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Vicodin Detox

Vicodin is the brand name for a common pain reliever that contains hydrocodone and acetaminophen, which is typically prescribed to patients by doctors to help with pain after surgery.

Vicodin is also an opioid pain medication and can be addictive.  Some patients will form a tolerance to Vicodin, meaning that they must take a larger dose for it to be effective.  Being physically dependent on Vicodin means that withdrawal symptoms will occur once an individual stops taking the drug.

It is common for people to have allergic reactions and/or liver damage when taking large doses of acetaminophen, and those who consistently take more than 325 mg of acetaminophen often end up in the emergency room due to overdose.  In 2011, the FDA changed the guidelines on products containing acetaminophen, particularly the amount that can be used in painkillers like Vicodin (hydrocodone) and Percocet (oxycodone) to contain only 325 mg.  Individuals taking these painkillers should be aware of acetaminophen in other cold and flu medications to prevent possible overdose.


Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms

Vicodin’s half-life is approximately 4 hours, within 8 hours it completely leaves the body.  This is when withdrawal symptoms begin.  Withdrawal symptoms for Vicodin can be similar to symptoms of other opioid medications and include:

  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drug craving
  • Tremors
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea, diarrhea and vomiting
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • Goosebumps or chills
  • Muscle aches and cramps
  • Flu like symptoms
  • Insomnia
  • Exhaustion

Vicodin Detox & Withdrawal Timeline

Typically Vicodin detox & withdrawal symptoms will last 7-10 days.  In some cases, symptoms can go on for weeks or months depending on the individual.   A syndrome called PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome) occurs in some individuals.  This may last months after the onset of withdrawal symptoms, making detox psychologically difficult.  Those experiencing PAWS will benefit most from inpatient treatment with 24 hour medical supervision and support.

Vicodin detox & withdrawal symptoms and severity are affected by many factors, including:

Length of use:  When taken as prescribed, Vicodin detox & withdrawal symptoms are typically minimal if they occur at all, however, once a person builds a tolerance to the drug or has taken it long enough to become addicted to it, withdrawal symptoms will be more severe.

Dose:  Like other opioids, a person can become tolerant to the drug and will need to take more for the drug to have the same effect.  In some cases, a larger dose is prescribed for a particular medical reason.  Once withdrawal begins, symptoms will be worse if the body is used to larger amounts of the medication.

Addiction:  This involves the psychological compulsiveness that occurs and makes Vicodin detox & withdrawal more severe.  In addition to physical symptoms, an individual must also overcome the psychological side of withdrawal, making the process more difficult to cope with.

Method of quitting:  Without medical detox, more severe Vicodin detox & withdrawal symptoms can occur.  Medications that help wean the body from the drug, like buprenorphine or methadone, can be used in a medical setting and will make the process more comfortable.  Support from nurses, staff members and therapists can also make a dramatic difference during detox.



Naloxone (branded Narcan) is becoming common in the treatment of opioid addiction.  Naloxone can be administered to people who are suffering from an overdose.  Naloxone temporarily stops the brain from absorbing the opioid medication by quickly filling the receptors and will stop the symptoms of overdose long enough to get the person to the hospital.  Naloxone does not stop the overdose because it leaves the body more quickly than the opiates do, it only provides a window of time to get medical treatment for the overdose. For this reason, naloxone is not used in the clinical treatment of withdrawal, however, it is still being studied for potential use in that capacity.

Other Treatment Methods

During medical detox, medications like buprenorphine or methadone may be used to manage severe Vicodin detox & withdrawal symptoms by tricking the body into thinking it is still receiving the opiates it is used to.  These medications are then tapered off until the body is drug free.

There are also medication free therapies to help during the Vicodin detox process.  Things like acupuncture, massage, or meditation can help in many ways.  By being relaxed and comfortable during medical detox by using alternative therapy, the process becomes easier for an individual to cope with.  Medical detox also provides 24 hour support that will help with any urge to relapse.

During Vicodin detox and withdrawal, Milestone Detox can provide the most supportive and comprehensive medical environment needed during all stages of detox to ensure successful recovery.  If you or a loved one need help, call one of our professional admissions team members for a free and confidential assessment

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