ClickCease How To Taper Off Vicodin | Granite Recovery Centers

How To Taper Off Vicodin

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: August 27th, 2021


James Gamache Medical Reviewer
Jim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and Licensed Masters Level Addictions Counselor (MLADC). He has been working in the field of mental health/addiction treatment since 1995. Jim earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Springfield College in 2000, and a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University in 2002. In 2002 Jim was hired by the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester holding the position of Clinical Case Manager. From 2004-2019, Jim was employed at WestBridge Inc. During his time at WestBridge, Jim held the following positions; Clinician, Team Leader, Director, & Chief Operations Officer. In 2019 Jim transitioned employment to GateHouse Treatment Center as the Clinical Director for 10 months. In October of 2020 Jim transitioned to Granite Recovery Centers and is currently serving as the Senior VP of Clinical Services and Quality Assurance.

Opioids 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 is a combination drug that contains hydrocodone and acetaminophen.

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.

Opioid Overdoses

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.

Why Must You Taper 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:

• Yawning
• Sweating
• A runny nose
• Sleeplessness
• Watery eyes
• Muscle pain
• Anxiety
• Agitation

Later withdrawal symptoms include the following:

• Vomiting
• Nausea
• Goose bumps
• Dilated pupils
• Diarrhea
• 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.

Why Do People Choose to 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 Do You 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.

Social Support

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 interested in tapering off of Vicodin, the best place to do this 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 where they will be surrounded by 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.

Possible Difficulties

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%. This is not recommended for anyone with a long history of Vicodin abuse, however. 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.

The Detoxification Process at Granite Recovery Centers

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.

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 the Granite Recovery Centers 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 the Granite Recovery Centers.

At Granite Recovery Centers, we want to provide accurate information about health and addiction so that our readers can make informed decisions.

We have credentialed medical doctors & clinicians who specialize in addiction treatment review the information on our website before it is published. We use credible sources such as government websites and journal articles when citing statistics or other medically related topics.