Vicodin is a brand-name prescription medication most commonly used as a painkiller. While it is highly effective when used therapeutically, it can be habit forming and may show up on drug tests. You might be wondering how long Vicodin stays in your system and how long the effects last.
We will cover this along with other important information such as side effects, withdrawal symptoms, overdose symptoms, treatment options and more. This will make you more informed about Vicodin in general. We can also help if you or someone you know is having trouble controlling their use.
What is Vicodin?
Unlike some other brand-name prescriptions that are a single generic medication, Vicodin actually combines two different generic medications to make it more effective. According to Medline, Vicodin is a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Since both of these relieve pain, Vicodin is most commonly prescribed as a painkiller.
According to Medline, hydrocodone is an opiate used for moderate-to-severe levels of pain. Medline reports that acetaminophen is also used for pain, along with fevers, but it’s an analgesic rather than an opioid.
What Does Vicodin Treat?
Like most other opioid medications, WebMD reports that Vicodin is primarily prescribed for pain. Every opioid medication helps with different levels of pain, and Vicodin is good for moderate-to-severe pain.
It’s also worth noting that both hydrocodone and acetaminophen have secondary effects that might be beneficial with certain conditions. According to Medline, hydrocodone can also work as a cough suppressant. This is done by affecting the area of your brain that controls coughing. Acetaminophen also works to reduce fevers, which can help if you are experiencing a fever along with pain or coughing.
While a doctor might prescribe Vicodin for other conditions as needed, the most common reason is pain followed by coughing. Vicodin is rarely, if ever, prescribed for a fever, but it can help if you have a fever alongside other symptoms.
How Long Does Vicodin Last?
You might be wondering how long the pain-relieving effect of Vicodin lasts. This section will talk about the half-life of the medication and how long it affects your body.
Despite helping with moderate-to-severe pain, you might be surprised to know that Vicodin has a fairly short half-life. Half-life refers to how long you feel the effects of a medication. It will still be in your system afterwards, but the feelings will be gone.
According to Med-Health, Vicodin has an overall half-life of about four hours for most people. Some people might experience the effects for longer while others will find that they only last for three hours. This depends on how quickly your body processes the medication. Hydrocodone itself has a half-life of three to four hours while acetaminophen is around two to three hours.
Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions on when to take Vicodin. The effects may have worn off, but taking another dose too soon may result in problems.
How Long Does Vicodin Stay in the Body?
You might be wondering when Vicodin completely leaves the body. This will largely depend on how your body processes the medication. According to Med-Health, Vicodin remains in the body for at least 72 hours. This is the most common amount of time for most people, but some will find that it comes up on drug tests even after five days.
This also depends on the test used. Tests that are more sensitive and accurate will likely still pick up the Vicodin days after you last took a dose. Be aware that, while three to five days is the most common timeframe, it could be shorter or longer in your body. Your personal doctor might have more accurate information because they know how medications have worked for you in the past.
Vicodin Side Effects
Medications sometimes cause side effects that may be uncomfortable. Some are relatively minor while others might require you to change medications. If you are facing any side effects while taking Vicodin, then be sure to tell your doctor so that they can determine how to move forward.
The most common side effects of Vicodin according to Medline include:
- Lightheadedness or brain fog
- Abnormally high or low moods
- Trouble urinating
- Itching or rash
- Narrow pupils
Keep in mind that these are only common side effects. You may experience these or other side effects when using Vicodin. Again, be sure to tell your doctor if any symptoms develop when you start using this medication.
Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms
Opioid medications like Vicodin are known for causing withdrawal symptoms. These mostly occur if you suddenly stop taking the medication without tapering off. A doctor can help with the tapering process as needed.
According to Healthline, Vicodin withdrawal symptoms typically aren’t fatal. At the same time, they are very uncomfortable. The most common symptoms include:
- Agitation and anxiety
- Runny nose
- Yawning and low energy
- Muscle pains
You might experience other symptoms while going through this process. Not only is this uncomfortable, but the symptoms often put you in a vulnerable position, and you might be tempted to use more Vicodin than you were before. Be sure to connect with a doctor when you’re attempting to discontinue Vicodin or any other opioid medication.
Vicodin Overdose Symptoms
Using too much Vicodin or any other opioid can result in overdose symptoms. The symptoms are largely similar between different opioids. Not only that but this can be a very serious medical event that must be treated quickly. If you feel any of the following symptoms or see someone else experiencing them, then be sure to get medical attention as quickly as possible.
The most common Vicodin overdose symptoms include
- Small or large pupils
- Shallow breathing
- Slow heartbeat
- Cold and clammy skin
- Extreme sleepiness
- Inability to respond
As you may notice, many of these symptoms are very serious. If you are alone and start feeling any of these symptoms, then get emergency medical attention before it’s too late. Aside from taking too much Vicodin, you may also experience an overdose if you’re taking other medications that interact with your brain’s opioid receptors.
Discontinuing opioids like Vicodin can be very difficult unless you are doing it under medical supervision. Withdrawal symptoms are very common when stopping these medications. As we said before, these symptoms typically are more uncomfortable than fatal, but they can be hard to go through if you’re already having difficulty controlling your use.
A medical detox program is able to help make this process a little easier. Our doctors will talk to you about your use and find a way for you comfortably detox with few or no withdrawal symptoms. This most commonly involves tapering the dose for a few weeks until you are off the medication. A doctor can change the tapering schedule as needed based on how you feel as the dose is reduced.
While this process is helpful and will remove the substance from your body safely, we want to remind you that a medical detox only solves part of the problem. The Vicodin might be out of your body, but it may not be out of your mind. If you were having a hard time controlling your use, then you might be tempted to start using again even after a detox. Due to this, we often recommend that clients see a therapist as well to help with any possible addictions.
The first level of care is called outpatient care or individual sessions. This level of care means that you will meet one-on-one with your assigned therapist to discuss substance use and any other concerns that you might be facing. If you have any preferences for a certain type of therapist, such as a male or female one, then let us know when we create your treatment plan.
You will work with your therapist to address the underlying reasons why you have lost control of your Vicodin use. You will also learn coping strategies to reduce stress without having to use.
Intensive outpatient, also known as IOP, is the next level of care and it’s very commonly used for those who have difficulties with opioid use. Due to the significance of cravings and the behaviors built around using opioids, many people find that IOP is ideal when they are starting their recovery journey.
IOP therapy is a more intensive form of group therapy that gives you more time to work on yourself while working with peers. The group consists of a licensed therapist and several recovery peers who are in the same position as you. They are all seeking to get their cravings and use under control. The benefit of this level of care is that you can all learn from each other as you seek to stop using Vicodin and other substances.
IOP groups meet three times a week, and each meeting lasts for three hours. That gives you nine hours of therapeutic time per week to work on your concerns.
Medication Assisted Treatment
Along with therapy and a medical detox, some people may also benefit from medication-assisted treatment, MAT. This is most commonly applied to opioid use. This type of treatment uses medications that reduce cravings. The medications will interact with the opioid receptors in your brain to keep them calm, but the medications won’t give you the high feeling you might get from Vicodin or other opioids.
This type of treatment can be very useful in combination with therapy. Many people find that this helps them achieve lasting sobriety because you won’t have to worry as much about cravings and withdrawal symptoms. The medications will take care of that.
If you are interested in this type of treatment, then let us know, and we can add it for you. You don’t need to decide now, but it’s on the table if you would like some extra help during your recovery journey.
If you are ready to recover from Vicodin, opioids or any other substances, then we are here for you. Granite Recovery Centers has been around for more than 10 years, and we have proudly helped the New Hampshire community recover from substance use and mental health concerns. We treat all our clients with respect no matter what brought you to us or what level of care you need. From common outpatient therapy to residential therapy with MAT and medical detox, we are here to help you.
Contact us and let us know your needs and preferences. We will create a treatment plan that keeps you involved and engaged. We are here for your needs and will help in your recovery process.