Hydrocodone Detox: Overview, Withdrawal, How It Works, and Detox Length

Before you can head to drug and alcohol rehab for hydrocodone abuse, you’ll first need to enter a drug detox. At a hydrocodone detox center, you’ll get help overcoming drug dependence in a safe and effective way. Check out the information below to learn more about how detox works and why it’s such an important first step.

An Overview of Hydrocodone Abuse

Hydrocodone, better known as its brand name Vicodin, is abused by people across the country. In fact, it’s one of the most commonly abused prescription painkillers, with 2 percent of 12th graders admitting in 2017 they’d tried the drug during the past year. Overall, 4.3 million people in the United States used narcotic pain relievers like hydrocodone for nonmedical uses in 2014.

As you take hydrocodone more frequently, your body adapts to always having it available. This is called dependence, and it actually changes the way your brain works, causing it to produce less of certain neurotransmitters. When you abruptly stop taking hydrocodone, your body struggles to cope, producing uncomfortable and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms

Because hydrocodone is a short-acting opioid, it stays in your system for less time than other opioids. This means you’ll start experiencing withdrawal symptoms sooner, specifically within eight to 24 hours of your last dose. At first, these symptoms might include:

  • Sweating.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Anxiety and irritability.
  • Tearing and a runny nose.
  • Hot and cold flashes.

As your withdrawal continues to worsen, you’ll experience:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Diarrhea.

In most cases, these symptoms aren’t fatal. However, they are extremely unpleasant, which is why so many people turn to drug and alcohol detox for help.

How Hydrocodone Detox Works

Once you enroll in hydrocodone detox, a team of medical professionals will monitor your condition after discontinuing hydrocodone usage and will provide medications and other care to ease your suffering.

To assess how your withdrawal is progressing, they might use the Short Opioid Withdrawal Scale to monitor the progression of your symptoms. They’ll ask you to rate 10 of the most common opioid withdrawal symptoms on a scale of 0 to 3, with 0 being “not present” and 3 being “severe.” Your total score will then be compiled to determine what kind of medical help is necessary.

  • If your score is 0-10, it’s mild withdrawal, so you just need medication to help manage your symptoms.
  • If your score is 10-20, it’s moderate withdrawal, so you could use either medication to manage your symptoms or opioid medication to appease your brain’s cravings.
  • If your score is 20-30, it’s severe withdrawal, so your team will probably provide opioid medications to satisfy your brain’s need for hydrocodone.

If you just need symptomatic medication management, you’ll probably be given clonidine, a drug that alleviates many of the most common withdrawal symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, and cramps.

However, if you need an opioid medication to satisfy your brain’s need for hydrocodone, you may be given:

  • Buprenorphine, which reduces your cravings and gets rid of your withdrawal symptoms.
  • Methadone, which is generally used for detox from longer-acting opioids but can still be helpful for hydrocodone.
  • Naltrexone, which blocks you from getting high if you try to sneak a dose of hydrocodone.

How Long Is Hydrocodone Detox?

Hydrocodone detox typically lasts until your withdrawal symptoms have come to an end. For most people, that’s somewhere between four and 10 days. However, every person is different in their recovery. Factors that can change your detox time include how long you’ve been taking hydrocodone, how much hydrocodone you’ve been taking, and your overall health.

Once you’re out of detox, you’ll still be going through what’s known as protracted withdrawal. This is a series of less irksome symptoms that linger for up to six months after your last dose. Symptoms can include cravings and general malaise.

After you’ve completed detox, the next step is to enroll in a drug rehab treatment program for counseling and support on the rest of your journey. With the right program, you can get the help you need to stay sober for life.

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