through withdrawal.
Substitution therapy can effectively intervene here. Since substitution therapy medications are narcotic-based, they can act on the brain in a way similar to opioids without producing a high. At the same time, these medications can stop or reduce withdrawal effects. Substitution therapy is also referred to in addiction literature as medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
Substitution medications can be used during the withdrawal process from hydrocodone, and their use can continue indefinitely. Some individuals take these medications for years. Others will eventually use a substitution therapy medication to achieve a full detoxification (i.e., the body system is entirely opioid-free). The following medications can be used for the treatment of hydrocodone abuse:
Suboxone has two formats: sublingual tablet and sublingual film. Like Subutex, Suboxone works in the brain by attaching to opioid receptors while at the same time stopping or reducing withdrawal symptoms, including cravings for opioids. The presence of naloxone in Suboxone means that if a person abuses a narcotic, withdrawal symptoms will emerge. Naloxone, therefore, creates a deterrent effect, discouraging the individual from relapsing.
As the National Institute on Drug Abuse makes clear in their Principles of Effective Treatment statement, medical detox alone is never enough. Looking at addiction treatment broadly, there are two main pillars of care: medications and therapy. The rest of the architecture of addiction treatment, including complementary therapy, can be seen as supporting beams. The phases of treatment — medical detox to primary addiction treatment to aftercare — are like connecting rooms.
Some rehabs are not equipped to offer medical detox onsite, but a rehab that offers a full continuum of care will be able to do so. To understand the full range of treatments available after hydrocodone detox, it is necessary to look at what goes on during primary care for addiction at a rehab center.
The following is a sample of the different types of recovery programs available:
Once an individual has entered a rehab program for the treatment of hydrocodone abuse, the addiction team will create a tailored plan.
A tailored plan does not mean the process is entirely individualized. Rehabs have daily schedules, which everyone follows, but they do still have personalized plans and care.
The following are some of the most common types of aftercare for a person who has finished hydrocodone abuse treatment at a rehab center:
There are numerous effective, research-based treatments available to help a person end an addiction to hydrocodone.