Vicodin became one of the most commonly prescribed pain medications in the US and subsequently became one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs in the nation. As an addictive intoxicant, Vicodin can cause a pleasant or even euphoric high, followed by feelings of peace and sedation. This high is due to the opioid hydrocodone – one of the main ingredients in this medication.
As people continue to abuse Vicodin, they inevitably build up a tolerance to the opioid. This means that they need higher and higher doses in order to achieve the same effect. As this tolerance increases, it can eventually come to be a vital component in a full-blown addiction to the drug. In order to begin recovering from addiction, affected individuals will need to go through detoxification, or detox.
Detoxification refers to the process of letting the drug leave the system and enduring withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal occurs because the brain undergoes physical changes during ongoing drug abuse in order to try and adjust to the constant presence of the substance. Once the drug is no longer in the system, the brain is essentially left to function abnormally until it can readjust back to the state it was in before the addicted person started taking the intoxicant. This produces unpleasant symptoms. However, the alternative is worse. In 2011 alone, there were 82,420 emergency room visits resulting from the nonmedical use of hydrocodone.
How to Detox from Vicodin
Though not typically dangerous, Vicodin withdrawal tends to be very unpleasant. People with severe addictions may need to consult medical professionals before attempting to detox in order to manage these symptoms.
Recommended Steps for Detox
Detoxing from Vicodin tends to occur along the same timeline and produce the same effects for everyone, though there can be some variation depending on the severity of the addiction, a person’s age and general health, and other factors.
Vicodin withdrawal symptoms
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches
- Nausea or vomiting
Step 1: Consult a medical professional.
Addiction specialists or even general practice doctors can set you up with both advice and nonaddictive medications that can help make the detox process much easier. In most cases, medical detox will be recommended.
Step 2: Take some time off.
Going through opioid withdrawal is often described as enduring the worst flu ever. If you’re working, try to get a week or more off to properly take care of yourself.
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Step 3: Prepare the detox environment.
You want your environment to be as comfortable as possible with easy access to water, healthy snacks, and distractions. Vomiting, diarrhea, and sweating can result in dangerous dehydration, so it’s important to have plenty of water and other hydrating drinks at hand. In a professional medical detox facility, the environment will be prepared accordingly.
Step 4: Take preparation medications.
Anti-nausea and antidiarrheal medications can make detox a lot easier. Nonaddictive anti-anxiety medications can also be helpful to calm you down so you can get some sleep. In a medical detox program, supervising physicians may prescribe these medications.
Step 5: Engage in health activities.
If you can, engage in easy exercise or yoga, get massages or acupuncture, take long baths, or do anything else that you enjoy and that relaxes you. Also eat healthy, well-balanced meals to restore your body and mind.
Step 6: Enroll in treatment.
Drug addiction doesn’t end once the withdrawal symptoms have faded, and detox does not constitute addiction treatment on its own. You may still experience periodic cravings for months and endure triggers and temptations for the rest of your life. Support groups and addiction therapy increase the chance that you’ll avoid relapse in the future.
The withdrawal period typically lasts for around a week, though symptoms may continue for weeks or even months in severe cases. In some instances, replacement medications, such as buprenorphine, may be used to aid the withdrawal process on a long-term basis.
Prescription Drug Categories
Frequently Asked Questions
Vicodin is the most popular brand name for a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. This medication is prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain, especially after surgery or injury. Hydrocodone reduces pain sensations by binding to opioid receptors, while acetaminophen – commonly found in over-the-counter pain and cold medicines – reduces pain at non-opioid sites and reduces fever.
This medication is widely prescribed, so many people who struggle with addiction to narcotic painkillers initially became addicted to Vicodin.
What are Vicodin’s side effects?
Since it is a potent medication, Vicodin can cause various side effects, including:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Digestive discomfort
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty urinating
- Blurred vision
- Mood swings
- Intoxication or euphoria
- Reduced breathing
- Slowed heart rate
Are there risks of long-term use?
People who struggle with addiction to Vicodin for a long time may suffer physical dependence and tolerance. If they are not able to ingest the drug, they could experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms; although these are rarely life-threatening, they could cause the person to relapse back into substance abuse, which could lead to overdose.
Some studies have shown a deterioration in the brain’s white matter associated with long-term opioid abuse. This brain damage could affect a person’s decision-making abilities, behavior, and responses to stress.
The acetaminophen in Vicodin can cause more physical harm than hydrocodone when used chronically in large quantities. Although hydrocodone and other narcotics increase a person’s risk of brain and organ damage from lack of oxygen, as well as chronic constipation, acetaminophen in large doses can damage the liver and lead to overdose. Since acetaminophen is an over-the-counter painkiller found in many cold and flu medications, people have accidentally overdosed on the substance by combining OTC medications with their prescription pain medicine.
What treatment options work best for Vicodin addiction?
When a person struggles with addiction to Vicodin or other narcotics, it is important to get medical assistance to ease withdrawal symptoms and then enter a comprehensive rehabilitation program. During detox, the physician may prescribe buprenorphine, which is a partial opioid-agonist that eases withdrawal symptoms and cravings. The physician will develop a taper to ease their patient off buprenorphine slowly over a set period of time.
Other medications used in detox include clonidine, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications, which can ease some physical symptoms but more often ease cravings and psychological side effects of withdrawal.
While medications can be valuable to the recovery process from Vicodin addiction, they aren’t a “cure” as there is no cure for this chronic disease. Therapy makes up the foundation of addiction treatment, and in a comprehensive rehabilitation program, it is offered in a variety of forms, such as individual, group, family, and holistic.
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What are the rates of addiction to Vicodin?
Vicodin is one of the most commonly prescribed opioid pain medications, and in spite of pressure to change prescribing practices, doctors prescribed 250 million prescriptions for prescription painkillers like Vicodin in 2013 alone. While many of these prescriptions are necessary to relieve pain from a serious injury or after surgery, or to help those suffering from chronic pain, too many of these prescriptions lead to addiction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that in 2014, almost 2 million Americans reported abuse of or addiction to opioid painkillers. Approximately 52 people died per day from opioid overdoses throughout 2014; while many of these involved more potent narcotics like heroin and fentanyl, addiction to these substances often begins with prescription drugs like Vicodin.
The annual Monitoring the Future survey examines drug abuse trends among middle and high school students. In 2014, 4.8 percent of the 12th graders surveyed reported that they used Vicodin specifically for recreational purposes in the past year. While this was much less prevalent than abuse of alcohol, marijuana, or amphetamines, the trend is still worrying.
Vicodin’s interaction with other drugs
The acetaminophen in Vicodin is likely to interact negatively with acetaminophen in other medications, leading to liver damage. Hydrocodone will also interact poorly with other CNS depressants, including alcohol or benzodiazepines. These drugs can enhance the effects of opioids like hydrocodone, increasing euphoria but also increasing negative side effects, withdrawal symptoms, and the risk of overdose.
Other medications, like sedative-hypnotic sleep aids, may interact poorly with this drug and increase fatigue, sleepiness, or length of sleep. It can be dangerous to drive or operate machinery while taking hydrocodone-based drugs and other drugs that increase sleepiness.
Herbal supplements like St. John’s wort will reduce Vicodin’s ability to relieve pain. Other supplements like Valerian root could increase some of the side effects, like memory and cognitive problems as well as fatigue.