If you stop using hydrocodone after a long time of use then you may experience hydrocodone withdrawals, an unpleasant experience, but one that is typically not life threatening and should only last for a couple of weeks.
Hydrocodone withdrawal presents like many other opiate and opioid addictions. The user will do all they can to avoid this. Heroin withdrawal is the worst of any opiate withdrawal, whereas codeine withdrawal is generally considered to be the lesser one. hydrocodone withdrawal is somewhere in between the two, leaning more towards the higher extreme.
Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms
There are a number of hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms, most of which you will feel if you have been using for a long time and then stop, or if you taper at a fast pace. These can also be found with many other opiates and opioids:
- Body Aches
- Intense Sweating
As you will notice, one of the ironies of withdrawal is that the symptoms mirror the symptoms you get when you take the drug in the first place. For instance, it can send you to sleep quickly, it can make you constipated and it can make your body feel relaxed, where in withdrawal it can keep you awake, give you diarrhea and make your body ache from toe to toe.
There are some positives here, because if you are suffering from constipation that won’t shift then when you stop using the diarrhea and the increased bowel spasms may actually be able to get rid of it. But, most of it is bad and it is far from a peasant experience.
Hydrocodone Withdrawal Timeline
Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms can being as soon as 6 hours after the last dose, depending on how much has been taken, how long it has been taken for, and how healthy or otherwise the user is. The following is a rough hydrocodone withdrawal timeline, but bear in mind that this may not be what you experience and there will be slight variations. It will also likely be very different if you are tapering and not going cold turkey:
Hydrocodone Withdrawal Day 1
The initial hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms will feel like the onset of a really bad cold or the flu. The nose may run, fatigue will set in and the body will begin to feel weak. This is the dope sickness that so many addicts are keen to avoid, but as bad as it might feel on that first day, there is worse to come.
Hydrocodone Withdrawal Days 2 to 3
The flu symptoms begin to worsen and the bowels also begin to act-up at this point, with abdominal pains, severe diarrhea and gas. The appetite goes, insomnia sets in and the user feels a general malaise that takes over.
The body begins to ache, a sensation that feels like it comes from your bones or an inner, inescapable part of you, and one that is not easily eradicated with massage or painkillers
Hydrocodone Withdrawal Days 4 to 7
The peak is usually between days 3 and 5. This is when the hydrocodone withdrawals are at their worst and when everything mentioned above is at its peak, along with additional symptoms such as depression, restless legs syndrome and, in extreme cases, auditory and visual hallucinations.
However bad these are, there are addicts that have been through this stage many times and actually prefer it to the stages that come later, as described below.
Hydrocodone Withdrawal Days 8 to 14
The acute withdrawal symptoms pass, but a certain malaise remains, along with psychological issues such as anxiety, depression and insomnia. The cravings are also very strong. The addict will also feel incredibly bored and like there is nothing they can do to alleviate the boredom. That is why this stage can be considered worse than the previous one to some, because they are more prone to relapse during it.
In the previous stages, the acute psychical symptoms can serve to keep the addict occupied, to keep them fighting. But when that fades and leaves the void of inescapable boredom, along with the intense cravings, it can lead the back to hydrocodone abuse.
How Long Before I Can Safely Use hydrocodone After Withdrawal?
This is a question that you won’t find answered in a lot of literature, but it’s one you will hear many addicts ask. Basically, they want to know how much hydrocodone it will take to send them back into withdrawal. For instance, if they consume a small dose after 10 days of withdrawal, they know it will set them back a bit as their body needs to be clean, but what if they take a small dose weeks or months later?
In this case, it is probably not going to reset the withdrawals, which is what many former addicts are worried about. However, that’s only the case if you have been clean for some time and you should still refrain from taking it because it’s very easy for one small dose to lead to 2, 3 and 4, and for that to lead to another full-blown addiction.
Why Relapse is Common with Hydrocodone and Other Opiates
If you ask the average opiate addict above the age of 30 if they have ever been clean after using for a long time, many will tell you that they managed to kick the habit at one point or another, only to go back to it months or years later after thinking they could get away with small amounts and then spiraling into addiction.
One of the AddictiveAddiction writers has been in the same position with codeine and tramadol and in this case the relapse addiction, which came 3 years after he was completely clean, was much worse than the initial one. All because he convinced himself that 1 day of use would be okay. That one day led to 2 and 3, and when he realized that he wasn’t experiencing any kind of sickness, it turned into 1 week, then 2, 3, 4. Stress and life got him down and before he knew it months of daily use had passed and he was so deep that he knew he would need to withdraw again to escape.
He did get clean again, but it was harder the second time around. These days he avoids all opiates, even OTC painkillers, refusing to let his body experience that high again, because he knows that when he gets a taste he will convince himself that going back to his old ways, if not just for a day or two, will be okay.
Using other Opiates to Help with Hydrocodone Withdrawal
It is very common for addicts to use one opiate to help them get clean from another, such as the use of methadone to help with heroin withdrawal. However, it’s important to make sure you use a weaker opiate at a smaller and more controlled dose. Preferably, it should also have a longer half-life, therefore negating the need to take regular amounts throughout the day.
Your physician can help you with this and may be able to prescribe a drug to help you through hydrocodone withdrawal. Opioids like tramadol may be well suited for this.
How Long Does Hydrocodone Withdrawal Last?
The withdrawals should be over within a couple of weeks, but there is something known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, which can extend the withdrawals for weeks, months or years. However, as the name suggests, this stage comes after the acute withdrawals and is not as bad. It mostly affects the addict’s psychology and is mainly down to their brain trying to acclimatize to a life without a drug it has been so reliant on.
If you focus on fixing your life at the same time you fix your addiction, then you will drastically reduce your odds of experiencing anything like this.