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Vicodin Dependence

Are You Vicodin Dependent?

Vicodin – a brand name for the combination of paracetamol and hydrocodone – affects the central nervous system  and changes the way the brain functions. Prolonged, daily Vicodin use can lead drug dependence, which is manifested by a decrease in dosage potency and a display of severe and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you lower/stop the usual drug intake.


How can this dependence be treated? What are the signs of Vicodin dependence? More info here. We review the nature of Vicodin dependence, its signs and symptoms, as well as ways to address it. At the end, you are welcome to join the discussion with other readers and post your questions in the comments section. We do our best to respond personally and promptly to all legitimate inquiries.

What Is Dependence?

Regular Vicodin use is expected to result in a physical adaptation to the presence of the drug, also known as “drug dependence”. You can develop dependence simply by taking the medication as prescribed for two to three weeks. Of course, those who abuse Vicodin can become dependent at a much faster rate.

Q: Why does dependence form?
A: Because your body tries to establish homeostasis.

Vicodin binds to opiate receptors in the brain which are typically bound by natural neurotransmitters, and blocks the brain’s perception of pain. With prolonged use, the body slows down the production of those natural chemicals called neurotransmitters and makes the body dependent on an outside source (using Vicodin) in order to function normally. Once the body establishes a new state of normalcy with Vicodin, it will try to maintain this homoestasis. Thus creating a physical need to use Vicodin in order to function normally.

In a nutshell, this is what Vicodin dependence looks like…

Symptoms of Dependence

The two main symptoms that point to the formation of dependence to a medication are:

  1. Tolerance.
  2. Withdrawal.

What is TOLERANCE? – Tolerance is a natural condition of the body that occurs after chronic, long-term Vicodin dosing. The human body has a tendency to build up a level of tolerance towards Vicodin, making once effective doses of the medication to lose their effectiveness. This is when you may feel a need to increase your Vicodin amount in order to achieve the sought-after effects of pain relief.

What is WITHDRAWAL? – When the dosage is decreased or completely stopped, Vicodin withdrawal symptoms occur. Symptoms are the response of your body seeking Vicodin because it is trying to maintain its balance. Withdrawal can start only few hours after the last intake, peak in intensity at around 72 hours after the last missed dose, and last for several weeks on end. Here is a list of some of the most common Vicodin withdrawal symptoms:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Mood changes
  • Nausea
  • Runny nose
  • Vomiting

Signs Of Vicodin Dependence

In addition to increased tolerance to hydrocodone and withdrawal symptoms upon lowering dosafe, some of the commonly observed signs of Vicodin dependence may also include:

  • Buying Vicodin through illegal sources or “doctor shopping”.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after you decrease or stop use.
  • Feeling a physical need to use Vicodin to function normally.
  • Needing more Vicodin in order to achieve desired effects.
  • Running out of Vicodin before it’s time for a prescription refill.
  • Using Vicodin longer or at higher doses than prescribed by your doctor.

Does Vicodin Dependence = Addiction?

Not really…although a person addicted to Vicodin is likely to also be dependent, these two conditions are NOT the same.

Vicodin dependence is a normal and expected physiological adaptation. It means that you can’t stop taking the drug without the presence of withdrawal symptoms. However, after the needed treatment of withdrawal symptoms, you will not experience any cravings or a compulsion to go back to Vicodin use.

Vicodin addiction is manifested as psychological dependence and is characterized by obsessive thinking, Vicodin carvings, and compulsive drug seeking and drug use behavior. Individuals addicted to Vicodin have a hard time quitting and staying quit, despite awareness of the many harms drug use is causing. They require a structured and long-term Vicodin addiction treatment to be able to address their problem.

TO CONCLUDE: Dependence is a state of the body; addiction is a state of the mind.


Ending Your Dependence

The first step towards ending your dependence is to seek help from a medical professional including your prescribing doctor, a general physician, a licensed psychologist, or a counselor. Then, let the people closest to you know what you are going through. Support from family and friends is one of the crucial points in going through Vicodin withdrawal successfully.

Here are a few of the basic methods used to end Vicodin dependence. Remember to alwasy seek medical supervision anytime you are Vicodin-dependent and quit. Relapse is common…and symptoms can be lessened with the use of specific medications.

1. Tapered withdrawal: Tapering is considered to be the safest and most recommended method to lower your tolerance and lessen the intensity of withdrawal. It usually includes a specially designed cessation schedule created by a medical doctor. It may consist of 2-3 weeks of slowly decreasing Vicodin doses, but may take longer if needed.

2. Medical detoxification: After you completely come off of Vicodin, and even in the weeks to follow, you may still experience and array of harsh withdrawal effects. This is why medical Vicodin detox is the most recommended way to cleanse your body of the drug. At a detox clinic, you will receive round-the-clock care to ensure that you’re as comfortable as possible and do not relapse.

3. Medication treatment:  When you are ending a period of dependence on an opioid like Vicodin, it may be necessary to take some prescribed medications to address withdrawal symptoms effectively. Some of the meds prescribed to you may include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Buprenorphine
  • Clonidine
  • Naltrexone

4. Home treatment: If you go through a medical evaluation and receive medical clearance, you may be allowed to withdraw from Vicodin at home. But, you need to be in good health and have a strong support system to be able to make it on your own. Massages, home remedies, over-the-counter medications, and hot baths can help ease symptoms. For instance, icy-hot creams are good to treat chills, while Ibuprofen or Advil are excellent in treating muscle pain.

5. Supportive withdrawal: It is a good idea to take part in a support group during Vicodin withdrawal and early dependence recovery. You will be able to share your own experience and hear other people’s stories and advices on navigating Vicodin withdrawal. Sharing your struggles can help immensely.

Got Any Questions?

Did we give answers all your questions on the topic? If not, feel free to ask them in the comments section at the bottom of the page. We will try to respond promptly and personally to all legitimate inquiries.

Reference Sources: NIH: DrugAbuse: Prescription Drugs
NIH: Daily Med: Vicodin
Health: Misuse of Prescription Drugs: Vital Questions and Answers for Parents
DOI: Signs and Symptoms Fact Sheets

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