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Hydrocodone is a powerful opioid painkiller that is prescribed to treat pain after surgery or serious injury. Doctors typically do not prescribe hydrocodone for long-lasting chronic pain, but sometimes, people become addicted to hydrocodone and use the medication for years.
Opioid drugs bind to the opioid receptors in the brain, confusing pain relief and the risk/reward system. Individuals who suffer from addiction to opioid painkillers like hydrocodone feel rewarded when they take the drug because of how the drug chemically acts on the brain. This stimulation can be very difficult to give up, but it is important to end addiction to hydrocodone to prevent long-term physical consequences.
When people suffer from addiction to hydrocodone, they may try to quit the drug cold turkey, or without help. This can lead to withdrawal symptoms, which include both short-term and long-term symptoms.
Short-term withdrawal symptoms include:
Later-stage withdrawal symptoms include:
Depending on how large the last dose of hydrocodone was, withdrawal symptoms can begin in as little as 6 hours or as long as 12 hours. This can also vary depending on how the individual ingested hydrocodone. If the drug was taken as a pill and digested, effects wear off more slowly than if the individual snorted or injected the drug.
Hydrocodone withdrawal peaks within 1-3 days or 72 hours after the last dose.
Acute symptoms will be worse during this time, especially physical pain and nausea. If a person has suffered from hydrocodone addiction for years, and become tolerant of large doses, there is a small possibility that withdrawal can induce seizures or suicidal thoughts, which can be very dangerous if the person is alone without medical supervision. As a result, medical detox is always recommended for hydrocodone withdrawal.
After 1-2 weeks, the bulk of the individual’s withdrawal symptoms should have passed, for the most part.
Psychological effects like depression or anxiety may linger for a few more days to another week, but if individuals have social support from friends, family, a therapist, and a rehabilitation program, they are much less likely to suffer these effects as strongly.
Because addiction is a disease, it is likely that the individual can feel cravings for years after overcoming hydrocodone addiction. These cravings may not be as intense as during the first two weeks of withdrawal and detox, but they can be disturbing. This is another time when it is important for the individual to have social support from friends and family, as well as a therapist or support group.
Here is a general outline of the first week of hydrocodone withdrawal:
While the specific timeline will vary for each individual struggling with hydrocodone addiction, the above serves as a basic template. Withdrawal will not last forever. With the support of medical professionals, therapists, and friends and family, the individual can get through the process and proceed to the bulk of addiction treatment.
Inpatient rehabilitation is often recommended for people who suffer from hydrocodone addiction. Often, medical detox is part of inpatient care. These programs often use medications to ease withdrawal symptoms in addition to providing continual supervision and support.
Various medications may be used during the opiate withdrawal process. In some instances, medications are used on a long-term basis to essentially replace the drug of abuse. These replacement medications are considered safe and don’t bring about euphoric effects when used correctly. Generally, clients are then slowly weaned off these medications as they progress in recovery.
Medications used in opiate detox include:
Individuals who suffer from an addiction to hydrocodone should seek help immediately. Opioid painkillers can damage the liver, lungs, heart, and brain, and an overdose can lead to death.
Inpatient rehabilitation facilities often work best for many who struggle with addiction, in part because of the comprehensive nature of the care provided.
Doctors and other medical professionals monitor clients as they go through withdrawal and detox from hydrocodone safely.