How long do side effects of Vicodin last?

Vicodin side effects persist from hours to months. Some Vicodin side effects can ease immediately after you stop taking Vicodin. Others side effects of Vicodin persist for weeks or months. Learn why here.

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Active ingredients in Vicodin

The two main ingredients used to make Vicodin are hydrocodone and acetaminophen. When we speak of the side effects of Vicodin, we need to account for the side effects of each of these compounds individually. For more information, please see the side effects of Vicodin.

Short term vs. long term effects

When speaking of the side effects of any medication, some effects can be acute and short-term while other side effects occur in the long-term after you’ve been taking the medicine for a while. In other words, some effects are directly related to taking the medication and will ease when you stop taking the medication. While other effects are more long-term and will take longer to dissipate.

Short term side effects of Vicodin

Sometimes, you can avoid short term side effects of Vicodin such as lightheadedness, dizziness, sedation, nausea and vomiting simply by lying down. And because Vicodin is usually taken as needed, the effects don’t last for long. According to the FDA, the half-life of Vicodin was determined to be 3.8 ± 0.3 hours. That means that Vicodin starts to lose its effect (especially as a pain killer) in about 4 hours. More on how long Vicodin remains in your system here.

Therefore, some immediate symtpoms and side effects of Vicodin use may disappear immediately after you stop taking the medication. Other symptoms may take longer to neutralize, especially if you’ve been taking Vicodin for a longer period of time.

Long term side effects of Vicodin

If you take Vicodin for several weeks or more, your body becomes physically dependent upon it. The time it takes to develop physical dependence on Vicodin varies by person. However, the effect of dependence is the same: withdrawal symptoms when doses are lowered or stopped totally. Acute withdrawal from Vicodin may take hours or days, depending on a number of factors. And once you have withdrawn from Vicodin, its acute side effects should discontinue.

But some effects last even longer.

Total, long-term withdrawal from chronic Vicodin use may take several weeks to several months. Taking Vicodin for a long time affects the brain. This type of withdrawal is called “protracted withdrawal”. This is why the fogginess, and clouded thinking that come with taking Vicodin may last for some time after you stop taking it.

More specifically, chronic use of Vicodin causes molecular, cellular, and neurocircuitry changes to the brain. Adaptive changes in the central nervous system may lead to affective changes that persist for many weeks or longer beyond acute withdrawal. This is why people who stop taking Vicodin may experience different emotions and behavior and that persist after acute withdrawal has ended.

In sum, the side effects of Vicodin can last for a few hours after your last dose, to a few months. Withdrawal from Vicodin should be completed under medical supervision, so if you want to stop using Vicodin, be sure to get medical help.

Reference sources: National Library of Medicine Medline Plus entries for “opiate addiction” and “hydrocodone”
Dependence, Addiction and Withdrawal presentation from the State of Wisconsin Department of Health
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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