Tolerance to Vicodin

You can develop tolerance to Vicodin (hydrocodone) within in a month of taking it. Tolerance to Vicodin does not necessarily mean you are addicted to Vicodin. More on the distinction between physical dependence, tolerance and Vicodin addiction here.

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Are you Vicodin-tolerant?

Are your Vicodin strengths not enough?  Does Vicodin (a combination of hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen) seem to no longer be effective when you take it?   Do you find yourself having to take more Vicodin in order to feel its effect? If your answer to these questions are, “Yes!” then your body has probably developed a tolerance to Vicodin.

Once people have developed a tolerance to Vicodin they become worried that this means they’re addicted to Vicodin, as well. Not true. Tolerance to Vicodin does not necessarily indicate addiction to Vicodin.  But you can experience withdrawal symptoms from hydrocodone.   In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Vicodin tolerance. We also look at how Vicodin tolerance relates to chemical dependency and addiction. We invite any questions you may have about Vicodin at the end of this article.

Vicodin tolerance symptoms

There are two main symptoms of Vicodin tolerance:

1. Your doctor needs to continually increase the dose of hydrocodone for it to work.

2. You can’t tell a difference (therapeutically) whether you are on or off Vicodin.

If you experience either of these symptoms, don’t jump to the assumption that you are addicted to Vicodin. Most physicians anticipate that you will develop a tolerance to Vicodin. Tolerance is a normal occurrence with most people taking Vicodin.

Developing tolerance to Vicodin

When your body develops tolerance to Vicodin (or any medication), you need may need to take Vicodin more frequently or in higher doses in order to achieve the initial therapeutic effect of Vicodin that occurs when you FIRST start taking the pain killer. So what causes this phenomenon? And who is more likely to become tolerant of Vicodin?

Anyone at any time can develop a tolerance to Vicodin. However, the cause of developing a tolerance to Vicodin is not greatly known. In fact, scientists are still learning how the brain works to adapt and integrate medications such as Vicodin so that it takes higher doses for you to feel the effects of Vicodin. In general, however, it has been observed that the longer you take Vicodin, the more likely your body will develop a tolerance. Because of this tolerance your doctor may continue to increase your doses in order for you to benefit from the therapeutic pain relief effects of Vicodin.

Tolerance doesn’t mean you are dependent or addicted to Vicodin, however. There are many links between the three. Sometimes Vicodin tolerance is the precursor to creating a physical dependence on Vicodin. When you have developed a dependence on Vicodin, the body needs Vicodin in order to function. When this happens, it is important to stop taking Vicodin. Dependence on Vicodin can develop to Vicodin addiction, or can cause long term side effects of opiate use. After you stop taking Vicodin, you will need to be monitored as you will have to go through a period of opioid withdrawal.  What are symptoms of Vicodin withdrawal? Chills, nausea, and cramping are most common.

Vicodin tolerance: How long?

It doesn’t take long to develop a tolerance to Vicodin, or more accurately, the hydrocodone found in Vicodin. You can become resistant to Vicodin within in a month. But the time frame for developing tolerance to Vicodin is different for each person. Each body reacts differently to the medication they are taking. Still, Vicodin is considered one of the stronger opioid pain killers. Because of its pharmacology, Vicodin has a higher potential of developing dependence and becoming a possible drug addiction. Therefore, tolerance becomes a potential pathway for both of these outcomes.

High tolerance to Vicodin

Vicodin tablets start at doses of 7.5 mg hydrocodone and 750 mg acetaminophen. Doctors may increase Vicodin dosage as tolerance develops. It is not recommended a person should take more than five tablets a day. If it gets to the point you find yourself taking more than five tablets a day to feel the Vicodin is working your tolerance to Vicodin is high.

How to lower tolerance to Vicodin

The only way to lower your tolerance to Vicodin is to lower your doses or stop taking Vicodin all together for a while. This will give your brain time to readjust without the presence of Vicodin in the body. But this tactic can be painful for people who need Vicodin in order to treat severe pain. If Vicodin is not working, you might ask to be put on another medication to help treat pain symptoms. Make sure you’re in communication with your doctor so that pain professionals can help you figure out best option.

Building up tolerance to Vicodin questions

Do you still have questions about Vicodin tolerance? Please share your questions and experiences with Vicodin in the comments below.

Reference Sources: National Library of Medicine: MicroRNAs and opioid tolerance
Daily Med: Vicodin (hydrocodone Bitartrate Acetaminophen)
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 a friend who just popped 20 cipla 159 pills and a couple vicodin w a bottle of vodka . he thought it would knock him out but it didnt… He actually stayed cogerent, and yes 911 and crisis were called. We’re trying to figure out when the pill taking started . How long does it take someone to build a tolerance like that to vicodin? Months/years?

  2. it sucks…to be dependent on painkiller at 41 y.o. Have been dx with bulging discs years ago and the vicodin doesnt get rid of the pain, just “numbs” it to a degree…

  3. This blog depresses me. I’m scheduled for surgery in a little over a month for a rare condition that is going to require a nerve to be grafted (from my leg) to my neck. I am currently taking 60mg of Norco per day and have been for about a month. I have built up a tolerance to the medication and the pain is off the hook. To further complicate things, I’m a recovering alcoholic and the surgeon who will be performing the operation gives a good outcome a 50/50 chance. I chose the sober lifestyle and want to maintain it. I don’t like the odds… I once did drugs recreationally: I can’t tell you how much I would like to be pain and drug free! Sometimes, we get to pay for our sins without crossing over…

  4. Hello MJC. Consult with your prescribing doctor before attempting to decrease your tolerance to Vicodin. You’ll need medical supervision during the process.

  5. You talk about lowering your tolerance, I used to be able to do that, but over the last few months my pain has increased and I have been taking the maximum amount prescribed by my doctor of 3 – 7.5/750 pills per day, I would like to roll back to one a day, how long do I have to stop taking the medication to have the lower dose become effective? Will reducing the dosage without total withdrawal eventually make a lower dose more effective?

  6. A friend of mine has used vicoden for getting buzzed, says she has built a has tolerance and was wondering if she stops using it for a while, can she get that buzz back that she once did. She has been frustrated spending money on it and it doing barely anything. She says when she stops taking it she get depressed too. I tell her to just stop because it will ruin her liver but she wants the great feeling it gives and is down when she doesnt. Is there a way to intensify the affect so she gets a better buzz and doesnt have to take so much? Please advise. Thank you very much!

  7. Re: Tolerance to Vicodin

    While I would agree with the information contained in this article I would like to correct one point as well as to expand on another.

    Vicodin is marketed in a variety of dosage strengths of 5mg to 10mg of hydrocone and 325mg to 750mg of acetominophen. What disturbes me most about such discussions is that most people–not entirely without just cause, seem to key almost exclusively on the narcotic ingredient (hydrocodone), when acetominophen can be just as dangerous if not more so. The American Association of Poison Control Centers has reported that: “In the United States, APAP toxicity has replaced viral hepatitis as the most common cause of acute hepatic failure and is the second most common cause of liver failure requiring transplantation”.

    The high potential for abuse that is associated with this drug is such that one should be concerned not only about tolerance and addiction, but the health effects that can result from ingesting high dosages of acetominophen. By extension, this should also be of concern for people who take this drug as prescribed and for legitimate medical reasons who have known liver problems and should be discussed with the prescribing physician.

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