Hydrocodone is one of the most prescribed painkillers in America. As an opioid, there’s no doubt misuse and abuse of this drug has contributed to the opioid epidemic now taking place in the United States. You might have heard of this drug under various brands, such as Vicodin, Lortab, or Norco. Though it does a great job at minimizing pain, it is easier than you might think to become dependent on, which can ultimately lead to addiction.
Many people start off taking hydrocodone as prescribed. Maybe they undergo a tooth extraction or pull a muscle.
The doctor sends them home with a prescription for hydrocodone and specific dosing instructions. The person takes the pills as prescribed, but over time, their tolerance increases, meaning it takes more to kill the pain. So, they may start to take their pills sooner than what the doctor recommended. Or, they may take more than what was prescribed.
There are others who take hydrocodone to get a deep feeling of relaxation and euphoria. Some even crush the pills and snort them.
All of this can lead to a higher tolerance, dependence, and addiction, leading them into the world of opioid addiction, which can be daunting to get out.
When you become dependent on hydrocodone, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms when you try to come off of them. Common withdrawal symptoms include:
The time frame to get through the full range of hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms and the severity of symptoms varies from person to person, depending on factors like:
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You may begin to feel mild withdrawal symptoms within the first six to 12 hours after the last dose. Body aches are usually one of the first things people experience. They report feeling pain in their muscles, joints, and bones. Others report feeling nausea, stomach cramps, and increased sweating.
These days your withdrawal symptoms may peak, meaning this may be the most uncomfortable time during the detox process. Common symptoms in this phase include diarrhea, continued body aches, shaking, vomiting, and other flu-like symptoms.
You may find that on day six you start feeling some relief, as physical symptoms tend to be subsiding. Mood swings are common, as you begin to get back to life without numbing physical or emotional pain. You may also find that some psychological symptoms linger on these days, like cravings for more hydrocodone.
Many people report that after the first week, physical symptoms have subsided. However, those with a severe addiction may find that they feel symptoms for a few days longer. Anxiety can arise, as well as mood swings, for a few days, weeks, or months. It’s always best to have continued treatment even after the detox process is over.
It is dangerous to abruptly stop taking hydrocodone, as the sudden stop is tough on your body because it has become used to having the drug.
Detoxing from the drug should be done under medical supervision, so you can be monitored for any complications. You will most likely be tapered off the drug via a reduction in dose, as this can help minimize withdrawal symptoms. You may also be given medication that can help you detox safely.
When you’re seeking freedom from hydrocodone addiction, detox is the first step. The best course of action for overcoming addiction to opioids is to undergo a medical detox and then continue treatment at either an inpatient, outpatient, or intensive outpatient program (IOP). This way, you’ll be able to spend some time really building a strong foundation for long-term recovery.
Some people go through the detox stage and then try to get back to their lives. When they don’t address the addiction, chronic pain, or perhaps the root causes of the addiction, they are prone to relapse. There may be some psychological issues that need to be addressed, such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD, for example. Committing to long-term treatment with substance abuse professionals can truly be helpful in a recovery that lasts.
Residential treatment is especially helpful for those that have a severe addiction. When you opt for residential treatment, you leave your home and reside at the treatment center for the duration of your treatment. Often, this will be anywhere between 30 to 90 days, but longer stays are possible.
Residential treatment is particularly beneficial because you get care around the clock from substance abuse professionals. You also get to take a break from your everyday life, which sometimes includes things that might trigger you. Some people choose to attend inpatient treatment for a set amount of time. Then, when they return home, they commit to an outpatient program for a while longer. One key to a successful long-term recovery is laying a firm foundation for your sobriety. This can certainly be done via inpatient treatment.
IOP is a great choice for those who cannot leave home and live at the treatment center during treatment. Intensive outpatient programs differ from outpatient programs in that you’ll be expected to spend more hours in treatment. This is a great option for those whose addiction isn’t severe, but it’s severe enough where they need a little bit more time with an addiction specialist or counselor working their recovery program.
Outpatient treatment works well for those who have a mild to moderate opioid addiction and cannot leave home and reside at the treatment center due to family or work responsibilities. If you opt for outpatient treatment, you may find yourself attending perhaps three to seven sessions at the treatment center per week. You’ll also be able to meet with a therapist to receive individual counseling.
When deciding on what type of treatment you want or need; be honest with yourself. If you’re prone to relapsing or have a severe addiction and simply have not been able to get it under control on your own, then you may want to consider inpatient treatment. If you’re not sure about the level of care that you need, you can always discuss this with your mental health professional or physician.
If you or a loved one is struggling with hydrocodone addiction, know that treatment is available to help you overcome this. You don’t have to continue struggling on your own.
Everyday Health. What is Hydrocodone? Retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/drugs/hydrocodone
NIDA. (2020, May 29). Is there a difference between physical dependence and addiction?. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/there-difference-between-physical-dependence-addiction
Healthline. (2019, January 8) Understanding Hydrocodone Addiction. Godman, H. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/understanding-hydrocodone-addiction#treatment
Medline Plus. Hydrocodone. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a614045.html
Psych Central. (2013, December 29). Opiate Withdrawal (Outpatient): Slow and Steady Wins the Race. Rydzy, T. Retrieved from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/chronic-pain/2013/12/opiate-withdrawal-outpatient-slow-and-steady-wins-the-race/