Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid painkiller medication usually prescribed to treat short-term pain. Tolerance and physical dependency on the drug can form relatively quickly. A person who has become dependent may experience symptoms associated with withdrawal from hydrocodone when usage stops after a prolonged period of use.
Medications that use hydrocodone as the primary active ingredient are the most commonly prescribed opioid painkillers in the United States. Hydrocodone is commonly used in combination formulations that include Vicodin (hydrocodone and paracetamol), Vicoprofen (hydrocodone and ibuprofen). Pure hydrocodone is prescribed under the brand name Zohydro ER.
Most people are aware of the pain relieving effects of opioid painkiller medications, leading some people to abuse them in ways other than were prescribed by a doctor. Some may take higher doses than were prescribed. Others may take medications prescribed for someone else.
Far too many people believe that abusing prescription opioid painkiller medications is somehow safer than taking illicit opioid drugs such as heroin simply because a doctor prescribed them. What those people don't realize is that prescription opiate drugs are almost identical on a molecular level to heroin and can cause the same effects and withdrawal symptoms.
Fact #1: Symptoms of withdrawal from hydrocodone are identical to those caused by detoxing from heroin. A person withdrawing from hydrocodone may experience symptoms that include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, muscle and bone aches, flu-like symptoms, insomnia, profuse sweating, excessive sneezing or yawning, goosebumps, anxiety, irritation, agitation and depression.
Fact #2: Withdrawal from hydrocodone can begin between 6 and 12 hours after taking the last dose, depending on which specific drug formulation the person was using. Peak symptoms of withdrawal usually emerge approximately 72 hours after the last dose.
In most cases, the worst of any physical symptoms should begin to subside in about a week. However, the psychological side of the hydrocodone withdrawals timeline can extend for weeks or even months after taking the last dose.
Fact #3: Symptoms associated with withdrawal from hydrocodone are not fatal. The physical and psychological symptoms can range from moderate to severe, depending on the dosage being taken and the length of use. By comparison, withdrawing from benzodiazepines or barbiturates or alcohol can produce potentially life-threatening symptoms that could require emergency medical assistance.
Fact #4: The risk of accidental overdose on opiate drugs is highest during the detox period. Many users struggling to cope with horrible withdrawal symptoms may relapse and return to a cycle of self-destructive use in an effort to make symptoms stop. However, if the person has been going through withdrawal from hydrocodone for several days, it's likely the body's tolerance levels have dropped. If that person attempts to take similar doses to the amounts being taken prior to detox, the risk of accidental overdose is increased.
Fact #5: The worst of any symptoms associated with withdrawal from hydrocodone can often be alleviated with a medically managed detox process. A doctor may prescribe treatment medications, such as methadone or Suboxone to replace the drug of addiction.
The objective behind giving recovering addicts replacement medications is to provide hydrocodone withdrawal relief. The dosage of treatment medication is tapered down over a period of time until the person is free from both drugs.
Medications that provide hydrocodone withdrawal relief are designed to help reduce the severity of any physical symptoms that may emerge. The medication also helps ease the severity of cravings, which reduces the risk of relapse.