Vicodin Addiction: Side effects, Withdrawal, and Rehab

By The Fix staff 01/21/15

Vicodin Addiction: Side effects, Withdrawal, and Rehab

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Vicodin Addiction

One of the most commonly abused drugs is Vicodin.  Although this drug is commonly prescribed to people suffering from moderate to severe pain, many people end up abusing it because it is highly addictive.  

Vicodin includes two main ingredients: hydrocodone and acetaminophen.  The former helps decrease pain while the latter serves as an anti-inflammatory, reducing swelling.  Because the drug is extremely effective at reducing pain, it is one of the most prescribed drugs across the globe.

It was in 2010 that news reports came out stating that there was enough Vicodin prescribed to patients that every adult and child in the US could have received 24 5-mg tablets.  This statistic goes to show that these pills are abundantly available, even for people who don't have a prescription.  With so many available, it's no wonder that such a high number of people are addicted. 

There are endless reasons for which a person might be prescribed Vicodin.  From toothaches to major surgeries, even if a person isn't enduring extreme pain, physicians may prescribe the medicine to ensure minimal pain is felt.  

It's important to note that some people are able to take Vicodin exactly as prescribed with no problems whatsoever. On the other side of the fence, though, are those who abuse the drug.  According to the UCLA’s Dual Diagnosis Program, an addiction to Vicodin can result in a life-long battle.  It’s imperative that those who cannot stop taking Vicodin seek treatment as soon as possible. 

Understanding the Side Effects of Vicodin

Vicodin addiction side effects are similar to those experienced in an addiction to hydrocodone.  Common side effects include:

  • Euphoria lasting anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour or more

  • Possible nausea and/or vomiting

  • Drowsiness

  • Dizziness

  • Confusion

  • Induced feelings of relaxation

  • Feelings of fatigue

  • Change in pulse 

  • Becoming hyper

Common but more severe side effects include:

  • Slow heartbeat

  • Backache

  • Trouble breathing

  • Double vision

  • Acute infection

  • Lowered blood pressure

  • Spasm of the larynx

  • Decreased or enhanced mental alertness

  • Dry mouth

  • Depression

  • Excessive sweating

  • Swelling of the feet, hands, arms, and/or legs

  • Extreme mood changes

  • Nervousness

  • Anxiety

  • Loss of appetite

  • Shallow breathing

  • Seizure

Signs of Vicodin addiction include feeling extremely weak and fatigued when the drug is not available.  Those addicted tend to think that they cannot function normally without the substance and they will go to any lengths to get more of the drug.  Many of them are under the false belief that they can stop at anytime, but when it comes to stopping, they rarely do without some type of intervention taking place, whether it be jail or rehab.  

In order to maintain a buzz from the drug, addicts have to consume more and more.  It's very simple to build up a large tolerance to Vicodin.  When first starting, an addict might consume one to two Vicodin tablets every two to four hours.  Once the addiction becomes more severe, they might take anywhere from 20 to 40+ tablets a day.  Combining Vicodin with other drugs, which many substance abusers do, is very dangerous. 

Understanding Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms

Just the same as any other narcotic, withdrawal symptoms should be expected when a person stops taking Vicodin.  Because the symptoms can become quite severe, it's best to withdrawal in a medical setting.  It is through the attention and care of medical professionals, including physicians and substance abuse counselors, that a person will enjoy a better withdrawal period than he or she would achieve without help. 

Common symptoms associated with Vicodin addiction withdrawal include:

  • Mood swings

  • Sleeplessness

  • Strong cravings

  • Sneezing

  • Restless leg syndrome

  • Goose bumps

  • Sweats

  • Irritability

  • Depression

  • Chills

  • Anxiety

  • Fever

When a person chooses to stop taking Vicodin, withdrawal symptoms usually become present between 24 and 72 hours after the last tablet is taken.  The first few days of Vicodin addiction detox tend to be the worst. During this time, a former user ensures intense physical and psychological symptoms.  It's because of this that many people addicted to this substance are unable to stay clean for longer than a few days.  The physical symptoms can last anywhere from 2 to 21 days after quitting Vicodin; however, psychological symptoms can last 1 to 2 years.  The exact amount of time the symptoms last are dependent on how long Vicodin was abused as well as the user’s level of tolerance. 

Going to Detox for an Addiction to Vicodin

Since the symptoms associated with Vicodin withdrawal often cause a person to relapse, it's imperative to detox in an actual Vicodin addiction detox center.  Staff members working at this type of facility will understand the ins-and-outs of dealing with patients who are addicted to Vicodin.  

When entering into a detox center for Vicodin addiction, a person will go through both physical and mental assessments.  These assessments will help determine how severe the person's addiction is as well as what type of treatment will be needed.  A substance abuse counselor can help a patient better understand why he or she is addicted to Vicodin.

Detox will last anywhere from 3 to 10 days and possibly longer, if withdrawal symptoms are severe.  After detox is completed, it is pertinent that a patient go straight from the facility to a rehab center.  By doing this, they ensure that there is less of a chance of their relapsing.  

Going to Vicodin Addiction Rehab

It’s important to find a rehab center that specializes in prescription drug abuse.  There are many centers all across the nation that focus on this type of addiction, so it should not be difficult to find an open bed.  

It's during rehab that a person will acquire an in-depth learning about addiction and its severe consequences.  Those in rehab should view their experience as an opportunity to become a better person.  After all, if rehab is not taken seriously, there's a high likelihood that a relapse will occur very soon after the treatment program has been completed. 

In terms of the length, this will depend on the program the person enters into.  While some people might feel as if 30 days in rehab is enough, research has shown that long-term programs––those lasting at least 3 months––tend to be far more effective.  

Many people addicted to Vicodin who complete rehab, whether it be a short- or long-term program, end up relapsing at some point.  Still, the relapsed user need not sink into a state of active addiction.  Instead, the tools and resources learned in rehab can be used to overcome the relapse and get back on track to a drug-free life. At the end of rehab, an aftercare plan will be created, and those who follow this plan will be less likely to experience a relapse.  

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