Vicodin Detox: How it Works and What to Expect

Vicodin detox is the process of allowing all traces of Vicodin to leave the body so that brain function can begin to return to normal. Detox ends Vicodin dependence, which is characterized by withdrawal symptoms that set in when you stop using Vicodin. Dependence develops as the brain compensates for Vicodin’s psychoactive effects. It does this by altering the activity of involved brain chemicals, or neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Vicodin Detox

These changes in brain function lead to tolerance, which means that you need increasingly larger doses of Vicodin to get the desired effects. But as your use increases, your brain continues to alter its chemical function to compensate. At some point, neurotransmitter function may shift so that the brain now operates more comfortably with Vicodin in the system than when it’s not. When you suddenly stop taking Vicodin, normal brain function rebounds, causing physical withdrawal symptoms like:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • intense cravings
  • body aches

While Vicodin withdrawal isn’t generally dangerous, it can be extremely uncomfortable. Most people who try to detox on their own without support will turn back to using very quickly simply to end withdrawal. That’s why medical detox is essential for successfully ending dependence.

What to Expect in Vicodin Detox

Medical detox is supervised by physicians who provide medications as needed to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and increase your comfort during detox. Medications may shorten the time it takes to detox, and they can help brain function return to normal.

A variety of complementary therapies like restorative yoga and acupuncture may be used to improve your mood and increase feelings of wellbeing during the detox process. Other therapies, such as motivational interviewing, help you identify your own intrinsic reasons for wanting to recover.

How long it takes to detox depends on a number of factors, including the severity of the dependence, your general state of physical and mental health and the amount of Vicodin in your body at the start of detox.

Medication-Assisted Treatment: An Alternative to Detox

An alternative to medical detox is medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, which involves taking medications like buprenorphine or methadone to reduce cravings, block the effects of opioids and prevent withdrawal symptoms from setting in. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, MAT offers the best treatment outcomes for opioid addiction and dependence 1 Research shows that MAT:
  • Keeps people in treatment longer
  • Reduces opioid use and related criminal activities
  • Reduces HIV and hepatitis infections
  • Improves the chances of finding and maintaining employment
  • Reduces the risk of relapse
  • Reduces the risk of fatal overdose
An integral component of MAT is counseling. A variety of traditional and complementary therapies have been shown through research to be effective for treating addiction and improving the quality of life of people in recovery.

After Detox: The Transition to Treatment

During Vicodin detox, a variety of assessments are used by the treatment team to determine the severity of your addiction and identify the problems it has caused in your life. This information is used to help the team develop an individualized treatment plan that will begin once detox is complete. Following detox with a holistic treatment program is central to successful recovery from any addiction.

Holistic treatment programs use both traditional and complementary therapies to address the complex underlying issues behind the addiction, which often include a history of trauma, mental illnesses like anxiety and depression, and chronic stress. A holistic approach to treatment offers the best possible outcomes, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2

Treatment helps you develop essential skills for coping with stress, cravings and other relapse triggers, and it helps you identify and change dysfunctional thought and behavior patterns that perpetuate the addiction. The overarching goal of a holistic treatment program is to restore function to every aspect of your life and provide you with the motivation and tools you need to successfully recover for the long-term.

While detox alone does little to end an addiction, it’s an essential first step toward successful recovery, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. 3If you’re ready to end a Vicodin addiction once and for all, a high quality medical detox program provides an entry point to treatment and serves as the gateway to a healthier, happier life.