Prescription painkillers, a type of opioid drug, play a substantial role in alleviating suffering from chronic/acute pain and the daily life limitations brought on by such pain. Abuse of these drugs, however, has become a serious societal problem that has shown to have devastating consequences including unintentional overdose induced deaths. The question of why the opioid crisis is on the rise has many drug administrations taking a closer look in order to prevent further escalation of drug abuse in society. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the drastic increase of prescription opioid use could be due to the growth of prescriptions written and dispensed, the social acceptability of using such drugs, and the “aggressive marketing” by pharmaceutical companies. Whatever the cause, the number of drug users is staggering. It is estimated that 36 million people use opioids globally, with the U.S. being the largest consumer. One of these highly abused drugs, especially in the U.S., is hydrocodone, also known as Vicodin. The U.S. alone accounts for nearly 100 percent of the world total usage of hydrocodone, making it one of the most distinctly abused drugs in society. Because hydrocodone has a highly abusive nature, an increased tolerance upon taking the drug (needing more to feel the effects), and unpleasurable withdrawal side effects, abusers are often kept in a vicious cycle of using the drug to avoid any negative symptoms associated with discontinuing usage.

How Hydrocodone Abuse Impacts The Body and Mind

Hydrocodone works on the pleasure centers of the brain by attaching to specific proteins, called opioids, in the nerve cells of the brain. When opioid drugs attach to these receptors, a person will perceive their sense of physical pain to be lessened and will feel an overall sense of calm, well-being, and pleasure. Because the drug blocks pain and affects the brain regions involved in reward, people may, therefore, seek to intensify their experience by taking more than is prescribed to them by their doctor.

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Additionally, because hydrocodone affects the brain in a similar way as heroin and morphine, the risk of addiction, overuse, and overdose are increased. Despite its effectiveness in treating pain, physical tolerance upon taking the drug can cause someone to innocently take more of the opioid to achieve the same effects. Additionally, even if someone takes hydrocodone as prescribed, combining it with other substances, such as alcohol, can have devastating consequences for the user.

Symptoms of Hydrocodone Withdrawal and Timeline To Get Well

Symptoms of withdrawal can occur just hours after the last dose and last for a week or more. The withdrawal symptoms may range from mild to severe depending on how dependent the person was to hydrocodone, the length of time on the drug, how much was taken, or any underlying medical conditions that contributed to the usage of the drug. The onset of these withdrawal symptoms depend on many factors. One such factor is what type of hydrocodone the user had been taking. Extended release hydrocodone stays in the system longer, therefore, requiring more time for the withdrawal symptoms to take into effect.  The discomfort from these symptoms are typically the most severe on the second or third day after taking the last dose.

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The most common withdrawal symptoms, along with a typical time frame that these symptoms occur, include:

  • Aching muscles, joints, and bones along with possible nausea, abdominal cramping and sweating within the first 48 hours
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, excessive sweating and possible shaking and lingering muscle aches from days 3-5
  • Anxiety, depression, and a desire to return back to the drug around days 6-7

Some chronic psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, may continue for months after detoxing off of hydrocodone.

How to Detox and Get Help with Hydrocodone Addiction

Managing the hydrocodone withdrawal process with trained health care supervision is essential in order to provide a healthy transition from addiction to abstinence, managing and alleviating withdrawal symptoms, and minimizing the cravings to return to using the drug in the future. If you or someone you love is dependent on hydrocodone, there is help. At Infinite Recovery, we know that the detox and recovery process can be difficult. That is why we take extra care in providing just the right trained and compassionate care you need from clinical and medical professionals. Reach out to us and we would love to guide you or a loved family member on the sobriety path you deserve.

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