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What is Hydrocodone Detox?
Detox is the first step in substance abuse and addiction recovery, occurring when you stop taking all harmful substances and allow them to leave the body. Before someone goes to hydrocodone rehab, detox is necessary.
Although hydrocodone has legitimate medical applications, it is highly addictive and often misused. Such abuse can lead to addiction, dependence, and the need for detoxification. If not properly managed, the withdrawal symptoms of hydrocodone detox can be severe and even life-threatening. Detox should only occur under proper medical supervision.
A fairly common street term for detoxing is “drying out.” Medically, this condition is known as withdrawal syndrome or opiate withdrawal.
Hydrocodone is currently the most prescribed drug in the United States, so programs offering hydrocodone detox are becoming more widespread.
Medical Detox for Hydrocodone
As hydrocodone is eliminated from your body, you may experience withdrawal symptoms if you do not continue consuming it. To help people going through hydrocodone withdrawal, medical detoxification, also known as medically supervised detox, provides medical supervision, medication, and care.
This monitoring is essential to ensure their safety throughout the withdrawal process. Detox should never be attempted abruptly or “cold turkey” without medical supervision. Medical facilities, specialized detox centers, and treatment centers offer medical detox programs.
The length can vary, depending on factors such as age, genetics, body weight, overall health, metabolism, the severity of addiction, the duration of hydrocodone use, and dosage.
The length of detox can vary based on factors such as:
- Body weight
- Overall health
- The severity of the addiction
- The amount of time hydrocodone was taken
- The dosage
What to Expect During Detox for Hydrocodone
When undergoing medical, supervised detox for hydrocodone, treatment professionals can administer medication to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and side effects. This can make the withdrawal process more manageable and prevent a potential relapse.
If you or a loved one is undergoing Vicodin detox, here is what you can expect:
Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms may appear within the first 30 hours after the last dose of hydrocodone. As a result, the initial detoxification stage is usually the most severe.
Drug cravings can be intense during this stage, often leading to a return to drug use. That is why medical, supervised detox is strongly recommended.
Some other common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Mood swings
- Intense cravings
- Muscle aches
- Dilated pupils
- Changes in appetite
- Body aches
- Increased blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
- Suicidal thoughts
The duration and intensity of withdrawal symptoms can vary but typically persist for up to two weeks.
However, psychological symptoms linked to hydrocodone withdrawal can last much longer, sometimes persisting for weeks or even months after physical symptoms have subsided.
During detoxification, some people may be prescribed medications to alleviate the symptoms of hydrocodone withdrawal and reduce drug cravings. This approach is known as medication-assisted treatment.
Some medications that are FDA-approved to help with opioid withdrawal include:
- Clonidine, to treat high blood pressure
- Benzodiazepines to address symptoms of anxiety and insomnia
- Methadone for cravings
- Buprenorphine (Suboxone) for cravings and other withdrawal symptoms
- Naltrexone (Vivitrol) for cravings and other withdrawal symptoms
- Naloxone to counteract the effects of opioids
- Over-the-counter painkillers such as Tylenol and Advil
Are There Risks to Detox?
During detoxification, the primary risk is the possibility of severe dehydration and hypernatremia, which is characterized by elevated blood sodium levels. These conditions may result in heart failure, which can be life-threatening.
Therefore, attempting hydrocodone withdrawal without medical assistance is considered hazardous.
Post-Detox Hydrocodone Treatment
Following the successful completion of hydrocodone detoxification, the subsequent step in the addiction treatment process is to undergo a treatment program. Based on the recommendation of your healthcare provider or treatment professional, you will likely begin an inpatient, outpatient, or partial hospitalization program.
Therapy, especially psychotherapy, is a common approach for people struggling with hydrocodone addiction.
Psychotherapy addresses the mental health effects of opiate addiction and enables you to comprehend the factors that contributed to the development of your substance use disorder.
By comprehending the triggers that led to addiction, you can acquire the skills to better cope with those factors in the future without the use of drugs or alcohol.
Therapies and treatments that work well include:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavioral therapy
- Support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and SMART Recovery
Why is Detox Necessary?
Hydrocodone is an opioid that binds to the opioid receptors present in the brain. These receptors regulate feelings of pain and pleasure by triggering the release of additional endorphins.
Ordinarily, the brain controls endorphin levels, but opioids alter this by prompting the release of endorphins instead. As time passes, the brain becomes accustomed to the boosted endorphin levels and stops regulating them.
Eventually, the brain becomes dependent on these heightened endorphin levels and believes it requires more endorphins to function effectively.
This reliance will compel the person to increase their hydrocodone intake to maintain the heightened endorphin levels.
As dependence becomes more severe, it leads to addiction and withdrawal symptoms when hydrocodone ceases in the system.
Dependence and withdrawal are signs of addiction, necessitating treatment to recover from it. The first step in treatment is detox.
Signs You May Need Detox
Anyone facing a hydrocodone addiction or dependence may need to undergo detox and seek addiction treatment.
How do you recognize addiction? Drug addiction, and especially hydrocodone addiction, come with many signs.
Physical symptoms of opioid addiction include:
- Mood swings
- Slowed movement
- Muscle or bone weakness and pain
In addition to these physical symptoms, you may also notice changes in the behavior of someone facing a hydrocodone addiction.
Some behavioral signs of hydrocodone addiction include:
- Hiding pill bottles or drug paraphernalia
- Going “doctor shopping” (going to multiple doctors to get hydrocodone prescriptions written)
- Lying about their hydrocodone use
- Struggling at work or school
- Ignoring responsibilities
- Noticeable changes in personal hygiene
- Losing interest in previously enjoyable activities
- Getting into financial trouble as a result of buying hydrocodone
- Taking hydrocodone in potentially dangerous situations
- Changes in social groups
- Relationship struggles
- Legal problems
Get Help for Hydrocodone Addiction
While detox is the crucial first step in the addiction recovery process, it is still only part of the process. Fortunately, you have many options available for opioid addiction treatment.
Call the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-4357 or visit their online program locator to find opioid and hydrocodone addiction treatment options in your area.
Hydrocodone Detox FAQs
What is hydrocodone detox?
Hydrocodone detox happens when you stop taking hydrocodone and the substance leaves your system.
The withdrawal symptoms associated with hydrocodone detox can be severe. That is why the detox process should occur under the care and supervision of trained medical professionals.
Who needs hydrocodone detox?
Anyone with a hydrocodone addiction or dependence may need to undergo detox. This first step in the addiction recovery process helps you rid your body of harmful substances to prepare for treatment.
How long does it take for hydrocodone to leave your system?
Hydrocodone will be completely out of your system within about 8 hours. It has a half-life of about 3.8 hours, meaning half a normal dose will be gone from your system in this time frame.
Medical detox programs can help ensure the hydrocodone detox process goes smoothly, keeping you safe while the drug leaves your body.