Addiction to hydrocodone (which is marketed under the brand names Vicodin, Lortab, etc.) can be powerful. Some people fall under its sway when their doctor prescribes this drug for chronic pain, while others become addicted when using the medication “off label” or for recreational purposes. Detoxing from hydrocodone has many nasty side effects, but there are ways to make the detoxification process less agonizing.
First Steps, and a Warning
Consult your doctor before beginning the detox process. To do so, you will have to admit to your health-care professional that you have an addiction to hydrocodone. Unfortunately, this is an increasingly common addiction, and you are not alone, so don’t be embarrassed to be honest with your physician.
The detoxification can be done at home, depending on what you and your doctor agree to; however, when done at home, the withdrawal process can be dangerous, so ask your doctor for advice before you start decreasing your dosage of the hydrocodone or stopping altogether. During the withdrawal period, it is possible to experience flu-like sickness or even seizures, although this is rare.
Any detoxification program concerning an addictive substance like hydrocodone should always be preformed under the strict supervision of a doctor, preferably in an inpatient setting. In this way, a health-care professional can constantly supervise you and promptly treat any unforeseen problems that may arise.
Medications for Home Detox
If you and your doctor decide you will go through the process at home, stock up on some supplies. If you are going “cold turkey,” (completely stopping taking hydrocodone) withdrawal symptoms can be agonizing. If you are using a substitute medication, such as Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) or Subutex (buprenorphine), you will still feel withdrawal symptoms, but they will be less severe.
In either case, you will need “comfort medicines,” or over-the-counter medications to treat specific symptoms of the withdrawal process. Have these medications on hand and available to you before starting this process. Some of the medications commonly used are NyQuil or DayQuil to treat flu-like symptoms, which often include aches, fever, chills and cold sweats; ibuprofen for fever, trouble sleeping and muscle aches; Immodium AD for diarrhea; Pepto Bismol for nausea and an upset stomach; and chamomile tea for relaxation. All of these medications are safe to take if you are also using Suboxone or Subutex.
When you and your doctor agree to start the detoxification process, she will tell you when and how much to take of the Suboxone or Subutex, if you are using those substitutes. Usually, these are given in tapered dosages, starting with the highest dose the first day of the detox process and working your way down to none on the final day. When using these substitute medications, the detoxification process can last from seven days to a month or longer; the longer you use them, the less the withdrawal will affect you.
If you are not using a substitute medication and stop using hydrocodone completely, the detoxification process can last from five days to two weeks, with the worst withdrawal effects usually felt on the third day. During either detoxification process, the “comfort medications” should be taken on an as-needed basis and never more than the prescribed dose on the package or bottle, unless your doctor instructs you otherwise.
If you work, plan to take at least two weeks vacation or sick leave, whether you are detoxing at home or at an inpatient facility. Although the process may only last for a few days, you still need time to get used to not having the drug in your system. For some people the adjustment period can last longer than the actual detoxification process.
It is also a good idea to have someone with you at all times, not only for moral support but also if an unforeseen medical situation arises. Always keep important phone numbers within reach, including the doctor, hospital, family members and any other phone number you might need.
When you are feeling better, start exercising to help relieve any symptoms of depression that may arise. Also, realize that when your doctor decides you are finished with the detox process, you may need additional help, such as therapy or other longer-term care.