Hydrocodone Withdrawal and Detox

Modified: 22nd Jul 2019

One of the most prescribed opioids is hydrocodone. You may know this as Vicodin, Lorcet, or Norco. 

If your use of prescription hydrocodone has gotten away from you, help is available. 

Before you enter a treatment program, you might be curious about what you’re about to go through. Detoxing from hydrocodone won’t be pleasant. At times, it may seem unbearable.

But, with our help, you can prepare yourself for the road to sobriety. In this guide, we explain what you can expect when you withdrawal and detox from hydrocodone.

What Causes Hydrocodone Withdrawal?

The DEA classifies hydrocodone as a Schedule II controlled substance. This means that, despite the earlier assurances from drug companies, hydrocodone has a high potential for abuse. It can — and has — lead many users to have a severe psychological or physical dependency. 

Of course, hydrocodone has many benefits as well. Doctors prescribe it for managing moderate to severe pain. It’s prescribed for both chronic pain and for relief after surgery. 

Hydrocodone triggers endorphins in your body. These endorphins block your body’s response to pain. They may also give a feeling of euphoria, which is why they become addictive.

The most common and well-known brand names of hydrocodone are: 

  • Hycodan
  • Lortab
  • Lorcet
  • Norco
  • Vicodin
  • Vicoprofen

In 2012, there were 135 million hydrocodone prescriptions written in the United States. However, the number of prescriptions decreases after the DEA reclassified it in 2014.

But, it still remains a prevalent narcotic in the landscape of opioid abuse. 

The addiction comes on quietly. Many people don’t know they’re misusing their prescriptions or that they’ve crossed the line into addiction

They may only notice after they’ve stopped taking hydrocodone and their body starts to go into withdrawal. Withdrawal happens because opioids cause a physical dependence.

This dependence occurs because of your body’s reduction in producing endorphins. Endorphins are “feel good” chemicals. 

When you’re in pain or stressed, endorphins release themselves to help combat your pain or sadness. Opioids were specifically designed to act as manmade endorphins.

As you take more hydrocodone and at higher doses, your body slows down its endorphin production. Your body is now dependent on it. It needs hydrocodone to maintain its equilibrium. 

When it doesn’t have it, it starts to go into withdrawal. Withdrawal is the physical signs your body has suddenly lost a maintained level of a psychoactive substance.   

Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms

If you’re addicted to hydrocodone and stop taking it, you will start feeling withdrawal symptoms hours after you last ingested it. In some people, it may not occur for up to 72 hours.

The most common symptoms of hydrocodone withdrawal are:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Abdominal cramps and aches
  • Dilated pupils
  • Diarrhea
  • Extreme cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular or fluctuating blood pressure
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle spasms
  • Nausea
  • Runny nose
  • Shaking/tremors
  • Sweating (hot and cold)
  • Vomiting
  • Watery eyes

These symptoms range from mild to severe. How long you’ve had an addiction, the dosage you take, and your general health affect the severity of your withdrawal symptoms. 

Duration of Hydrocodone Withdrawal

As you can imagine, the symptoms of withdrawal are unpleasant and uncomfortable. But they can last for a month or longer. It depends on several factors. 

Hydrocodone is a short-acting opioid. This means, symptoms usually start to show within 12 hours of the last dose. But, as mentioned, it can take as long as three days if the addiction is on the milder side.

Hydrocodone Withdrawal Timeline

Hydrocodone withdrawal happens in two stages: early withdrawal and late withdrawal. The latter is also called Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). 

In early withdrawal, you’ll experience:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Fever
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating (hot and cold)
  • Tachycardia (the feeling that your heart is pounding or racing)

During the onset of symptoms, you’ll feel aching muscles, joints or bones. Some people have nausea, stomach aches or cramping, and sweating (hot and cold).

By the third day, your withdrawal symptoms will start to peak. Your body will get rid of the toxins through vomiting, diarrhea, and sweat. If you’re not hydrated, you may start to shake and will continue having muscle aches.

This lasts for two days. 

Starting around the sixth day of withdrawal, most of your physical symptoms will die down. It’s during this time that the mental and psychological effects kick in.

You will experience anxiety and depression. You may feel ashamed or remorse for your drug use. But, there’s another nasty symptom that appears: the desire to use again.

From the sixth to eighth day, your craving for hydrocodone will be at its peak. Afterward, you’ll move into late withdrawal. 

This is when the symptoms are completely psychological and include:

  • Frequent and ongoing disturbed sleep
  • Low energy or enthusiasm
  • Mood swings (extreme anxiety and irritability)
  • Tiredness
  • Trouble concentrating

These symptoms will change without warning. The duration of them will as well. These can continue for two years.

Detoxing from Hydrocodone on Your Own

Due to the severity, length, and psychological effects of the symptoms, professional treatment is the best option. Without it, there’s an increased chance of having a relapse.

Detoxing without the help of medical and psychological treatment can be dangerous. Hydrocodone detox typically isn’t fatal. But there are rare cases where people died from opioid withdrawal.

At times, the withdrawal and detoxification process is excruciating. So much so that some addicts described wanting to die after quitting without help.

Because of the extreme mental and physical toll, many turn back to hydrocodone to ease their suffering. 

Medical Detox for Hydrocodone

Seeking help from a trained facility is the best option. Among the many benefits of detoxing in this environment is the support you’ll receive. You’ll be under the close care and supervision of medical personnel while you detox. 

How Medical Detox Works and What to Expect 

Medical detox works to reduce the withdrawal symptoms. It uses both a pharmacological and psychological treatment approach.

It’s not recommended to stop opioid use cold turkey. Sometimes, it’s best to have an approach that includes weaning off hydrocodone. Medical personnel will oversee this process, slowly reducing your hydrocodone dosages in a safe manner. 

Psychological help is also used to manage the mental effects of hydrocodone withdrawal. Thus, your symptoms will be reduced. 

So are your chances for relapse since receive treatment for the physical and psychological effects of the drug.

Medical professionals will monitor your vital signs like body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. A mental health care team will evaluate you for signs of anxiety, depression, and irrational thoughts. 

It’s possible they prescribe medication to ease your withdrawal symptoms. 

Medications Available for Synthetic Opiates Detox

During medical detox, professionals may prescribe medication. It’s used to trick your body into thinking it’s still taking hydrocodone. The most common medications are:

  • Buprenorphine (Suboxone) or clonidine – eases anxiety, sweating, muscle pain, and vomiting
  • Naltrexone – blocks the effects of opioids and speed up the detox process

Suboxone can be addictive as well. It’s only prescribed in a controlled setting under specific guidelines.

Start Your Road to Recovery

At Addiction Treatment Services, we’ll help you find a safe hydrocodone detox facility. We’ll work with your insurance carrier to find treatment covered by your policy. 

To find out how we can help get you the treatment you need, visit our insurance information page. Don’t let anything stop you from getting the help you need. Reach out to us today.