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Hydrocodone Withdrawal

Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms are the result of a sudden reduction or elimination of the drug from a dependent person’s system. Some of the withdrawal symptoms include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, sleep disturbance, goose bumps, and upset stomach.1

Detox and treatment centers can help make the withdrawal process safer and prevent relapse.

Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms

The type and severity of withdrawal symptoms depend greatly on the individual as well as the duration and severity of hydrocodone dependence. Effects often range from mild to severe.

Typical symptoms of withdrawal include the following:

  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Yawning
  • Runny nose
  • Tearing
  • Sweating
  • Goose bumps
  • Dilated pupils
  • Body aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea3

Most hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening. But a person who is going through relatively severe withdrawal should be properly managed to avoid complications.

Risks of Withdrawal

Hydrocodone withdrawal is usually not life-threatening. However, in addition to effects of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, other complications can arise. For example, when vomiting, it is possible to inadvertently inhale the stomach contents (known as aspiration), which can lead to asphyxiation (choking), lung infection, pneumonia, and even death.3

Further, the body’s tolerance may decrease throughout the withdrawal duration, meaning that less of the drug is required to achieve the same results. In some cases, overdose and death can be a potential outcome for people who relapse on the same dose they were using before.3

Hydrocodone Withdrawal Timeline

Withdrawal is a personal experience based on a variety of biological and environmental factors. But the following timeline provides information on what can generally be expected.
  • Within 12 hours after last use. Mild or early symptoms including yawning, runny eyes and nose, muscle aches and pain, and insomnia usually begin to occur.3,5
  • 36 hours to 72 hours. This is the peak of the withdrawal process and is typically when more severe symptoms occur. At this point, a person may experience nausea, vomiting, agitation, and diarrhea.3,5 During this time, it is important to stay hydrated to avoid dehydration and further complications.
  • 72 hours and beyond. Many withdrawal symptoms subside.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

Some users may experience a post-acute withdrawal syndrome after the initial withdrawal period from opioids such as hydrocodone. The symptoms can persist for weeks or months after quitting the drug and include:

  • Difficulty with learning, problem-solving, or memory.
  • irritability.
  • Anxiety or panic.
  • Depression.
  • Obsessive behaviors.
  • Difficulty with relationships.
  • Cravings.
  • Sleep problems.

Medication and therapy may be helpful in relieving these symptoms and preventing a relapse.4

Causes of Hydrocodone Withdrawal

Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Norco, Lortab) is an opioid drug that is used to treat moderate to severe pain and, in various cold/allergy formulations, as an antitussive to suppress coughing.

People who abuse hydrocodone or use it over long periods of time may build up a tolerance. When this happens, the person must take increasingly higher doses of the drug to achieve the same effects as before.2 Tolerance is often a sign of addiction (or ” substance use disorder” ),2 and the increasing drug-taking behavior that it often leads to can spur the development of physical dependence.

When people become physically dependent on hydrocodone, their bodies adapt to the presence of the drug, and they experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using or reduce their dose.

Treatment for Hydrocodone Withdrawal

The following treatment options can help you or your loved one recover from hydrocodone withdrawal and addiction.

Keep in mind that detox is only the first step in the recovery process. After completing detox, a recovering user should participate in a formal addiction treatment program to address the core issues surrounding the addiction and learn relapse prevention skills.

  • Detox centers: These facilities help a user safely detox from alcohol and other drugs. They provide medical supervision, and some programs may provide counseling. Participants are discharged from the program after completing withdrawal.
  • Inpatient rehab programs: Inpatient residential treatment programs involve staying at a drug rehabilitation facility. This option is typically more intense than many outpatient arrangements. The length of treatment ranges from 28 days to several months. These programs offer a variety of services that can include group and individual therapy, recreational activities, and aftercare planning. Some programs may include detox, while others may require that the person first completes detox elsewhere.
  • Outpatient rehab programs: A person in outpatient treatment may still live at home and maintain a relatively normal schedule. These programs usually offer group therapy, and some may include individual therapy as well. Detox treatment is not as common in these programs, but some may treat individuals with mild withdrawal symptoms.
  • Partial hospitalization: Partial hospitalization programs are another outpatient option that provides a more intensive level of care. Like other outpatient programs, they may provide detox to people with less severe symptoms. These programs offer counseling and medical supervision, and programs can range from 3-5 days a week for 4-6 hours a day.

Medications for Hydrocodone Relapse

Several FDA-approved medications are sometimes used to alleviate hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms. Some of these medications are designed as less potent and more easily regulated forms of opioids. However, they can be abused just like other opioids. They should be combined with some form of therapy to be most effective.
  • Methadone – Methadone can help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with hydrocodone withdrawal. It can be used for short-term detox treatment or long-term maintenance. Methadone can only be prescribed in a clinic regulated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
  • Buprenorphine – Buprenorphine can only be prescribed by a qualified physician. It suppresses cravings for opioids as well as withdrawal symptoms. Buprenorphine also has a ” ceiling effect” that limits the effects of the drug beyond a certain point. It is also available in a combination with naloxone (as Suboxone).
  • Clonidine – Unlike methadone or buprenorphine, clonidine does not have the potential for abuse. It can help with some of the symptoms of withdrawal, such as anxiety, agitation, cramps, and cold sweats. However, it does not help reduce cravings for the drug. 3

Find a Detox Center

If you need help locating a detox or recovery program for hydrocodone addiction, call for free at today to speak to a recovery support specialist. You can find a program based on your insurance coverage and needs.

Substance-Specific Withdrawal Information

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