Table of Contents
As one of the most commonly prescribed pain medications in the United States, Vicodin can be found in many medicine cabinets across the country. This medication relieves moderate to moderately severe pain for many people, but it is also one of the most frequently abused prescription pain relievers. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that hydrocodone, the active ingredient in Vicodin, is one of the drugs identified most often as forensic evidence by state and federal laboratories.
Giving up Vicodin isn’t just a matter of discarding your pills and exercising a lot of willpower. If you’ve developed a dependence on Vicodin, your brain and body actually rely on hydrocodone to function. Vicodin detox is the first stage in getting your life back on track if you’ve become addicted to this opiate medication. Detoxing in a professional setting gives you several important advantages:
- You’ll have psychological support and encouragement from counselors and peers as you go through Vicodin withdrawal.
- You’ll have access to prescription medications that can make the detox process more comfortable.
- You’ll be medically monitored for any physical changes that might indicate that you’re having a problem in withdrawal.
- You’ll be prepared for your transition to the next stage in recovery: rehabilitation.
Why It’s So Hard to Quit Vicodin
Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opiate that alters the neurochemical pathways responsible for the sensations of pleasure and pain. Hydrocodone may also be prescribed as a cough suppressant. Vicodin contains a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, an over-the-counter pain medication. When taken recreationally, Vicodin is often ingested with alcohol or other narcotics that intensify its depressant effects and increase the risk of a deadly overdose.
Quitting Vicodin isn’t easy. Like other opiates, the drug has a risk of tolerance and dependence, meaning that your body and brain can quickly get used to higher doses of the medication. Eventually, you can develop a dependence on hydrocodone, which may lead to Vicodin addiction, a disease whose symptoms include:
- Compulsive drug-seeking behavior, such as forging prescriptions for Vicodin, stealing or buying the drug from friends or family, or lying to get an early prescription refill
- Withdrawal symptoms when you cut down on your dose, including headaches, muscle or bone pain, a runny nose, flu-like symptoms, anxiety or agitation
- Continued use of the drug, in spite of your awareness of dangerous side effects like respiratory depression, liver damage, mood changes, nausea or vomiting
- Failure to quit using Vicodin, in spite of your best intentions
If you’ve tried and failed numerous times to get off Vicodin, you shouldn’t blame your relapses on a lack of willpower. According to Science Magazine, addiction is a disease caused by the brain’s reaction to the repeated use of a drug that changes its natural reward system. Because addiction also affects the addict’s personal life, relationships and participation in society, addiction is also a social/behavioral condition that requires comprehensive treatment by trained professionals.
Stages of Vicodin Detox
Vicodin detox doesn’t happen all at once. If you are chemically dependent on hydrocodone, quitting abruptly can be a severe shock to your system. The detox process may vary depending on how long you’ve been using the drug, how many pills you take each day, and whether you have any co-occurring medical or psychological conditions. But these stages are common to many detox programs:
- Evaluation. When you enter detox, a doctor or therapist will interview you to find out about your recent and past use of Vicodin. You’ll also be asked about any other drugs, including alcohol, that you might have used recently. Your overall health condition will also be assessed in order to plot an effective course of treatment.
- Tapering off the drug. Tapering is a popular approach to helping Vicodin users through the detox process. Instead of taking you off hydrocodone altogether, your dose may be gradually reduced, or tapered, until you’re drug-free.
- Pharmaceutical support for withdrawal. Medications can be administered to help you deal with the side effects of Vicodin detox, such as agitation, anxiety, muscle spasms, nausea and vomiting.
- Medications to reduce cravings. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), medication therapy is an important aspect of opioid detox. Prescription drugs like naltrexone or buprenorphine may be recommended to help you cope with the intense cravings for hydrocodone as you’re going through detoxification.
- Fluid replacement and nutritional supplementation. The sweating, vomiting and diarrhea caused by Vicodin withdrawal can lead to dehydration and dangerous electrolyte imbalances. If you’ve been drinking alcohol in addition to using Vicodin, you may be dehydrated from excessive alcohol use. Balancing your fluids and replacing lost nutrients are important parts of the recovery process for many heavy Vicodin users.
It may take a few days to several weeks to detox completely from Vicodin. After you’ve been through the initial phase of detox and the drugs have been cleared from your system, you’ll have the mental clarity you need to focus on the psychological aspects of recovery, like changing self-destructive behaviors, building a safe home environment and coping with emotional triggers.
What Happens After Detox?
When you go through Vicodin detox at an inpatient treatment center or a residential facility, you can get much more than pharmaceutical support and frequent monitoring. You can also draw from the support of addiction therapists, mutual support groups, doctors and counselors. Ultimately, the purpose of these recovery services isn’t just to flush the hydrocodone from your system, but to prepare you for a stronger, healthier, more stable future.
Some Vicodin users believe that they don’t need rehabilitation to stay clean, only an effective detox program. But rehab is where the real inner transformation begins. Hydrocodone addiction can affect not only your body but your relationships, your sense of personal integrity and your psyche. After you finish detox, you can transition to a rehab program that offers resources like these:
- Psychotherapy with a qualified addiction therapist
- 12-step programs or other self-help groups
- Counseling for partners or children
- Relapse prevention strategies
- Vocational counseling
- Nutritional education
The more motivated you are to see your recovery through to the end, the more likely you are to stay off Vicodin after rehab and avoid a relapse. When you work with our professionals here at Axis, you’ll receive comprehensive care through an individualized treatment plan that’s been developed specifically for your needs. Call us to start the process of regaining control over your life.