Vicodin is an opioid pain reliever usually prescribed for moderate-to-severe pain. Hydrocodone, one of the ingredients in Vicodin, is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule II drug, which means it has a high potential for abuse and its use could potentially lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. The drug’s strength and potential for abuse make it difficult to stop taking, so we asked some medical experts what someone with Vicodin withdrawal would experience, and how to manage those symptoms.
Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms
According to Christopher Johnston, MD, and chief medical officer at Pinnacle Treatment Centers, some symptoms of Vicodin withdrawal include:
- Muscle aches
- Upset stomach (nausea and vomiting)
- Tremors (involuntary muscle movements)
- Excessive sweating
In addition to physical symptoms, someone with Vicodin withdrawal may also experience changes in their behavior.
“Other symptoms include anxiety, irritability, insomnia, agitation, and restlessness,” Anh Evardo, PharmD, and clinical pharmacist at Kaiser Permanente, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
While these symptoms can be part of withdrawal, some are common side effects of using Vicodin.
Managing Vicodin Withdrawal
There are two phases for managing withdrawal symptoms—the acute phase of detoxification, during which you get all of the substances out of your body, and the stable phase that focuses on relapse prevention through multiple methods of treatment and medical support.
As someone starts experiencing Vicodin withdrawal, one option is to treat it through medication.
“Buprenorphine, the active ingredient in Suboxone, is an excellent medication for withdrawal,” Johnston says.
“Medications such as Buprenorphine or Methadone can decrease the sudden withdrawal symptoms,” Jenna Liphart Rhoads, PhD, RN, and medical advisor at NurseTogether, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
Medications like buprenorphine are called “partial agonists”, which means that they make the body think it is still receiving the opioid, so the body does not start experiencing withdrawal. These medications are given at smaller doses regularly until the person does not need them anymore.
Additionally, “clonidine lessens some symptoms of opioid withdrawal, such as sweating, diarrhea, cramps, nausea, irritability, and anxiety. Clonidine is mostly used as a supplement to buprenorphine and methadone,” Evardo says.
Someone struggling with Vicodin withdrawal can also seek treatment at an inpatient rehabilitation clinic. According to American Addiction Centers, treatment methods like meditation, massage, or acupuncture can help someone detox from Vicodin. Inpatient rehabilitation clinics offer care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so there is continuous medical, emotional, and psychological support.
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Editor's Note: Many advocates have moved away from the term "abuse" in an effort to destigmatize addiction and conditions related to it. However, those experiencing addiction who are interested in locating treatment may encounter the term occasionally.