When a person gets hooked on hydrocodone, and then decides to suddenly quit cold turkey, withdrawal symptoms can be horrible.
What is hydrocodone exactly? Hydrocodone is an opioid painkiller, which is derived from the opium poppy, the same flower that is responsible for heroin and other opiates. Opioids are often referred to as “controlled substances” or narcotics.
Hydrocodone is included in many painkillers including Vicodin. It is also sold under the brand names, Hysingla ER and Zohydro ER. Vicodin includes acetaminophen, which actually works to increase the effects of hydrocodone. Acetaminophen is the same ingredient that is found in Tylenol. (And by the way, too much acetaminophen can cause liver damage.)
Hydrocodone is very powerful, and does its job, which is to eliminate pain. Besides pain relief, hydrocodone provides a sense of euphoria, which lasts for several hours. After that sensation wears off, many people want the feelings of bliss back, along with the pain relief.
Even though some will take hydrocodone as prescribed by their doctor, others will increase or frequent their dosage. In both cases, the chance of becoming addicted to hydrocodone is extremely high.
Individuals who suffer from chronic pain are often prescribed painkillers, including hydrocodone on a long-term basis. This is done because the doctors are at a loss as to figuring out the source of their pain. Many chronic pain sufferers also become addicted to painkillers, and hydrocodone is one of those painkillers.
Once a person gets addicted to hydrocodone, they might become obsessed about obtaining the drug. For those who can’t get refills from their primary doctor, well, they become very creative and manipulative. These addicts will move from doctor to doctor, alter prescriptions or steal from relatives or even beg friends, families and even foes for their meds. If those alternatives don’t work, they will find a way to get a hold of hydrocodone.
Addicts can be quite imaginative when it comes to acquiring hydrocodone. They will walk through fire and brimstone to get this drug.
Sadly, when they decide to quit, withdrawals can be as bad as walking through fire and brimstone! They will find themselves in a situation that is dangerous to undergo without proper medical care.
Since both are from the opiate family, hydrocodone withdrawal is similar to withdrawing from heroin. The withdrawal process can take anywhere from one week to one month. For an addict who suddenly stops taking this medication, the experience can be quite disturbing and the withdrawal period can feel like spending an eternity in purgatory.
Withdrawal symptoms begin between six and 48 hours of the last dose. Initially, addicts begin to experience pains in their muscles, or joints. Their bones literally hurt. Some people become extremely nauseous, and others feel cramping in their abdomens. Some addicts feel both cramping and nausea. Sweating is profuse. Some people have chills and the shaking can become uncontrollable.
Then, things get worse. By the third day, they start vomiting, and experience diarrhea. This happens because the body is trying to remove toxins that have accumulated from hydrocodone addiction. The sweating might get worse.
Other physical symptoms include night sweats, fatigue, headaches, lack of concentration, goose bumps, and runny noses, as well as tearing in the eyes.
This stage lasts between three and five days.
Between the sixth and seventh day, many of the physical maladies begin to diminish. But there is no rest for the weary. Just when the individual starts to feel a little better, emotional issues rise up to the surface, like the shark out of the movie, JAWS. This includes depression, anxiety and/or strong cravings for the drug.
Other addicts become extremely agitated and restless. They might start beating themselves up, remembering some of the stupid things that they might have done or said while they were high. Feelings of remorse, guilt and shame are common during this period. Some people have even darker thoughts, which include suicide.
After this time, anxiety, depression and other negative feelings might linger with the addict. These feelings are hard to go away by themselves. And sometimes the depression and anxiety can get worse.
And that’s not the end of it.
During withdrawals, many people can become extremely dehydrated, and lose many precious electrolytes. Others can choke and asphyxiate during vomiting. They can become dizzy and lose consciousness. And the last thing they want to do is eat but they need nutrition, as well as water or Gatorade. Unless they are in a proper treatment facility, the chances are high, that they are not eating or drinking the appropriate amounts of required food and water.
As depressants, hydrocodones reduce heart rates, blood pressure, breathing and body temperature. The body itself has become used to this pattern where basic functions have slowed down. Take the hydrocodone away, and the body reacts to this sudden change.
People might feel their hearts suddenly racing, or their blood pressure shoots up. Having a fever or flu like symptoms is not uncommon. And others might start hyperventilating.
Withdrawing from hydrocodone cold turkey is not a good idea. The best solution is for an addict to check into a qualified residential treatment facility that offers detox. Hydrocodone withdrawals can cause serious complications if the individuals are not in a medically supervised setting.
During detox, the client will be made comfortable. Medication-assisted treatment, including suboxone, is often used to help with withdrawals. These drugs ease the sweating, muscle pain, and vomiting. During detox, other services will be provided, including counseling, therapy, as well as nutritious food.
While making the decision to give up a drug addiction is wonderful, going through hydrocodone withdrawals without being in the proper medical setting is not a risk worth taking. Once a person decides to give up an addiction, its not the best time to become a martyr. The key to recovery is asking for help. It’s also about becoming involved in the recovery process.
There is nothing healing in going through a horrible withdrawal process. There is no reason to suffer anymore, and going through hydrocodone withdrawals can be pure anguish. The best way to deal with this is by getting professional help.
Talk to an addiction expert