Cold turkey hydrocodone

Going cold turkey off hydrocodone can be severe and is unnecessary. Learn more about cold turkey hydrcodone risks and benefits of tapering your doses first.

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Going cold turkey hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is very popular opiate narcotic used to treat traumatic pain or chronic pain conditions. After a while, hydrocodone use is known to cause physical dependence.  As a general rule, how long hydrocodone withdrawal lasts depends on how often and how much hydrocodone you’ve been taking.   So when you want to quit taking hydrocodone, is going cold turkey hydrocodone safe? (NO.)  So, how can you avoid hydrocodone withdrawal syndrome?

There are several ways you can stop taking hydrocodone and help to re-establish normalcy in your body.   You don’t need to just quit hydrocodone cold.  Here, we review what happens when you just stop taking hydrocodone abruptly.  We look at how cold turkey hydrocodone withdrawal affects the body, the risks you run and what you can do to help ease hydrocodone withdrawal. Then, we invite any questions you have about hydrocodone at the end.

Quitting hydrocodone cold turkey

What is the profile of the ideal case for quitting hydrocodone cold turkey? Those people best suited for quitting hydrocodone cold turkey should present the following characteristics:

  • be in good health
  • have strong willpower and conviction
  • have NO compromising health conditions that can adversely affect withdrawal
  • resolve underlying pain or the initial reason for using hydrocodone
  • stay away from other substances that can interact with hydrocodone (alcohol, depressants, etc.)

Those with the following characteristics SHOULD NOT try to quit hydrocodone cold turkey:

  1. People with severe hydrocodone dependency
  2. People who have used hydrocodone for a long time (more than 6 months)
  3. People diagnosed with an addiction to hydrocodone

Clinically speaking, those people with the best possible health conditions and those that have the necessary support or environment are most effective when quitting hydrocodone cold turkey. But the safest way to complete cold turkey withdrawal is under medical supervision. Inpatient clinics that specialize in detox can help you if anything goes wrong or the risks of cold turkey becomes a reality.

Cold turkey off hydrocodone

To be clear: IT IS NOT NECESSARY that you go cold turkey off hydroodone. Instead, tapering hydrocodone doses over an extended period of time helps decrease the severity and even the length of time you spend in hydrocodone withdrawal. That is why tapering off hydrocodone is a recommended procedure for people wishing to end hydrocodone dependence or use.

The opposite can be said for stopping cold turkey. When you come cold turkey off hydrocodone, you open the flood gates of chemical neurotransmitters in the brain which cause uncomfortable symptoms. for example, on a taper off hydrocodone you might experience minimal muscle cramping or disruptions in sleep. While going cold turkey off hydrocodone, uncontrollable vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and insomnia can be present simultaneously. Cold turkey hydrocodone can be unbearable and potentially traumatic. In sum, increasing the severity of withdrawal symptoms is the risk you run for quitting hydrocodone cold turkey.

Cold turkey hydrocodone withdrawal

You can expect to feel cold turkey hydrocodone withdrawal shortly after a missed dose, about a few hours after your last dose. However, the degree and length of cold turkey hydrocodone withdrawal fluctuates depending on the dose of hydrocodone you were taking. There are a variety of symptoms you may experience during cold turkey hydrocodone withdrawal. Symptoms can include:

  • abnormal skin sensations
  • chills
  • confusion
  • excessive yawning or sneezing
  • extreme drowsiness
  • diarrhea
  • kicking movements
  • mood changes
  • seizures
  • sleep disturbance
  • sweating
  • stomach pain
  • strong drug craving
  • sweating

While none of these symptoms if life-threatening, cold turkey hydrocodone withdrawal is unnecessarily harsh. Withdrawal peaks in severity over about 3 days. You should begin to feel better after about a week and a half after you have stopped taking hydrocodone. While physical withdrawal resolves relatively quickly, psychological symptoms can arise and may take longer to resolve. Expect cold turkey withdrawal to be demanding, painful, and uncomfortable. It is going to take a lot out of you. But once you get past a couple of weeks, you should feel significantly better.

Stopping hydrocodone cold turkey risks

Stopping hydrocodone cold turkey can be a unpredictable process. While opiates are known to provoke general symptoms during withdrawal, the fact remains that everybody is different. And depending on your current mental and physical health, stopping hydrocodone cold turkey can be more or less successful. The possible ricks you run quitting hydrocodone suddenly includes the following:

  • coma
  • confusion
  • erratic and uncontrollable moods
  • hallucinations
  • increased heart rate/blood pressure
  • relapse do to inability to handle pain
  • seizures
  • tremors

There is also the small possibility of fatality when stopping hydrocodone cold turkey. While death is more likely to happen in people with co-occurring medical issues or cases of extreme hydrocodone addiction, this is something to be aware of when you are thinking of cold turkey hydrocodone withdrawal. So what’s an alternative method for easier hydrocodone detox?

Get off hydrocodone (not cold turkey)

Clinical experts prefer it that you don’t get off hydrocodone cold turkey. They feel that withdrawal doesn’t have to be a painful and debilitating process. Instead, you can slowly lower hydrocodone doses over time to lower risk of severe symptoms of withdrawal. Always check with your prescribing doctor and ask for a hydrocodone tapering schedule when coming off hydrocodone. Tapered hydrocodone doses should be medically supervised in the case that tweaking and adjustments are required. In general, some guidelines for getting off hydrocodone include:

1. A 2 to 3 week hydrocodone tapering regimen should be adequate in most cases

2. Reduce the hydrocodone dose by 10% at each interval

3. Reduce the hydrocodone dose by 20% every 3-5 days

4. Reduce the hydrocodone dose by 25% per week

5. Avoid reducing the daily dose by > 50% at any given interval

Still, doctors know that sometimes cold turkey hydrocodone is unavoidable. Opiates are more safe to stop cold turkey than other types of drugs. However, if you have decided to stop hydrocodone cold turkey, doctors recommended doing it through a detox program. You can then withdraw from hydrocodone in a safe environment with nurses and clinicians around you to help address any complications. Cold turkey itself doesn’t have to be a needlessly painful experience.

Can I quit hydrocodone cold turkey?

The reality is that it is up to you whether you want to complete a hydrocodone cold turkey withdrawal, or not. Weigh the risks and make sure you know what you are getting into. Be prepared and have everything you need to treat withdrawal symptoms in advance. Also, tell someone that you are quitting hydrocodone cold turkey so that you can get help during your recovery.

Cold turkey hydrocodone questions…Do you still have questions about stopping hydrocodone cold turkey? Please provide your questions. We would also like to hear from people who have tried stopping cold turkey. You experience are important to use.

Drug Enforcement Administration Drug of Concern: Hydrocodone
State of Iowa: Talking about prescription drug misuse
NCBI: Abuse Opiates
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. Because the Feds Raided my Doctors office,took our Medical Records, I will be out of Neurontin, hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Methadone after taking those Meds for 10 years,I’m a Dead Man and no one cares,Feds won’t release our Records,and told pain Doctors we could not be treated without our records.

  2. I am terrified. I have taken Hydrocodone for 10 years. I recently noticed my escalated use and spoke with my doctor. He has referred me to a clinic but I can’t afford it. O have been advised to use suboxen to help me get past. I am nervous because emotionally I fall apart without them and went 2 days without a few months back and all I thought of was suicide. What’s a person who doesn’t have a grand for the first month do?

  3. I have been taking Lirtab for 17 years but only when needed about every other day. I have been hearing how bad it is for us so I quit taking it. I cut mine down to half dose for a week and now I’ve quit. No problems.

  4. I stopped hydrocordon 2 days ago – I’d take it for several months but not a strong dosage.
    I quit because my skin was very itchy – mostly in the evening & in the early morning.
    So far no problems. I took it for a leg strain – I still have a strain but none of the
    hydrocordon problems.

  5. Hi, I was forced into a cold turkey situation by my surgeon because I am out of the state where the surgery was performed. Then he told me they would provide 3 months of pain meds but only filled once after initial. It has been like 3 days now and the worse thing about this is the stomach symptoms. I get upset at times but I am on steroids for possible flare up of nerves and they make me evil. It really bothers me to think that doctors would do that to someone with underlying heart issues. I have svt and it gets pretty serious. They also told me to take motrin and I’m allergic to nsaids. So cold turkey was impossible for me to avoid. I was on this monster drug for 9months after my first neck surgery and it was less painful then this one. Now I am being made to suffer through the pain of healing and withdraw from this monstwr drug.

    It sucks cold turkwy that is and I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone.

  6. Senior citizen me has been on twice daily 5/325 vicodin for several years (along with other meds)…I have DDD, chronic pain, spinal stenosis, back and hip problems, neck…Just switched doctors and got new script which was amongst a bunch of paperwork, folded in half, loose, …stopped by 2 other depts at new dr’s office, came home…had to wait till time to RENEW prescription and somehow I have LOST it—DR refuses to write another so…I counted up vicodin I have, so will taper off to one daily instead of 2 till next appt. I have extras for times I forgot to take my pills, etc. Am wondering what side effects i will come across in next 3 weeks

  7. Hello , I am seeing a new pain doctor after having my old pain doc for 6 years now . My new doctor will not give me anything for the pain I am in . Can my family doctor give me something for the pain ? My old doctor had me on meds for a reason but unfortunately he stopped taking my insurance:( The new doctor had to wait for my files before he could see me , now he says he has to have his own findings before prescribing me my meds . I know this is going to put me in more pain not having anything .I don’t understand why the new doctor needed my file from my old doctor if he is not even going to review the file I find that a bunch of BS.

  8. Cindy
    try to stay calm!!!
    ur mind set is whats going to make this go well.
    Ive been reading about cold turkey withdrawls nonstop for the past month or so.
    How much were u taking?
    Are u off now?
    im needing to get off 2-5 a day. (10/325 norco)
    ive been on it for 20+ years.
    I hope u r doing well.
    sorry for typos
    Thank you for this blog
    It helps more than u know

  9. I have been tapering off with doctor but i ran out early this time in fact a week early have been on 10 mg norco for 5 years dues to major surgeries… I am addicted and no this…I am scared cause i took my last one in the am today and now feeling horrible already…My heart feels fast i want to squirm out of my body…stomach is queasy… I am scared I dont want a seizure or to die and if this gets worse in which this is the first day I dont know if i can make it what do i do. Im 59 yrs old please help

  10. I was born on Microsoft for 6 yrs due to a back in jury I thought I would die if I didn’t have them. Then I went to jail for 3 days and I had no choice. I sweated diarrhea, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I’m now off of them and I feel 100 % better font get me wrong I still have pain but now naproxen works for me good luck remembere it’s not that bad…

  11. My doc just dropped me and moved after seven years on meds for various readons, hydrocodone 10-325 four times daily and also xanax three times daily. I’m not sure how to handle’s day to and I feel so bad

  12. Been on 10.325 hydro 4/day for 3yrs. Have developed many side effects so have been cold turkey for 2.5 days. I am almost 70 so I want this out of my life. I have dealt with many of the withdrawal symptoms but hope it will be over soon. They are better than the problems I had taking the Rx which is why I had to go cold turkey. Thanks for your help.

  13. I have been going strong on hydrocodone for about 7 years. ( this time ). I have weened myself so that yesterday I took 1 and a half. I have taken something for upset stomach. I have made up my mind and feel good as of now. I had the chance today and did not fall weak. I realize so much is in the mind. I will get up and try harder tomorrow. All of the help online has been a big help.

  14. Doctor: I have been on Xanax and hydrocodone for over 36 years and now my Doctor yes the prescriber has notified me we have 9 months to ween me off of both. I have had 3 spine operations and 1 knee operation and now at age 62 both of my shoulders are killing me with arthritis pain.How in gods name will I be able to stop taking the pain and anxiety medicine that I have been on for more than 1/2 of my life. I have a Doctors appt in a month and would like to have your opinion to take with to my next appt to see my MD. Robert Gordon


  16. I would like to talk to Carol who is 69 and has lost her Dr. Your dr is so wrong at your age to have you go cold turkey is not a good ideal. He is supposed to refer you to some other Dr. I just wondering what your going to do ? Go to er for help

  17. My Dr. recently took me off Hydrocodone cold turkey. I have been on this med for a number of years. After having two test done on my stomach, my pain became extremely worse. As if a hot knife had been stuck in my gut. I DID have to take it more often than described. Every 4 to 5 hrs, instead of 6. I have always been careful and only taken when prescribed, But could not tolerate the pain. I was also prescribed Xanax over the years. I have tried finding another Dr, but the ones I have called could not see me until March. I have other medical issues anlong with Fibromyalgia and severe arthritis. I do not know what to do, but need help. I Did call my Dr. to refill my Hydro only a couple of days early. I did this two times. He had never told me he would drop me as a patient for this reason. Please know that I am not angry with him. Just broken hearted. Trying to find another Dr. is going to take me more than a couple of days. I love my Dr. and his staff. I would get on my knees and beg if he would reconsider and take me back. I an 69 years old, and just feel too weary and tired to try and explain all I am going through. Please forgive me for complaining , It’s just that I feel so desperate. And the fact that I am on other medications, those can not be filled either. Thank you again and may God Bless. Please forgive any mistakes I may have written.

  18. Have quit cold turkey from norco 10/325 4 days ago. Been hell buy took 1 this morning. Will it start my withdrawl symptoms over again?

    1. Hi Dustin. No, it won’t reverse the process completely. But, it isn’t advised to quit Norco cold turkey in the first place. I suggest you ask your doctor or pharmacist to prescribe or suggest over-the-counter medications to help ease or manage the withdrawal symptoms.

  19. AFTER BEING PRESCRIBED NORCO 10mg every 4-6 hours for chronic pain for 9 years my Dr. Stopped giving me refills due to loosing my health insurance. His office visits cost $200!! I lost insurance due to job layoff. I am also on other meds, 4 for high BP and Clonazapan for seizures. Am I going to get I’ll from suddenly stopping all medications? I tried to see a Dr at a free clinic however they do not prescribe narcotics only herbal substitutes. I am fearful that my BP will get to high due to pain as it has in the past.

    1. How horrible, Nathalie. It’s not a good decision, but with the proper help you can go through cold turkey hydrocodone. Don’t underestimate over-the-counter medications and herbal remedies, as they can work significantly well to manage and lower the intensity of some withdrawal symptoms. See what pain medications you can pay for, without the insurance.

  20. I went off cold turkey about a month ago…im still having the rapid heartbeat…will it go back to normal and if so when?

  21. I am taking 2hydro pills a day. 5-325mg I have taken them for 9years, can I go cold turkey with out side effects? thank you

    1. Hi Joy. After that much time going off hydrocodone cold turkey should be the last thing on your mind. Please consult your doctor first and follow a tapering schedule to wean hydrocodone off slowly and gradually.

  22. Hi Santa. After five years of taking the meds, you’ve probably developed a level of physical as well as psychological dependence. But, congradulations on deciding to quit. Hydrocodone withdrawal usually peaks around 72 hours after last dose and resolve within 7-10 days after last use. So, you probably won’t be feeling any better during the following days, but then it gets better. As for the psychological dependence, see if you can find a psychologist to talk to, or some group therapy to participate in.

  23. Been taking norco 10/325 for about five years now. (2-4 pills/ day) I’m tired of running out early, worrying about how I’m gonna work and/or perform to the same standard. As my job requires 10-12 hrs a day of walking, bending and lifting. Which the pills not only mask pain but give me a lot of energy. I really do not like having to depend on something or the example I have set for my kids. I don’t like the rif raf I have to go through every month getting my refills… The dea is really cracking down and I feel like a criminal sometimes. Especially when dealing with pharmacies. I’ve again ran out early this month and decided to get off of them cold turkey. Im now on my third day and it’s time to go back to work. I have experienced almost every symptom listed on this page over the past 2 days and this morning I’m still not feeling any better. How much longer do I have to deal with feeling like this? I’m 33 and have no medical issues I’m aware of. Doc says I’m healthy other than my bum knee. Which is why I’ve decided to try cold turkey bc I feel as though medically (physically) my body can take it. The biggest worry I have other than these dreadful withdrawal symptoms, is the mental addiction I’ve developed. For years now I have looked forward to my next pill each day, not only bc of pain but mainly because it gives me a surge of energy and puts me in a good mood. Almost like the medicine helps me deal with my issues. Makes everything seem a little easier to deal with, at least immediately. So I know after physical withdrawals are over I have to re learn how to live without it. So second question… Any tips or advice on how to do so?

  24. Well I have got myself down to three pills daily vs. the 6 I was taking. I am doing this all on my own. My prescribed dose is three daily but like I said I had gone up to six daily. The worst part is over and I will drop down to two daily on my next refill. I can tell you this, the Gabapentin worked like a charm for me during the 2 weeks I had absolutely no medication. What works for one person may not work for another that is just the way it is.But do not count out this medication. And I speak from my own experience as it helped me a lot with the withdrawal symptoms to the point that I could function in a work environment and nobody knew I was going through withdrawal. But I also took myself off of Xanax back in 1992 after being on it for 7 years straight. Cold turkey! Yes it sucked for about a week but after that I was fine. I am not a person who likes pills and I could give a crap about feeling buzzed from hydrocodone anymore. I now control the medication, it does not control me.For anybody out there who is going through hydrocodone withdrawal I know it sucks and seems like it’s the end of the world but it isn’t and you can kick it if you want to bad enough. I am not saying it will be a walk in the park, but on the same note it’s not the end of the world either. And PLEASE try worked wonders on me for both pain,anxiety,withdrawal etc…

  25. So I am on day 2, so far little dizzy some puking but not much. diarrhea however has be rough. Chills, most of the time. Had back surgery about a yr ago was on 40mg per day. Also very weak and can’t get comfortable. But if this is the worse I can handle it. Sleeping has been rough as well. First night really sucked. Nauseous as well. Sorry feel to bad to give a crap about grammar. Lol. Thank you for this article. It really helps. I’m not in a program, I owe the surgeon money so he won’t refill my scrip. I feel that’s a good thing. The longer I’m off it the more I feel I didn’t need it. I still have pain but it’s not bad enough for me to want to take anything for it. So maybe I didn’t need it as long as the doc thought. I like not being dependent on it. Praying I can continue, so far I see no reason I can’t. Thanks again!!!

  26. Hi John. I’d suggest you set up an appointment with your doctor. Doctors can give you better advice around safe detoxing from home, and maybe prescribe some meds that will help you with the severity of the withdrawal symptoms from hydrocodone.

  27. I was prescribed 7.5mg hydrocodone for a neck injury. Bulging disc and pinched nerves. Prior to being prescribed this medicine I was taking the 800mg ibuprofen and doing just fine. In the past from time to time my doctor would write a small script for pain. Like 30 5mg with no refills. Usually I would only take a few and end up having the remaining 20 pills for 6 to 7 months. But after my neck injury my doctor started me on the 7.5mg hydrocodone and I have been on them for at least a year now. And I have increased my dose from three daily as prescribed to 6 daily because I have become addicted to them and the feeling they produce. Sometimes I take them when I don’t even need them just because I want to feel good. And I said I would never let this happen to me, boy was I wrong! I decided that I was tired of being dependent on the drug and stopped cold turkey last night. I am suffering bad. I cant sleep, I have severe cramping, sweating… using the bathroom a lot. I am agitated and going through crying spells-followed by anger. I am a army veteran and I also take blood pressure medicine, reflux meds, cholesterol meds and klonopin for anxiety. I don’t know what to do or where to turn to…maybe I could message my doctor and tell him? I don’t know. If you go to a detox center will this show up on your background check? This is something I can’t have happen due to my career field. My breathing feels funny also and I am getting head rushes. This really sucks….

  28. Hello Liz. Good luck during your withdrawal and treatment. I’d suggest that you seek help for withdrawal from a local detox center. You don’t have to white knuckle the situation and you can also get psycho-emotional support from clinic staff, as well as referrals to a treatment center AFTER withdrawal. Keep calling and asking for help. Your health is, ultimately, your responsibility.

  29. I have taken vicodin now since 1996 and have again come to the point that I’m gonna just try and quit cold turkey. I actually called a treatment center to trying to set something up, I had given my name phone number , short brief rundown of my situation, insurance card info and then I was given a counselor for me to call the next day so my evaluation assessment could be completed. I called the next day and was connected to someone else’s answering machine. I didn’t call back and the facility hasn’t called me. That was a week ago. That’s when I decided to handle it myself, for now at least. I plan on getting help but during my first week off of them I have no energy or desire to move at all. Hope I regain some energy to get showered and get in to see my family practice doctor about this early next week. My first day cold turkey I could feel it creeping up since I had taken my last pills 4 vicodin And 1 morphing pill since 5pm the previous day and it was about 3pm when I began feel worst and worst. The second night, and 3rd nights were really bad kicking in bed, hot and cold, and clammy is the worst. My extremities were always very cold throughout the day. I had to go to the bathroom very often. I have ambien (sleeping pills) to just knock myself out if the fig gritting was too unbearable and the agitation. I lelt good every morning when I woke, but when the 3 hour came around after waking I would gradually begin feeling agitated and it would get worst and worst not helping would be the clammy body with cold hands and feet. I tried to not take a sleeping pill and see what would happen. It wasn’t good, hour after hour figgity and irritable and crying. I found that for me, when I take an ambien to sleep through this unpleasant withdrawal helps me 100% I do feel like my heart is pounding aliitle harder too since day 2 of the cold turkey. That concerns me and is a big part of why I want to get in to see my doctor. I pray to God I get this out of my life, it controls everything. It’s bad

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