Hydrocodone Withdrawal Timeline And Detoxification

With long-term abuse of hydrocodone, many people experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Detoxification allows a person to rid their body of toxins gained during abuse.

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Hydrocodone is a powerful, opioid painkiller. It is one of the most commonly prescribed opioids on the market, and it is often combined with acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Some drugs that include hydrocodone in their active ingredients include: Vicodin, Ibudone, and Zohydro, to name a few. Zohydro was the first pure hydrocodone prescription, released in 2014. It was designed to be a time-releasing drug, like OxyContin.

Almost two million Americans are considered to be dependent on prescription drugs, or dealing with opioid abuse, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). Hydrocodone is frequently abused do to its narcotic effects and widespread availability. One of the effects of hydrocodone dependency and addiction is the onset of withdrawal symptoms as the drug leaves the body.

Hydrocodone Withdrawal

For those dependent on hydrocodone, withdrawal symptoms will begin after the last dose of hydrocodone has worn off. After a few weeks or more of heavy use, a person taking hydrocodone can experience various withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly try to quit use.

Opioids, like hydrocodone, can cause physical dependence, which means that a person will continue to take more of the drug to prevent withdrawal symptoms from occurring. Like other opioids, withdrawing from hydrocodone is often characterized by flu-like symptoms.

A gradual reduction of the amount of hydrocodone taken at once (tapering) is the best way to withdraw from this drug, as it gives the body time to adjust. Hydrocodone affects the levels of dopamine (happy hormone) that naturally occur in the brain.

When trying to stop using hydrocodone, the more gradual the adjustment the less extreme the changes in the hormone levels of the brain. Opioid drugs like hydrocodone are central nervous system depressants that act to slow brain processes, breathing and heart rates, and relieve pain.

When someone suddenly removes hydrocodone from their system, it can cause the body to go into a state of shock.

Hydrocodone Withdrawal Timeline

Typically, withdrawal symptoms start anywhere from six to 12 hours after the last dose of hydrocodone. However, this may not be the case for everyone. Individuals who have developed a dependence on hydrocodone may have different withdrawal experiences depending on the tolerance they have developed.

How an individual misuses hydrocodone will also affect the withdrawal process. Injecting or smoking hydrocodone can increase tolerance to the drug much faster than just taking the drug orally. Anyone with underlying mental health issues may also have a different withdrawal experience because the brain will be trying to restore itself to the state it was in prior to abusing hydrocodone.

The stronger the tolerance, the longer it takes to successfully withdraw from hydrocodone. The severity of withdrawal symptoms, and how often someone took abusive doses of hydrocodone, will also factor in to the duration of withdrawal.

The timeline for hydrocodone withdrawal generally looks like the following:

Twenty-four to 48 hours after the last dose, most people experience body and muscle aches. This is followed by aching in the bones and joints. During this time, some people may also experience abnormal or excessive sweating and cramping, followed by nausea and vomiting.

Three to five days after the last dose is when withdrawal symptoms are at their worst. This is also known as the “peak stage.” During the peak of withdrawal symptoms is when an individual is most uncomfortable. Symptoms ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to extreme shaking and lingering muscle aches can be experienced.

Six to seven days after the last dose is when physical symptoms start to subside and psychological symptoms begin to worsen. It is common for people to experience anxiety and depression at this point. Major cravings for hydrocodone may also happen at this time.

Eight or more days after the last dose, psychological withdrawal symptoms continue to linger. Depending on the individual, anxiety and depression symptoms can last months and sometimes years after stopping use.

It is also possible for people who have suffered from hydrocodone addiction to experience withdrawal symptoms after not having any symptoms for some time. This is called Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS).

Symptoms of PAWS include:

  • tremors
  • seizures
  • intense drug cravings
  • sweating
  • rapid heartbeat

Signs And Symptoms Of Hydrocodone Withdrawal

Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to moderate to severe, and symptoms differ from person to person. As with other opioid withdrawals, hydrocodone withdrawal can be split into two stages: the early/acute stage and the late/prolonged stage.

Symptoms of early hydrocodone withdrawal can include:

  • agitation
  • anxiety
  • muscle aches
  • increased tear production
  • insomnia
  • runny nose
  • sweating
  • yawning

Symptoms of late hydrocodone withdrawal can include:

  • abdominal cramping
  • diarrhea
  • dilated pupils
  • nausea
  • vomiting

While these symptoms are uncomfortable, they tend not to be life-threatening. Still, seeking treatment for hydrocodone addiction is the best way to manage any uncomfortable symptoms and stop drug misuse.

Complications Of Hydrocodone Withdrawal

Someone withdrawing from hydrocodone can experience complications, the worst of which is returning to misusing drugs. Most opioid overdose deaths happen to people who have just detoxed from the opioid of their choice.

Detox removes hydrocodone from the body. This reduces a person’s tolerance to the drug, so someone who has just gone through detox is able to overdose on a much smaller dose than they are used to taking.

Other complications from hydrocodone withdrawal include breathing stomach contents into the lungs while vomiting. This is called aspiration, and it can cause lung infection. With the massive loss of fluids through vomiting and diarrhea during withdrawal, it is also possible for someone to experience electrolyte imbalance. This can be a dangerous condition.

Hydrocodone Detoxification

It is important to note that no one should suddenly stop taking hydrocodone without professional, medical help. Detoxing from hydrocodone a little at a time makes the process much more manageable and less difficult on the body. Supervised detox can prevent and manage any potential complications.

Relapse and self-harm are the two major complications during hydrocodone detox. Being in a supportive environment during this time can be the difference between successful and unsuccessful recovery.

Medically-Supervised Hydrocodone Detox

Various medications may be used during a detox phase to make the process less uncomfortable. During opioid detox, individuals may be placed on a methadone maintenance treatment or a buprenorphine treatment. Both of these drugs work to replace the effects of hydrocodone the body craves, but they do not produce as strong of a euphoric effect.

Other medications, such as antidepressants and electrolyte supplements, may be used to counteract some of the other adverse withdrawal symptoms. Medical detox is the optimal choice for minimizing hydrocodone withdrawal and ensuring an individual’s safety and comfort.

Treatment For Hydrocodone Addiction

The first step in recovering from hydrocodone addiction is often a successful detox and withdrawal from the drug. There are many inpatient programs that offer medically-supervised detox. These programs allow people access to medications and checkups outside of rehab centers.

Following a detox program, ongoing treatment plans can help people who have struggled with hydrocodone addiction to build new life skills and learn new ways to cope with their drug abuse and its effects on their lives.

For more information about hydrocodone addiction and treatment, contact us today.


U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration—Hydrocodone
U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus—Opiate And Opioid Withdrawal

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