Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid prescription drug used for the treatment of pain and cough. It’s known by many different brand names. Three of the more well-known ones are Vicodin, Norco and Lortab. It’s mostly combined with other non-narcotic ingredients like acetaminophen and ibuprofen. These ingredients are used to both enhance the pain-killing effect and to discourage abuse of the hydrocodone. When hydrocodone is used for cough, it’s combined with another non-narcotic agent as well, usually some type of antihistamine. Hydrocodone is an excellent antitussive, or cough suppressant.
Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms
Hydrocodone is a relatively weak opioid when compared to other stronger ones. However, it can and does produce withdrawal symptoms of the morphine-class type in those individuals who have become dependent upon it. Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Stomach pain
- Restless leg syndrome
- Feeling cold and then hot
- Muscle and bone pain
- Generalized feelings of discomfort
Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms tend to be shorter in duration and less intense than those produced by stronger opioids such as oxycodone and hydromorphone. However, this is widely variable. Everyone is different. It’s possible for someone to feel nearly normal after a week to 10 days. Others may have some level of withdrawal symptoms for up to a month. In general, though, most of the worst symptoms will be greatly improved after a week or so. It’s common for insomnia and fatigue to continue for several weeks or more.
Some people manage to withdraw from hydrocodone at home. This is best accomplished by a gradual tapering of the dose over time before stopping the drug completely. However, this isn’t recommended. Hydrocodone withdrawal may not be as bad as withdrawal from stronger opioids, but it’s still pretty bad. You may not be able to tolerate the symptoms and then resume drug use just to get relief. If you’re addicted as well as physically dependent on hydrocodone, you will find it near impossible to stop on your own. Changes in the brain, together with your emotional dependence, will conspire against you to create a temptation that very few people can resist.
Physical dependence upon an opioid isn’t the same as an addiction to one. All regular users of opioids will become physically dependent over time, but not all who are physically dependent are also addicted. Addiction is defined as the use of a drug for non-medical purposes that continues even when the negative consequences are obvious.
Most people who take opioids under medical supervision and who do not deviate from their dosage schedule do not become addicted.
If you think you may be addicted to hydrocodone, it’s not hard to confirm it. Just try to stop. If you can manage to abstain for about 12 to 18 hours, the first withdrawal symptoms will appear. If you find you cannot stop taking hydrocodone for more than a day or two, if that, then you are addicted. A non-addict can stop and stay stopped.
Hydrocodone and Your Liver
What does hydrocodone have to do with your liver? Well, in itself, it doesn’t. Hydrocodone causes no known direct damage to this organ. However, since so many of this drug’s products contain acetaminophen, commonly known as Tylenol, users of this drug need to know about the potential for severe and fatal liver damage.
Acetaminophen is very toxic to the liver when taken in high doses. Recommended dosage limits are not to exceed 1000 milligrams in a single dose and 4000 milligrams over a 24-hour period. If you don’t believe that, just look at a package or bottle. You will see a special warning about liver damage. Many over-the-counter products containing acetaminophen even highlight this ingredient in neon yellow.
When you consider that the average tablet of a hydrocodone combination pain reliever contains 10 milligrams of narcotic and 325 milligrams of acetaminophen, it’s not hard to see how someone trying to get a high dose of narcotic would also have to consume dangerously high amounts of acetaminophen as well. Some dosage forms are as low as 5 milligrams of hydrocodone. These still contain 325 milligrams of acetaminophen per tablet.
If you have liver disease, or if you drink alcohol regularly, you are at even higher risk. It’s likely your personal safe dosage limits are lower than those listed above.
Acute liver failure from acetaminophen overdose is a leading cause of hospitalizations in the US. If caught early enough, acetaminophen poisoning can be treated with a drug known as Mucomyst (acetylcysteine). Mucomyst helps restore a critical liver chemical, glutathione, that was depleted by the ingestion of too much acetaminophen. Protect your liver by never exceeding recommended acetaminophen dosage limits.
Seek Hydrocodone Addiction Help
If you would like to stop hydrocodone, especially if you have tried and failed in the past, you should seek help. Withdrawal from this drug in an inpatient rehab or detox facility is nothing like doing it on your own. You will receive medications that will greatly reduce your discomfort. You should not be vomiting, in pain or unable to sleep all night. You should be able to sit comfortably and eat and drink normally. Restless leg symptoms aren’t acceptable. If you’re not getting sufficient relief, speak up. Your medications can be and should be adjusted. Make sure you tell staff members how you feel. It’s their job to make sure you’re not excessively uncomfortable. Medications commonly used include:
- Suboxone, a synthetic partial-agonist opioid
- Muscle relaxants
- Sleeping aids
How to Get Detox For Hydrocodone
You can call us 24 hours a day. We are here to help assist you with any kind of substance abuse issue that you may have. Just call 866-802-6848. You can speak confidentially with a trained counselor who will be able to tell you what your best options are. Your new life is just a phone call away.