What Are Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms & What Can Help During Detox

Last Updated: Apr 1st 2020

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky

What Are Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms & What Can Help During Detox

Taking hydrocodone regularly over a long period, or using more than prescribed, can lead to the development of a tolerance — meaning the body has become accustomed to the drug. Increasingly higher doses are required to provide the same level of pain control, which adds to increased dependence. When stopped, hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms are difficult on the body as it works to adjust without the drug. If you’ve become dependent on hydrocodone, never attempt to quit “cold turkey.” Instead, educate yourself on the symptoms of hydrocodone withdrawal addiction and how to detox yourself safely.

What Is Hydrocodone & What Are Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms?

Hydrocodone is an opioid painkiller sold as a combination of two medicines. Hydrocodone with acetaminophen is marketed as Vicodin, Lortab, or Norco; hydrocodone with ibuprofen is marketed as Vicoprofen, Reprexain, or Ibudone. 

The Most Common Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms

Hydrocodone is a powerful medication intended to relieve moderate to severe pain or to suppress coughs. Although it is one of the most commonly prescribed opioid painkillers in the United States, it isn’t meant for long-term use, and it can be habit-forming. Common side effects and symptoms of hydrocodone withdrawal addiction may include:

Hydrocodone is a powerful medication is intended to relieve moderate to severe pain or to suppress coughs. Although it is one of the most commonly prescribed opioid painkillers in the United States, it isn’t meant for long-term use, and it can be habit-forming. Common side effects and symptoms of hydrocodone withdrawal addiction may include:

  • Severe cravings
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Aching muscles or joints
  • Headaches, chills, sweating, goosebumps, or other flu-like symptoms
  • Stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Racing heart
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Mood swings
  • Thoughts of suicide

What Can Help With Withdrawal From Hydrocodone?

It’s important to never attempt to stop hydrocodone on your own, as hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous. Medical detox is the safest and most comfortable way to get off the drug. 

A physician will help you determine which hydrocodone withdrawal treatment is the safest way to taper your body off the drug. The optimum schedule for tapering depends on several factors, such as the amount of hydrocodone you typically use, the length of time you’ve been using it, and the type and level of pain you experience.

Fast tapering involves stopping hydrocodone relatively quickly, and the body is free of the drug in a few days or weeks. This hydrocodone withdrawal treatment should take place on an inpatient basis where blood pressure, temperature, and pulse rate are monitored 24/7. Medications are available to help with severe hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms. You may receive IV fluids to restore proper hydration, and your doctor may prescribe safer, less addictive medications if pain is an issue.

For some people, gradually tapering over weeks or months may be safer and more effective. Inpatient treatment is often recommended for people who are tapering slowly, although outpatient treatment may be suitable in some situations.

What Helps Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms During Detox? 

  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated during detox. If you are nauseated, take small sips, or try an electrolyte-replacement beverage such as Pedialyte. 
  • Avoid soda and other sugary drinks. If possible, skip coffee, as caffeinated drinks may worsen tremors and shaking. 
  • Ask your doctor if you can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help with muscle or joint aches.
  • Eat regular, nutritious meals. If your stomach is upset, try eating small meals throughout the day. Bland foods such as toast, crackers, rice, or broth may be easier to tolerate. Your doctor may also recommend nutritional supplements.
  • Ask your physician if exercise is safe for you. If she approves, light exercise may ease mild aches and pains, lessen depression and anxiety, and may also help you sleep better. Try deep breathing, gentle stretching, or short walks. 
  • Reading, listening to music, doing puzzles, or watching TV will keep you busy and may distract you from uncomfortable symptoms.

How Medication Assisted Treatment Helps With Hydrocodone Withdrawal

Aside from the tips listed above, there are also a few prescribed medications that help with hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms:

Buprenorphine

Approved for medical use in the United States in 1981, Buprenorphine has been proven to be a safe, effective treatment for opioid addiction, particularly when used in combination with behavioral therapy and counseling

Also known as “bupe,” buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist, which means euphoria and other opioid-like symptoms are limited by a “ceiling effect.” The potential for abuse is still present but substantially reduced.

Subutex & Suboxone

The FDA approved Subutex and Suboxone in 2002. Both contain buprenorphine, and both can reduce cravings, lessen withdrawal symptoms, and reduce the risk of relapse. The difference is that Suboxone also contains naloxone, (marketed as “Narcan”). Naloxone is a powerful deterrent that triggers sudden, acute withdrawal symptoms if the drug is smoked or injected.  

Vivitrol

In 2010, the FDA okayed the use of Vivitrol to help people with opioid addictions. While Subutex and Suboxone are taken daily, Vivitrol is administered via injection once every month. 

There are certain risks to medication-assisted hydrocodone withdrawal treatment, including possible overdose if the drug is misused. You must detox from hydrocodone 7 to 10 days before beginning any medication containing buprenorphine or naloxone. 

Drugs containing buprenorphine or naloxone should be used as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment program. While the medications can help with physical withdrawal symptoms, counseling is needed to address depression, anxiety, and other issues that often underlie addiction.

How Long Does Hydrocodone Withdrawal Last?

The intensity and length of hydrocodone withdrawal depend on the dosage, how long you used the drug, and how fast the drug is tapered. If the doses were small, withdrawal might not last long. However, hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms are likely to be more severe if you took large doses, and the drug has built up in your body.

Other factors, including age, weight, gender, and overall health, will affect the length and intensity of withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms usually begin six to 12 hours after the last dose, then peak at about 72 hours. Some symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, irritability, fatigue, and insomnia, may last a month or more.

The Importance Of Hydrocodone Detox Treatment

The physical withdrawal from hydrocodone is the first step to better health, but a strong substance abuse treatment program will increase your chances of long-term recovery. Usually, treatment begins as soon as your body is free of hydrocodone and other drugs. 

Hydrocodone withdrawal treatment involves various forms of therapy, such as one-on-one counseling, group therapy, or 12-Step groups. People never intend to become addicted, but trouble often begins when drugs are used to help them cope with painful thoughts or emotions. If you struggle with issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, or PTSD, counseling will help. 

Also helpful are intensive techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), or dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), which will help you recognize and change destructive thought patterns and replace them with more positive ways of dealing with stress. 

If you or a loved one are suffering from a hydrocodone addiction, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Contact us online, or give us a call at (866) 971-5531 today.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.