Tolerance to hydrocodone

Tolerance to hydrocodone can develop over the course of several days to a month after you have started taking hydrocodone. More here on what’s considered a high tolerance to hydrocodone, as well as how tolerance differs from hydrocodone dependence and/or addiction.

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Have you been taking hydrocodone for a while? Are you finding that you’re having to increase your dosage of hydrocodone in order to feel the benefits of the medication? If yes, then you have may have developed a tolerance to hydrocodone.

However, developing a tolerance to pain killers like hydrocodone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re addicted or are developing dependence on hydrocodone. But if you’re worried that a high tolerance to hydrocodone may develop into physical dependence on hydrocodone or an addiction, you’ve found yourself in the right place. Here, we’ll explore hydrocodone tolerance and its relationship to dependency and addiction. Then, we invite you to ask questions about hydrocodone at the end (if you still have them)!

Developing tolerance to hydrocodone

Every person will react differently to hydrocodone. But anyone can develop a tolerance to hydrocodone. Tolerance to hydrocodone happens when your doctor needs to increase the dose you are taking because the analgesic effect is no longer working. Sometimes you can develop tolerance quickly. This can make many people worried that they may develop an addiction.

So if your doctor has been increasing your hydrocodone medication… how does this affect dependence and addiction to hydrocodone?

There is a possibility that with increased tolerance your body can develop a physical dependency on hydrocodone. That is, you may need hydrocodone in the body to operate normally. Physical dependence on any drug occur when the medication has integrated into the normal functioning of your body. People who are dependent on hydrocodone find that without hydrocodone, they begin to undergo withdrawal symptoms and require hydrocodone symptoms withdrawal treatment.

On the other hand, dependence and tolerance are still distinctively different than drug addiction. If you start experiencing psychological symptoms such as drug seeking behavior or hydrocodone cravings, you may have developed an addiction to hydrocodone. However, addiction to hydrocodone is more likely if you’re using hydrocodone in way not prescribed by your doctor.

Hydrocodone tolerance symptoms

Generally, there are two main symptoms that can help you decide if you have developed a tolerance to hydrocodone, or not.

1. Taking hydrocodone with more frequency or in higher doses in order to feel its effect.

2. You can’t tell if hydrocodone is working the way it should.

Again, these symptoms don’t mean you have developed a physical dependency or psychological addiction to hydrocodone. They only indicate that you need more and more hydrocodone because you no longer feel the analgesic effect as you did initially.

Hydrocodone tolerance: How long?

Because everyone is different, building a tolerance to hydrocodone is also varies by individual. Overall, tolerance to hydrocodone can develop over the course of several days to a month after you have started taking hydrocodone. However, there is one general rule about the length of time for hydrocodone tolerance to occur: The longer you use hydrocodone, the more likely you are to develop a tolerance to it. Hydrocodone also seems to have a faster tolerance rate than other opioid based drugs. This is why it is not recommended that hydrocodone be taken over extended periods of time. Using hydrocodone over a relatively short time frame decreases the potential for tolerance and dependence.

High tolerance to hydrocodone

You should not take more than 750 mg a day of hydrocodone. If you find you must take more in order to feel the pain reliefe effects of hydrocodone, then you have developed a high tolerance to the medication. After this point if you need to take more than 750 mg of hydrocodone you need to do so with caution. With each increase of hydrocodone there is a higher chance of eventually developing dependence. Once you have exceeded the recommended daily dose of hydrocodone, it is important to consult with your doctor so s/he can help you figure out what is the best course of action.

How to lower tolerance to hydrocodone

The only real way to lower your tolerance of hydrocodone is to stop taking it for a while. However, stopping hydrocodone can trigger the experience of withdrawal symptoms. If this is the case, a doctor can work with you to taper your use of hydrocodone so that you do not feel the total severity of withdrawal symptoms. There is also the possibility that you can’t lower your tolerance and that hydrocodone is simply not a good pain medication for you. You may need to find another medication that will work for you and the symptoms you need treated.

Building up tolerance to Hydrocodone questions

Still have questions about hydrocodone tolerance? Please ask and share any experience you may have with hydrocodone tolerance below. We do our best to respond to you with a personal and prompt reply.

Reference Sources: Daily Med: hydrocodone
Pub Med Health: Hydrocodone
Pub Med: Development of Opioid Tolerance 
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. I have been taking Norco for several years now. I started out taking the 7.5 MG and I only had to take 1 every few days or so. It got to the point where it wasn’t effective, so when I was referred to a pain specialist he increased it to 10 MG. That was in 2014, and I was able to go only taking 1 tablet every few days or so. Within the past few months I’ve noticed that my Norco doesn’t seem to be working as well as it used to. I am having to take 1 every single day, and the directions say 1 every 12 hours. However it’s not an extended release formula. Could the timing be wrong? I’ve read where usually extended release are only the 12 hour, not the fast acting. Am I developing a tolerance to this dosage? Should I get my doctor to adjust the directions?? I’m not sure what to do…I hope you can help.

  2. I have been on norco 5/325 ever 8 hrs. for almost a year for fibro myalgia. I have been very concerned about becoming addicted to it. I am. 88 yrs. young. A month ago, I started taking Arnica, only 30c (4 every 8 hrs), homeopathic medicine. It has performed miracles in my body and I hope that I took my last norco 30 hrs. ago. Gradually reduced my usage of the norco the last 2wks. I have experienced a runny nose today and some sneezing. As I have read, that is normal. I wish you would let people know they do not have to suffer so much with withdrawal. Please look into it. While I was on norco, it made me constipated -for a yr. My doctor told me to take a stool softener!Well, it took the ss and prune juice daily. I read about Aloe Vera and started taking it. I have not used the as or prune juice for 2wks. There are natural answers to some of our problems. Please alert the people. Thank you for listening to me. Marcia

  3. In 2014 I had a knee replacement surgery in Baldwin Park, California. “My” surgeon use glue to put my knee back together. To control the pain I was given Vicodin. I had a WUNDERFUL recovery. The next day I drove my car to the dog park to play with my dogs and other dogs and continue to make daily trip to the dog park and did not suffer any brutal painful recovery.
    On May 22nd 2017 I received my 2nd knee replacement surgery, in Irvine California. WHAT A DIFFERENCE!!! I received OXYCODONE to control the pain. I am still dizzy, feel whoozy and there was no PAIN relief. My leg is always swollen and the doctor said place an ice pack on your leg. Also the surgeon STAPPELD my knee together This time the surgeon is a person from INDIA. FROM all places I thought I was operated in a THIRD WORLD country. I asked for VICODINE and was told that is what they give for paincontrol OXYCONDONE. I had NEVER had
    problems with Vicodine. I’M STILL SUFFER DAILY night and day PAIIIINNN!!! !I”M APPALLED!!!!
    I hope they will take the staplers out!! KP probable does not have a pain management department!! As you can see I’M VERY UPSET, DEPRESSED and I still SUFFER walking with a lot of pain. Can somebody help me and talk SENSE to those “BIG HEADS” with little brains!!
    Thank you for listening..

  4. I started taking Vicodin for rheumatoid arthritis in 2006 and it was like a miracle drug. Then about 2013 it wasn’t as effective so my doctor increased my dosage to Norco which worked great until about a year ago. it seemed like it was not as effective so my doctor put me on oxycodone 30 milligrams every 4 hours as needed not to exceed five in a day. It has been working for pain but now I have these side effects that are intolerable mainly disabling fatigue, weakness, dry mouth and breathlessness. Is it possible that I could go back on the Norco and it would work? or where do I go from here?

  5. I have been taking approximately three 5 to 7.5 mg tabs of hydrocodone since my last neck surgery 5 years ago. I have had 3 neck surgeries due to severe degenerative changes. I am fused from C3-C7 and suffer from cervical radiculomyelopathy. I have had pretty bad shoulder and arm pain as well as neurological symptoms in my legs for 5 months. I finally went to the doctor and am facing a probable 4th surgery as my C7 disc has slipped forward on my T1 and I have cord compression and arm weakness. My current hydrocodone prescription is for 7.5/325 up to 4 tabs a day. I refuse to take more than 3 a day to a fear of addiction. I do get relief for about 3 hours after I take one and than start to feel absolutely awful. I have pain everywhere and get extremely exhausted and tearful. I am very confused about this. Is it from my cord compression and chronic pain/ neurological changes or symptoms of the Vicodin wearing off? I can tolerate pain pretty well as I used to be very athletic. But this cycle (whatever it is) is really wearing me down. Thanks for any input or advice. I do not want to increase my use but am not sure what is what.

  6. Hi I have a torn meniscus with surgery in 2 weeks. My Dr gave me 90 norco 7.5 on Sept 3rd. I started taking a half 3x aday tThea week or so later had to take a whole 3x a day. Now I find myself taking 2 at a time.i am almost out and not enough left to last until surgery. I hurt every day. Do I just have a high tolerance to them? I have not taken any in 2 days over 48 hrs. I do not have any withdraw symptoms. I have just had my knee pain. What should I tell my dr? I don’t want to have to get a higher dose but this isn’t helping. Since its been 48 hrs is my tolerance low agin?

    1. Hi hurting. Yes, I believe that your tolerance increased as you increased your dose. But, it is impossible that it’s lowered now after only 2 days. The best option you have is to talk to your doctor because your dose can genuinely be unfit for you, or you need a different medication that will provide pain relief successfully.

  7. Thank you for the comments and answeres. I see if I taper off that’s the best. 10 years is to long to take this and it does not help. The Nurse Practisuner does not understands and gets mad. But I don’t want to endanger my health.

  8. Hydrocodone was prescribed for me after I developed chronic lower back pain. I started taking one10-500 4 times a day. Taking one
    at a time did nothing for the pain. I eventually took all four every morning. That took the pain away for 24 hours. At one point
    I took six every morning. I have been taking the drug for about three years, and not once have I gotten any kind of a high or rush. I was looking for pain relief and that’s all that I got.
    I would like to stop taking the drug and I am wondering if I will go through the withdrawal symptoms that you described?
    Thank you for your help.

    1. Hi Stuart. Yes, if you lower the usual dose suddenly or stop taking the medication abruptly, you will experience harsh withdrawal symptoms. The recommended method for getting off of Hydrocodone is by tapering doses down slowly and gradually. I suggest you speak to your doctor before you begin this process. You can ask for help with creating the tapering schedule and also get some prescription or OTC medications to soothe certain withdrawal effects as they occur.

  9. Hi jjohnson. Do not doubt to consult your doctor about your situation. Only s/he can help you figure out what is the best course of action. According to your description, you have already developed tolerance on tramadol. Take the next step serious.

  10. I live in Tennessee….I been on hydrocodone 10/325 3x a day since 2003…I don’t want my Dr to think im abusing my prescription but its not working for the pain anymore. .I been on them for 11 years without a increase in mg or number. .what do I do..I’m sick of hurting. .I was thrown from a car In a roll over at estimated 70 mph…messing my neck an back completely up…any advice?

  11. Hi Lisa. I feel for you. You must be so frustrated with the system and the lack of results. In reading your post, I’m not sure what options have been presented to you. Can you list them, please?

  12. Hello, My name is Lisa and I know I have a horrible dependency and addiction to 10mg hydrocodone.
    I had a very bad bicycle accident and was in cast for 9 months. Then right when I thought I would get my life back I ended up having 6 op’s and a years worth of cemo. Now I’m having very invasive neck surgery on June 3. I’ve been trying so hard to get off, or reduce my drug intake. I can’t think every time I reduce my dosage and I’m getting taken advantage of every which way I turn. Between bad doctor’s operating on me and my insurance company wanting me to just take bad drugs, I’m at my wits end. I just want off all of this crap. If I would have really known what drug dependency means, another words, don’t take it more than 4 day’s!!! I would have done the right things or at least made a good conscious choice. They first put me on 20mg. oxycontin twice a day . They should have given me a lower dose to start with, and not given it to me as a maintenance drug! Then when I heard about all the bad hoopla about it, I told my doc and he said let’s put you on suboxzone. Well that was expensive and was just as bad I found out. Then I took Ibogain, That was a bust too. So now I’m on hydro and I want off!!! The proper help is too expensive. Insurance won’t cover it! I have a lot of responsibilities. I need my mind back. I’d rather deal with the pain that I started out with. I think it would be easier. How do I achieve that? I’m always sick now because of low dosing. That’s the only way I can have a few days that are sort of normal. There is haunting mental anguish and physical pain. My doctor doesn’t know what to do. He feels the PHARMACEUTICAL companies should take responsibility. They say get help. HOW???!!!! I can’t afford treatment.

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