Vicodin: An Opioid Medication
Vicodin is an opioid painkiller than can be addictive if abused, and if someone develops an addiction the safest way to get well is by tapering your use. It’s important to know how opioids work so that you have a full idea of the process.
Opioids, the family Vicodin belongs to, bind to the receptors on the nerve cells to relieve pain, but they also produce other effects. When people take opioids, they experience an extremely pleasant euphoria. Because opioids carry a high potential for misuse, the DEA classified them as Schedule II drugs. This means that there is a high potential for misuse but that there is also the possibility of severe physical or psychological dependence.
Vicodin as a Pain Reliever
Physicians prescribe hydrocodone to relieve severe pain that is continuous. Therefore, it is not prescribed to treat pain as needed, and the prescription cannot be refilled. The conditions it can treat include sports injuries and pain caused by cancer.
Acetaminophen is a pain reliever that relieves mild to moderate pain. It doesn’t require a prescription, so you can purchase it at your local pharmacy or grocery store. Hydrocodone relieves pain, but Vicodin manufacturers add acetaminophen because the acetaminophen adds another pain-fighting component to the medication, so it relieves pain better than hydrocodone on its own.
Other medications also contain a combination of opioids and acetaminophen. One of those is Percocet. Percocet contains acetaminophen, but it also has oxycodone as its opioid pain reliever. Sometimes, people get these two medications mixed up, but Vicodin is hydrocodone and acetaminophen, and Percocet is oxycodone and acetaminophen.
The Potential for Abuse
As is the case with all opioids, hydrocodone binds to the opioid receptors in the brain for the purpose of killing the pain. This is a great thing if you are experiencing pain for a short period of time, but if the pain continues, there is a danger of developing a dependence on the drug.
The reason that the danger exists is that opioids cause people to experience a refreshing feeling of euphoria in addition to pain relief. It’s very tempting to increase the amount of Vicodin so that they can experience these sensations even more often, so people begin to misuse them. Even if they take Vicodin only as their doctors prescribe it, they can still be susceptible to experiencing addiction, accidental overdoses, and even death.
In 2019, approximately 50,000 people died from overdoses caused by opioids. The public health and social and economic welfare of Americans are in jeopardy because of this crisis. It doesn’t just include illegal substances, such as fentanyl and heroin; it also includes prescription opioid medications.
According to the CDC, prescription opioid misuse leads to an economic burden equal to $78.5 billion every year. This number includes the lost productivity of workers, the cost of their medical treatment, and the costs accrued in the court system.
Other eye-opening statistics tell us important things about this crisis. For example, after obtaining a prescription for opioids, 4% to 6% of this population moved on to taking heroin. In addition to that, 21% to 29% of people given an opioid prescription to treat chronic pain end up misusing the medication. The answer to the opioid crisis for a lot of people is to seek help at a drug treatment center.
One way to overcome an addiction to Vicodin is to taper off of the drug. If you or a loved one are interested in tapering off of Vicodin, you must contact a medication treatment center where you can receive a Vicodin taper schedule that will help you overcome your addiction.
Tapering Off of Vicodin Slowly
If you or a loved one are addicted or dependent on Vicodin, you will experience some unpleasant symptoms even if you have only been taking the drug a couple of weeks. As your body becomes accustomed to receiving the drug, it lets out signals that encourage the user to continue to supply it with more of the drug. These signals are what are known as “withdrawal symptoms.”
When you stop providing the body with Vicodin, you may experience the following symptoms in the short term
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Muscle pain
Later withdrawal symptoms include the following:
- Dilated pupils
- Abdominal cramping
This type of withdrawal is considered to be worse than the others except for alcohol and benzodiazepines. It is known as “cold turkey,” and when people go through it, they experience the symptoms listed above, and they can be unbearable. When you taper off of Vicodin, you avoid the vicious withdrawal symptoms listed above, and it leads to a life without a dependence on Vicodin. It is not something that you can do overnight, but it can be done.
Detoxify by Going Cold Turkey
If cold turkey is a horrible thing to experience, why do people choose to do it?
Some people don’t like the idea of taking a long time to wean themselves off of opioids. Other people don’t believe that tapering off is easier than stopping cold turkey. The danger of quitting drugs abruptly is that if you can’t stand the withdrawal symptoms, you will return to using the drugs, and this can delay your recovery.
How to Taper Off of Vicodin
If you have been taking Vicodin for at least two weeks, this is enough time for you to need to taper off of the medication. When you are tapering off of Vicodin, you are relieving your body of its dependence or addiction slowly. As people slowly reduce their use of Vicodin, their bodies become accustomed to smaller amounts of the drug. This helps you avoid the withdrawal symptoms listed above.
Your physician may develop a taper, but this will depend on how long you have been taking the medication. It also depends on the amount of medication you have been ingesting. Tapering off in this manner can take several weeks or months.
During the taper, your physician will need to monitor your temperature, blood pressure, and pulse on a regular basis. Your doctor may also require that you submit a urine sample so that they can monitor the other medications in your system. If you are in pain, you will need an alternative to the opioid that you have been taking. You may experience some withdrawal symptoms during this time, but your doctor can prescribe medications that will relieve these.
Sometimes, the tapering off process can become difficult. You may need to enlist the help of your physician or another support group so that you can continue with the process. Some people obtain counseling at this time that they continue after the taper is finished. Before you decide to taper off, make sure that you tell your friends and family members. They can also provide support for you during this time.
Tapering Off the Correct Way
If you are looking to taper off of Vicodin, the best place to do so is in a drug treatment center. In some cases, physicians can offer their patients an at-home taper if they are addicted to Vicodin. However, this is not typically regarded as the best method.
Some people are taking Vicodin recreationally, so they are not under the care of a physician. The best place for these people is a drug treatment center with help from medical professionals. Besides that, if you are a recreational user of Vicodin, you cannot necessarily obtain the specific amount of the drug that you need to create the most effective taper. If you have a prescription, you are at liberty to reduce your dose according to your doctor’s instructions.
Tapering off of a substance isn’t easy, so it isn’t a good idea to do this without the supervision of a physician. It will be difficult for you to decide by how much you are going to lower your Vicodin dose, but the medical community suggests that people begin this project slowly. For example, they would advise that people reduce their doses by 10% each week.
In the event that you are uncomfortable with this process and you want it to be over quickly, you may be able to reduce your dose every two days at a rate of 25%. For the most part, the medical community states that people should not taper off Vicodin on their own. To ensure that everything will go according to plan, they must do it in a drug treatment facility.
Our Detox Program
Detoxifying yourself can be a daunting process, but it isn’t something that you have to do on your own. At Granite Recovery Centers, we offer our clients our medication-assisted treatment program. This program provides you with medications that relieve you of the withdrawal symptoms that opioids cause so that you can continue further into the treatment process. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.
People are often concerned when they hear that they will be taking medications during the drug detox program. The drugs that you will receive reduce the withdrawal symptoms and the cravings that you will experience. So the expectations for the medications that you receive to fight your substance use disorder are entirely different from what you expect to experience from taking Vicodin.
After you complete the detoxification process, you or your loved one may enter our inpatient treatment program or our intensive outpatient treatment program. If you are concerned about your ability to keep from taking the drug, an inpatient program would be the best option for you. If you have extensive support among your family and friends, an outpatient program may be right for you.
Granite Recovery Centers
We know that recovery is an ongoing process, so you may need a more structured environment to ensure that you remain sober. We can also offer you sober living options that will provide you with more independence but also with the support that you need to keep things moving in the right direction. Sober living homes provide you with an environment free of all drugs and a place where everyone can lean on the staff–and each other–when they need to do so.
All of those who graduate from one of our treatment programs have access to our aftercare options. If you don’t opt for one of our sober living options, our alumni program is a good place to find other people who are also working on their sobriety, and you will be provided with plenty of information while you’re in treatment so that you can continue to make progress on the 12 Steps after you leave.
If you or a loved one would like to stop taking Vicodin for good, contact us at Granite Recovery Centers.