Vicodin detox & withdrawal

This Page was last reviewed and changed on June 6th, 2022

Content Overview

As Vicodin becomes more easily available in the UK, we are seeing a gradual increase in the number of people abusing it. Vicodin abuse can lead to dependence and addiction, thus creating the need for detox and withdrawal. If you are abusing Vicodin, you should seriously consider getting medical help. Vicodin withdrawal and detox are best supervised by trained doctors and nurses.

Hydrocodone is an opiate painkiller and the main ingredient in the prescription drug Vicodin. Once a person becomes dependent on the drug, detox and withdrawal are necessary to restore health. It is best to detox and withdraw from Vicodin under the supervision of trained professionals. Just like any addictive drug, Vicodin alters the way the brain works. Its effect on the brain also influences other parts of the body as well. This creates a collective problem once a person stops using Vicodin. Every affected body part has to readjust to the new normal, creating withdrawal symptoms that are not always pleasant. You will learn more about those symptoms in this guide.

To begin the discussion, understand that Vicodin and hydrocodone are highly addictive drugs that should be used with care. Never use Vicodin without being supervised by a doctor. And if you are already using the drug in any other way, you need to seek help. Vicodin detox and withdrawal are difficult enough for people who have only been dependent for a short amount of time; things get much harder the longer a person uses Vicodin.

Vicodin Withdrawal

Vicodin withdrawal is a natural physical and psychological reaction to stopping the use of the drug. There are very definite symptoms attached to it, and the entire process can take some time. Withdrawal can create a medical emergency if symptoms are serious enough.

If there is a chance you are dependent on Vicodin or addicted to it, withdrawal is the first step in overcoming the problem. We recommend you sign up for a medically-assisted treatment programme so that your withdrawal can be supervised and monitored. Your health and well-being are the number one concern of treatment providers. They will help you through the withdrawal process from start to finish.

A successful withdrawal will put you on the right path to eventually overcoming your dependence or addiction. But first things first. Withdrawal is a necessary first step in the recovery process. It allows your body to cleanse itself of hydrocodone and begin to heal the damage it caused. In the absence of withdrawal, you will not be able to recover from Vicodin dependence or addiction.

Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawing from Vicodin produces symptoms that can be uncomfortable. An addict will demonstrate some of the symptoms between doses, as the effectiveness of the last dose begins to wear off. That is one way to know if you are addicted. If you start feeling withdrawal symptoms hours after taking the last Vicodin pill, that is your body telling you it wants more of the drug.

Vicodin users in detox exhibit the same withdrawal symptoms. Those symptoms include:

Causes of Vicodin Withdrawal

So what causes Vicodin withdrawal? It is essentially the body trying to maintain stability as different chemicals in the brain are being adjusted. To understand this need for stability (aka homeostasis), we first have to understand what Vicodin does to the brain.

When Vicodin reaches the brain, hydrocodone molecules attach to and activate opioid receptors. This initiates a cascading effect that alters the delicate balance of chemicals in the brain. For example, the brain is stimulated to produce dopamine, a chemical that is part of the brain’s reward system.

Long-term use of Vicodin disrupts the normal balance of brain chemicals. As long as the user continues taking Vicodin, the drug combines with brain chemicals to maintain homeostasis. But take the Vicodin away and you suddenly have an imbalance that has to be compensated for. Withdrawal is the body’s attempt to do that.

A good way to understand Vicodin withdrawal is to think of a scale. On one side of the scale you have Vicodin; on the other side are a number of brain chemicals the body produces in order to compensate for the Vicodin. As long as both the Vicodin and the other brain chemicals remain constant, the scale is balanced.

Take away some of the Vicodin and suddenly the other side of the scale is too heavy. You have to remove some of those other brain chemicals to balance things out again. Take away all the Vicodin and you have a real problem. That is essentially what withdrawal is.

Treatment for Vicodin Withdrawal

Vicodin withdrawal is a normal part of a comprehensive addiction treatment. It is best to undergo withdrawal in a medically supervised setting so that withdrawal symptoms can be managed. The treatment for withdrawal involves a combination of prescription medications, over-the-counter medications to help manage symptoms, and counselling from psychologists and therapists.

Does Vicodin Withdrawal Work?

Vicodin withdrawal does work to break the hold of physical dependence. As your body gradually withdraws, it readjusts so as to depend less and less on the drug. But that’s as far as it goes. Withdrawal alone is not enough to overcome a Vicodin addiction.

Medications for Vicodin Withdrawal

Prescription medications are frequently used in a medically-assisted setting to make Vicodin withdrawal safer and more bearable. Medications can be divided into two categories: stabilisation and symptom relief. Many of the medications in the second category are over-the-counter drugs you could purchase at any pharmacy or supermarket.

Below is a list of some of the most commonly used medications for Vicodin withdrawal. Note that some of them are brand-specific while others are categories of medications.


This medication is an opioid used to stabilise a patient and establish a baseline for withdrawal. It can also be used in a substitute tapering scenario in which Vicodin is gradually replaced by buprenorphine before the actual tapering process begins.


Like buprenorphine, methadone is also an opioid used to facilitate gradual withdrawal. You may be familiar with this drug if you know anything about heroin withdrawal. Methadone can be a stabilising drug and/or a substitute for Vicodin altogether. It has a longer half-life than Vicodin, meaning the patient needs fewer doses during withdrawal.


In situations where neither buprenorphine nor methadone is appropriate, doctors may choose Lofexidine instead. Lofexidine is not an opioid, so there are fewer risks when using it for Vicodin withdrawal. It is a good medication for people whose dependence on Vicodin is minimal.


Zoloft is a brand of the prescription drug sertraline, an antidepressant and a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It might be administered to help combat deep feelings of depression. It would be used only until the patient’s brain recovers enough to combat depression on its own.


This is another antidepressant that offers the same kind of relief as Zoloft.


Clonidine is an interesting medication that it can be used for a variety of different purposes including treating high blood pressure, addressing ADHD, and relieving anxiety. It is both an adrenergic agonist and imidazoline receptor agonist that can relieve intense feelings of anxiety.


In some cases, doctors choose to administer benzodiazepines to stabilise a patient’s mood. This prevents potentially dangerous mood swings and erratic behaviour. Diazepam is an example of one of the benzodiazepines that might be used. These medications carry with them the risk of dependence, so they are used judiciously.

OTC Medications

Finally, doctors utilise over-the-counter medications to control some of the more annoying physical symptoms of withdrawal. For example, paracetamol (acetaminophen or Tylenol) is administered to relieve muscle pain and headaches. A doctor might administer an OTC gastrointestinal medication to help control nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps.

Vicodin Withdrawal Psychosis

Psychosis is one of the scarier symptoms of Vicodin withdrawal. Fortunately, not every patient undergoing withdrawal experiences it. But in those who do, it can be mild or severe. The risk of Vicodin withdrawal psychosis is serious enough to warrant medically supervised withdrawal.

In a generic sense, psychosis is any kind of psychotic episode in which a person loses touch with reality. Psychosis often involves delusions or hallucinations. When psychosis is the result of drug or alcohol withdrawal, it can make the withdrawal process more difficult.

The good news about Vicodin withdrawal psychosis is that it generally does not produce hallucinations or delusions. Actually, that’s true for most opiates. Psychosis induced by Vicodin withdrawal is more a result of being overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety and/or depression. Those emotions can cause a patient to lose touch with reality.

A person experiencing Vicodin withdrawal psychosis doesn’t understand what is going on around him or her. The person may temporarily forget that he or she is in treatment; he/she may fail to recognise the doctors, nurses, and support staff around him/her. The patient is also likely to feel a sense of desperation without being able to explain why.

Vicodin withdrawal psychosis produces deep feelings of hopelessness to go along with the desperation. Patients may unrealistically believe they are not going to survive. They might be convinced that they have nothing left to live for.

All these intense emotions can cause a patient to disconnect from reality. Without proper supervision, a patient could be led to make decisions that would otherwise seem irrational. He or she may demonstrate paranoia, attempt to harm him/herself or even attempt to forcibly escape treatment.

Unfortunately, Vicodin withdrawal psychosis can create a dangerous situation for both patient and caregiver. A person suffering from psychosis is truly unpredictable. Therefore, caregivers always have to be alert to what is going on in the treatment environment.

Note that the risk of Vicodin withdrawal psychosis is very real regardless of the level of dependence a patient exhibits. The risks of psychosis are too great to attempt withdrawing on your own. If you are attempting to kick a Vicodin habit, you really need to do so under the care of doctors and nurses who can handle Vicodin withdrawal psychosis safely.

Medical Detox from Vicodin as Part of a Whole Treatment Plan

Modern treatments for drug dependence and addiction are based on a holistic model. Holistic treatment is a comprehensive treatment that treats the whole patient – body, mind, and spirit – rather than just the body alone. This is in stark contrast to how treatment was administered in the past.

Decades ago it was not unusual for a person to go through a 5-7-day detox programme and then be done with it. The thinking back then was that detoxifying was the only thing required for a person to stop using. Recovering addicts were expected to independently seek out counselling and support group membership following detox. Today, we do things differently.

Years of research have helped us to understand that the best way to treat a drug addict is to treat every part of the person. To that end, medical detox from Vicodin is just one part of a whole treatment plan. Detox is not an effective treatment all by itself.

Here’s what you need to know about the various components of comprehensive Vicodin treatment:

Detox – Medical detox is the first step. It comes first because it is not possible to address any other issues until the body is free of Vicodin. Only when detox is complete can the body and mind be restored to proper function.

Rehab – The rehab process follows detox with several weeks of psychotherapeutic treatments. The goal of rehab is to help the recovering addict better understand addiction and its implications.

Aftercare – Aftercare services are an extension of rehab with the main goal of preventing relapse. Aftercare is an essential part of treatment in that the temptation to start using Vicodin again is likely to present itself once a person leaves formal treatment.

Understanding the progression of Vicodin treatment should make it clear that detox is the critical first step. But it is not the only step. If you were to detox from Vicodin without continuing into rehab and aftercare, all you would have done is address your body’s dependence and addiction. You would not have addressed your mind or emotions.

As part of a whole treatment plan, medical detox can be administered in either an inpatient or outpatient setting. Inpatient detox is better inasmuch as patients are monitored around the clock. Patients still receive medical care in outpatient treatment, but withdrawal is not medically monitored 24/7.

Vicodin Addiction Detox

Detoxing from Vicodin is an unpleasant experience. Fortunately, addiction treatment centres are fully equipped to minimise the discomfort as much as possible. A person undergoing Vicodin addiction detox at a residential clinic will be far more comfortable – and safer for that matter – that if he or she were attempting to self-detox at home.

Detox in a residential facility is medically assisted and supervised. What does this mean? Medically assisted detox involves prescription medications, OTC medications, and other medically-based means to facilitate a safe and complete withdrawal. In other words, you are being treated by doctors and nurses.

The medical supervision component simply describes the fact that doctors, nurses, and therapists are on hand around-the-clock to assist patients. This knowledge alone can be quite comforting to a person who might otherwise be scared of detox.

We hope you won’t let the fear of detox prevent you from getting professional treatment for a Vicodin addiction. Yes, detox can be unpleasant. But under the care of trained doctors and nurses, you will pull through. Your body will eventually eliminate all the Vicodin within so that you can begin getting your life back in order.

As for choosing between inpatient and outpatient treatment, that is a choice only you can make. Be sure to visit our Treatment & Rehab page to learn more about both options. There are definite advantages to inpatient treatment, but outpatient treatment can be equally effective as well. The most important thing is that you seek out Vicodin treatment to address your addiction.

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Vicodin Detox Protocol

If you were to contact a rehab centre to arrange for treatment, the first thing you would experience is a complete physical and mental evaluation. The point of this evaluation is to assess where you are at the current time. From that assessment, your doctors and therapists can create an individualised treatment plan specific to your needs. This treatment plan is also known as a protocol.

The medical protocol is generally defined as a plan of how treatment will progress. A Vicodin detox protocol is similar in nature, but it is more specific as it relates to the process of bringing someone through withdrawal. A patient’s treatment plan has to be somewhat flexible to accommodate how he responds to withdrawal and any prescription and over-the-counter medications being administered.

You might be interested to know that drug treatment protocols have not always been individualised. Decades ago, the thinking was that all drug addicts could be put into the same recovery programme with equal success. It was the so-called one-size-fits-all approach. Today, just some clinics take that approach. The better centres have come to realise that patients are individuals requiring flexible protocols.

Here is a hypothetical Vicodin detox protocol, just to give you an idea of how things work in a general sense:

Professional evaluation

The patient is admitted to the rehab centre and then evaluated by a team of doctors and therapists. The assessment covers physical health, mental health, history of substance use, family history, and other contributing factors.

Patient stabilisation

Stabilising the patient follows the professional evaluation. Stabilisation prepares the patient to undergo withdrawal with minimum risk. It often includes administering one of a number of different drugs that establish a baseline for a gradual withdrawal.

Withdrawal begins

Within 4 to 6 hours of receiving stabilising medication, the actual process of withdrawal begins. Vicodin detox protocol calls for doctors and nurses to monitor the patient closely. Withdrawal symptoms are managed with both prescription and OTC medications.

Patient comfort

As withdrawal progresses, symptoms become more unpleasant. A modern protocol would indicate that nurses and support staff intervene whenever necessary to make the patient as comfortable as possible. Alongside such efforts, staff are also looking for signs of more serious withdrawal symptoms, including Vicodin withdrawal psychosis.

Initiating therapy

In many cases of Vicodin withdrawal, a patient’s treatment plan calls for beginning therapy during the detox process. Therapy can help calm the patient’s nerves, relieve feelings of anxiety or depression, and help the patient stay connected with reality.

Completing withdrawal

Vicodin detox protocol dictates staying with the patient until withdrawal is complete. As one day passes into the next, fewer medications should be needed to control withdrawal symptoms. The patient should also respond to therapy more positively. Once withdrawal is complete, the patient’s treatment plan generally calls for transitioning into rehabilitative treatments.

Please understand that no Vicodin detox protocol is set in stone. The protocol acts as a guide of sorts to point doctors and nurses in the right direction. There are cases where patients respond in such a way that is possible to stick to the protocol without deviation. But in most cases, at least minor modifications are made along the way.

Hopefully, this section of the guide has helped you to understand that Vicodin addiction treatment is personalised. Patients are not put into a drug detox ‘factory’ where they are all shuffled through the same programme in hopes of achieving the same results. Modern treatment is individualised to account for specific patient needs.

Withdrawal Timeline

Keep in mind that the goal of withdrawal is to eventually end up with a Vicodin-free system. Completely stopping all use of Vicodin allows the body to cleanse and heal itself. In a medically supervised setting, withdrawal begins by establishing a baseline that tells doctors how much Vicodin you would need to use in order to remain stable.

Based on a physical and psychological evaluation, your doctors may decide to gradually reduce the amount of Vicodin you receive until you are down to using none at all. On the other hand, they might also decide to substitute Vicodin with another drug. In both cases, the strategy is the same. The amount of drugs in your system is gradually tapered so as to prevent the most serious withdrawal symptoms. Simply put, it is a gradual withdrawal.

The point at which withdrawal symptoms begin is related to the drug’s half-life. Most Vicodin formulas have a half-life of about 4 to 6 hours, meaning you could expect to start feeling the early signs of withdrawal within 4 to 6 hours of the last dose. It could take up to 12 hours if the Vicodin formula you have been using has a longer half-life.

Withdrawal symptoms will gradually become more intense as you work your way through withdrawal. In most people, those symptoms peak 60 to 72 hours in. Then they gradually begin to subside. How long it takes until the symptoms are completely gone depends on individual circumstances.

Some Vicodin addicts are completely asymptomatic after a week or so. Others may continue exhibiting a few of the withdrawal symptoms, like cravings for example, for weeks or months following withdrawal. There is no way to know on a case-by-case basis until withdrawal actually begins.

Physical Dependence vs. Addiction

At this point, it is necessary to address the differences between dependence and addiction. You might be suffering from dependence even though you are not an addict, which might suggest that you would be very receptive to medically supervised detox and a minimal amount of psychotherapeutic treatment. On the other hand, a Vicodin addiction would necessitate following detox with a much more comprehensive rehab programme.

Suffice to say that dependence and addiction are not the same thing. The words are used interchangeably, but they are different conditions from a medical standpoint. The differences are distinct enough to actually influence how a person is treated for Vicodin abuse.

A person who is dependent on Vicodin may be physically dependent, psychologically dependent, or both. In most cases, it is both. Physical dependence is a medical condition characterised by the body relying on having a certain amount of Vicodin in the system to function.

If you are physically dependent on Vicodin, your body needs that drug to balance out some of the other chemicals the brain is producing. A lack of Vicodin creates an imbalanced situation. Psychological dependence is similar, but it has more to do with the thoughts and emotions.

A person who is psychologically dependent on Vicodin is convinced that he or she cannot cope without the drug. Whether a person is taking Vicodin for pain management or just to escape the realities of life, even the thought of not having the drug on hand makes that person anxious. In the patient’s mind, it is not possible to cope with life unless Vicodin is part of the equation.

Here’s where the difference between dependence and addiction comes in. A person who is merely dependent still has some measure of control over his Vicodin use. He still has the ability to say no, even if that means unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. The Vicodin addict lacks that control.

By definition, an addict is someone who acts on impulse. Vicodin addicts are driven to continue taking the drug even though they know it is harming them. What drives them? A combination of dependence, cravings, and the way the reward system of the brain operates.

Addiction is characterised as both a physical and mental illness because it involves both the body and mind. A person who is addicted has no control over that addiction, which is why medical treatment is necessary.

Note that you can be dependent on Vicodin without being an addict. It doesn’t work the other way though. All Vicodin addicts are dependent on the drug. The longer a person is addicted, the more serious the dependence becomes.

If you are concerned, a medical professional with experience in addiction issues is best qualified to tell you if you are either dependent or addicted.

Vicodin Overdose

Vicodin is similar to most other drugs when it comes to overdose. In the simplest possible terms, you can take too much Vicodin and create a medical emergency for yourself. Overdosing on Vicodin is not something that should be taken lightly.

Fortunately, Vicodin overdose is rare when people use the drug under medical supervision. You might be taking it to manage post-surgical pain, for example. As long as you follow your doctor’s instructions you are at no risk for overdose. If you decide to take more than your prescription stipulates, you run the risk of overdose.

Also, note that you can create an overdose situation by combining Vicodin with other drugs. A good example is alcohol. Because alcohol is a sedative, it enhances the sedative effects of Vicodin. Combining the two drugs together could cause an overdose even though the amount of Vicodin you took is still within your doctor’s recommendations.

What happens when a person overdoses on Vicodin? The body reacts in very unpleasant ways. Taking too much Vicodin at any one time causes multiple systems within the body to slow down. This is why a person might start feeling excessive fatigue and an inability to think straight.

The two most serious risks of Vicodin overdose are a respiratory and cardiac arrest. Again, this is due to the sedative nature of Vicodin.

Vicodin slows down a person’s breathing. This is why Vicodin addicts frequently complain of shortness of breath or other breathing problems. In an overdose situation, breathing may be slowed to such a degree that the person experiences respiratory arrest. In other words, he or she stops breathing. A period of respiratory arrest that lasts long enough could result in permanent brain damage due to hypoxia (oxygen starvation of the brain).

Vicodin’s sedating nature affects the muscles by causing them to relax. Because the heart is a muscle, Vicodin slows down the heart rate. It can be slowed dangerously in an overdose situation. If a person has taken enough Vicodin, the heart can even stop beating; this is cardiac arrest.

The risk of overdose is very real if you are using Vicodin in any other way than as prescribed by a doctor. If you are doing so, we urge you to seek medical help. Go through a detox and rehab programme that can help you stop using Vicodin permanently. You cannot overdose on the drug if you are not using it.

Vicodin Addiction Treatment and Rehab

There are rehab centres throughout the UK more than capable of addressing Vicodin addiction. We can help you connect with one of our residential facilities or else an outpatient programme or other treatment options that might be suitable for you. Please let us help you before Vicodin does any more damage. We understand how difficult it is to make a decision to be treated. We also know that there is a lot of information out there. We can help you by walking you through all that so that you can make an informed decision. And if you are ready to seek treatment, we can offer you a referral to the rehab clinic of your choice.

Vicodin Addiction Withdrawal and Detox Statistics

Vicodin is combined with other opiates for the purposes of statistical analysis, so specific information about Vicodin addiction and withdrawal is hard to come by. Let’s look at opiate statistics to get a better understanding of what we are dealing with.

To begin with, upwards of 99% of all Vicodin consumed in the world is consumed in the United States. Here in the UK, we also have a similar problem. That is evidenced by the fact that opioid abuse now represents the most harmful form of drug abuse in our corner of the world.

How serious is opioid abuse? In 2015, eight out of every 1,000 people in the UK was considered a high-risk opioid user. This translates into hundreds of thousands of people who are either Vicodin dependent or addicted. Check out these specific numbers from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) 2017 UK Country Drug Report:

  • The number of high-risk opioid users in 2015 – 330,445
  • The number of patients receiving opioid treatment in 2015 – 142,085
  • The percentage of opioid patients receiving treatment for the first time in 2015 – 33%
  • The percentage of opioid treatments as compared to the total volume of drug treatments in 2015 – 42%
  • The percentage of patients who received methadone-based treatment – 71%
  • Percentage of patients who received buprenorphine-based treatment – 29%.

Again, the statistics are not Vicodin-specific. It is clear to see that we have a growing problem of opiate abuse in the UK. And because Vicodin is 80% hydrocodone on average (hydrocodone is an opioid) it is part of the problem.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does Vicodin withdrawal affect my health?

Vicodin withdrawal can affect you in the short term by causing withdrawal symptoms you might find uncomfortable. As long as those withdrawal symptoms remain minimal and controlled, the likelihood of developing long-term health consequences is minimal as well.

More serious withdrawal symptoms can affect your health more adversely. For example, you could have seizures that result in an injury-inducing fall. You could experience Vicodin withdrawal psychosis to such a degree that you harm yourself.

Will my information be kept confidential?

Vicodin addiction treatment is both confidential and private. Any health information compiled by your caregivers remain under the secure protection of the treatment facility. It is not shared outside of the facility except for future treatments. Staff members within the facility are only given access to the information on an as-needed basis.

The same goes for your personal information. The rehab clinic you choose will not share your personal information with outside sources. They also will not inform others of your treatment without your consent. You and your information remain secure at all times.

Am I addicted?

This is a question our counsellors get asked all the time. Any concern on your part would suggest that you call and speak with one of our counsellors. In the meantime, you can also do further research on our site to learn about the signs and symptoms of addiction.

How serious is Vicodin detox?

Almost all detox scenarios are considered medical emergencies. In the case of Vicodin detox, its seriousness is found in the high risk of respiratory and cardiac arrest. Both conditions could be fatal. There is Vicodin withdrawal psychosis to worry about as well. The risks are serious enough to suggest that you should not attempt to withdraw from Vicodin on your own.

Can medications help me detox from Vicodin?

Absolutely. Rehab clinics use prescription medications to stabilise patients and then slowly taper them off Vicodin. Additional prescription and over-the-counter medications can help control withdrawal symptoms so that they are not so intense and uncomfortable.

Can I die from Vicodin withdrawal?

Although death rarely occurs during Vicodin withdrawal, it is always a possibility. The risk of dying during withdrawal is greater for people who attempt to do so without medical assistance. So again, seek out a medically-assisted detox programme if you need to withdraw from Vicodin.

How do I detox from Vicodin?

You can detox from Vicodin gradually or cold turkey. Residential rehab facilities almost always go the gradual route as it is safer and less intense. To do this, you would have to get in touch with a rehab centre in your area. They would enrol you in a treatment programme that includes medically-assisted detox and follow-up therapies.

If you are insistent on attempting to detox alone, please do so gradually. Do not stop taking Vicodin all at once. Gradually reduce your dosage until you’re no longer using it. Along the way, enlist the help of family members and friends willing to stay with you until you are done.

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