What is hydrocodone withdrawal?

Once you stop taking hydrocodone after regular use, a period of withdrawal will occur. Why? Because the brain compensates for opiate effects and suddenly speeds up when hydrocodone is no longer present. More on how hydrocodone affects on the central nervous system and body here.

minute read

Are you planning to go through hydrocodone withdrawal?

Maybe you are dependent on hydrocodone physically.  Perhaps you are treating hydrocodone addiction, or psychological dependence on hydrocodone.  In fact, hydrocodone dependence vs addiction manifest differently.   Regardless, there is only one way to withdraw from hydrocodone.

Here, we review what happens in the body when you withdraw from hydrocodone and why.  What are symptoms of hydrocodone withdrawal and how long do they last?  Plus, how hydrocodone withdrawal feels and what can help ease symptoms. We then invite your questions about withdrawing from hydrocodone at the end.

What is hydrocodone withdrawal syndrome?

Hydrocodone is semi synthetic narcotic analgesic and antitussive (anti-cough medicine) which is prescribed for severe pain. Hydrocodone is a generic version of Vicodin (without acetaminophen), making it a bit softer on the body system. But how does hydrocodone work? And why does the body go through withdrawal?

Hydrocodone works by suppressing or blocking pain receptors in the brain, which slows the body’s response to pain. But as you take hydrocodone daily, your body starts to become used to the opioid. Over time, the brain and central nervous system adapt to the presence of hydrocodone and adapt their own chemistry to accommodate hydrocodone and keep the body running normally. When this happens, you are physically dependent on hydrocodone.

When you are dependent on hydrocodone and you stop taking hydrocodone, a period of withdrawal will occur. Symptoms of withdrawal manifest because the brain is still trying to compensate for the opiates effects on the central nervous system and smooth muscle. Because hydrocodone decreases activity and responses in the body, once you stop taking hydrocodone your body tries to establish normalcy. But it takes time to balance out the chemicals in your brain again. To establish normalcy, your body switches from the hydrocodone adapated environment to a sudden pendulum effect resulting in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal feels uncomfortable as symptoms such as, chills, drowsiness, and mood changes arise.

What is withdrawal from hydrocodone like?

Hydrocodone withdrawal is like a really, really bad flu with symptoms such as ever, body aches, chills, and fatigue. But make no mistake: the sudden experience of hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms is unpleasant. And for a time, hydrocodone withdrawal might be just as painful as the initial reason you starting taking hydrocodone. Withdrawal from hydrocodone can also wear on you emotionally making withdrawal a trying process. Withdrawal from hydrocodone includes symptoms such as:

  • confusion
  • depression
  • diarrhea
  • mood swings

More severe symptoms of hydrocodone withdrawal may include:

  • extreme drowsiness
  • seizures
  • sleep disturbance
  • stomach pain
  • strong drug craving

What does hydrocodone withdrawal feel like?

During hydrocodone withdrawal, you will no longer feel relaxed and without pain. Instead, withdrawal is much the opposite. Aches and chills can tire you out and you may require more sleep. You may also suffer tremors which could make daily activity difficult. Onset of withdrawal symptoms will manifest between 8-12 hours after your last dose. After about 2 to 3 days, people have reported having intense drug cravings. But most of the flu like symptoms will regulate after several days. You will begin to feel normal again after a week or so. However, once the physical dependence has waned you may still experience psychological need and cravings for hydrocodone.

What helps hydrocodone withdrawal?

The most important treatment protocol to follow during hydrocodone withdrawal is to taper the pain medication before complete cessation. Additionally, prescription, over-the-counter medications and home remedies can help manage hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms. However, it is always best to be supervised by a physician for help for hydrocodone withdrawal. Furthermore, while hydrocodone is a medication you can stop cold turkey, some cases are best served in clinical detox.

1. Tapering hydrocodone doses

It is possible to stop taking hydrocodone suddenly. But you may be in a world of pain and discomfort if you just stop taking hydrocodone cold turkey. Instead, tapering is a process that can decreases the intensity and severity of withdrawal symptoms. During hydrocodone tapering, your physician will reduce your dose of hydrocodone over the course of a several weeks to the smallest possible amount until you are no longer physically dependent on the medication. Tapering can take days, weeks, even months before your body no longer has traces of the medication. Most opioids are reduced in 10% increments, allowing for dosing adjustments as needed.

2. Prescription medications for hydrocodone withdrawal

Doctors may recommend different medications to address hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms and to support dextox. Medications that have been used for severe hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms have included short acting anti-depressants, buprenorphine, clonidine, or Immodium. Mostly, over the counter NSAID medications like Ibuprofen and Tylenol can help with the aches or pains. Also flu medications might be helpful treating flu-like symptoms. It is important to be careful with medications while you are withdrawal and to use them carefully. Know your body and what it needs.

3. Home remedies for hydrocodone withdrawal

Home remedies are a helpful way to support hydrocodone withdrawal on your own terms. It is important that you are proactively taking care of withdrawal symptoms. In general, people have said the following are helpful remedies for hydrocodone withdrawal:

  • bland diet
  • heating pads
  • increase fluid and electrolytes
  • keeping busy
  • peppermint/ginger teas for nausea and stomach issues
  • seeking help if needed
  • talk to someone
  • warm showers
  • warm showers or baths

Questions about hydrocodone withdrawal?

Please ask your hydrocodone questions below. We are happy to respond to you personally, and will try to answer your questions ASAP. And if we don’t know the answer, we will refer you to someone who does.

Reference Sources: Daily Med: Hydrocodone
Medline Plus: Hydrocodone/Oxycontin Overdose
National Library of Medicine: Appendix A—Pharmacotherapy
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.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I have read and agree to the conditions outlined in the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

  1. I have been taking 10/325 Norco for back pain daily, but have gotten up to 2 per day then 2.5 then recently 3. Been taking them since January only. Will I have withdrawals? I’m almost out of them, and actually welcome being out of them since I can’t seem to stop while I have them. I suffer from panic attacks and also take clonazepam. I have some left of the Norco, but not many. I’m concerned that it will increase my anxiety. Any ideas on how best to come off with as few symptoms as possible?

  2. Hi,
    I used to hate anything that was pharmaceutical medication and was a strong as a man could be, physically and emotionally. Then I had this injury and tried to deal with it myself. It’s been getting worse and worse ever since. I eventually broke down in desperation as pain became unmanageable. The long way down from beliving I was confident in my abilities to do anything I put my mind to had begun and was now at the mercy of modern medicine. I gradually climbed to a 8 of the 10/325 hydrocodon per day while I wait for surgery after November. My concern is that I might be doing more damage if I go ahead with surgery and I’ve thought about what I could do to manage pain without the opioid drug in my life at all as the Tylenol alone will kill me at this pace!!!
    My attempt to cold turkey before were dreadful but I was able to deal with it by sleeping and baths but mainly because I’m hardheaded and held on through the worst body aches ever. I eventually had to go back to work and needed to manage that pain just to function daily.

    (Questions) I was trying to find out what can help with the cramps and body aches?
    Additionally I would hope for a different suggestion dealing with my compound fracture (lower back) pain without building tolerance in the body, while still able to alleviate the pain but not keep me from working?
    Thanks so much for the input you provide people dealing with this roller coaster,
    Christian p

    1. Hi Christian. Unfortunately, our bodies are great at adapting to all environments and that’s why we grow tolerance and dependence to medications we regularly take. That’s what has helped us get used to any circumstances (external and internal) and survive. So, no matter what medication you take to help manage the chronic pain, your body will get accustomed to that medication.

  3. Hello Sheila. You were just about to start feeling better and better when you started taking hydrocodone again. Your organism doesn’t lose its physical dependence as fast, so you probably went back to where you were. When you’ll quit them again, im afraid you’ll be going through the same withdrawals in intensity and duration.

  4. I’m a 30 year old female and been taking hydrocodone 10/325 6-8 a day for over 5 years. I recently stopped taking them and made it to day 4 almost day 5 and I took one 10mg. I took a total of 5 10mg the 4 days after my 4 days clean. My question is will the withdrawals come back just as bad as they were the first time around or will they be less intense and maybe not last as long?

  5. i have been on hydrocodone for about a year now. i was weaned off of the fentanyl patch after having surgery on my arthritic neck. on this patch i nearly died. i decided (against my pain med. dr.) to wean off of it. i did really well. i have alot of pain issues, lower back fusion, 3-4 neck fusions and a plate, which caused a pouce like balloon inside my throat called a diverticulum. i am presently seeking help again on that issue. it collects food and makes me choke. this i can deal with. i am also on triptolene for my restless leg syndrome nightly, 75mg. i went to johns hopkins on wed. concerning this and did not take my hydrocodone since i was driving. it takes 1 and a half to 2 hrs drive. after my appt. coming home i felt so much pain and fatigue. when i got home i took a 15 min. nap which i never could ever do. that night i had restless legs and it has been 3 nights now with this. i felt that maybe it was b/c of the hydro. so figured that if it was and i was in the middle of withdrawal, i should continue. but, what to do with pain thru the day and the nights (worse). i feel tired from being up thru 3 nights of restless leg syn. and i feel lost. it’s a sat., of course, so cannot call dr. i feel he would not quite get what i am saying and wean me off, which i am doing at this moment, but not weaning, just cold turkey. can anyone help me out with this problem? i need something for my pain so bad. i’ve tried ibruprofen, tylenol, asprin, aleve, advil, naprosen. most of this makes my belly sort of off. oh, i forgot one thing. . . . i started celebrex 8 days ago to see if this would help the pain and get off hydro. (200mg), which is another reason i went without the hydro, actually the second reason i did this. #1 i was driving, #2 how would i know the celebrex is working if still on hydro? thanks for your time. i look forward to hearing from you.

I am ready to call
i Who Answers?