When does hydrocodone kick in?

Hydrocodone takes about 30 minutes after oral ingestion to kick in. More on how modes of administration affect hydrocodone onset here.

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Hydrocodone’s kick

Hydrocodone is used to treat pain and is a relatively strong opioid drug included in brands like Vicodin, Lortab, or Norco. Hydrocodone is a powerful pain killer because it attaches to opiate receptors in the brain to prevent you from feeling pain.  While this pain relief is not immediate, when taken as prescribed, hydrocodone kicks in within a half an hour.

But what is hydrocodone? When does it start to take effect and how long can you expect it to last? And what’s the risk of addiction to hydrocodone? (If you’re looking to get high on hydrocodone,  getting help for hydrocodone addiction may be one outcome that you didn’t’ expect.)  In this article we explore the answers to these questions and more. Then, we invite your questions about hydrocodone and its kick at the end.

Hydrocodone active ingredients

Usually hydrocodone is mixed in with other types of medications such as; acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen. Adding other drugs helps increase the effectiveness of hydrocodone and adds benefits of anti-inflammatory effects to combination medications. Other ingredients present in combination with hydrocodone usually include colloidal silicon dioxide, crospovidone, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, povidone, pregelatinized starch, and/or stearic acid.

When does hydrocodone start working?

For hydrocodone to work, it must enter the body, dissolve into a solution, be absorbed by the body and the distributed to sites of action. And in the process, a number of different factors can affect the rate at which hydrocodone onset begins. In general, once hydrocodone is absorbed into the bloodstream it activates the opiate receptors in the central nervous system and inhibits messages of pain to travel throughout the body. So, what are you waiting for?

When you take oral capsule forms of hydrocodone, the drug is dissolved in the stomach and then absorbed through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Once hydrocodone is absorbed by the digestive system, it takes about 30 minutes for you to feel the effects of hydrocodone. However, there are many factors that influence hydrocodone onset. For the most effective results read the labels and use as directed.

Factors that affect onset of hydrocodone:

Drug bioavailability: hydrocodone taken orally has a lower bioavailability then hydrocodone that is taken in a solution or liquid. Bioavailability is also stronger if you are abusing hydrocodone by crushing or snorting in order to experience a high.

Hydrocodone concentration: Hydrocodone comes in so many variant concentrations. It may seem obvious, but stronger concentrations of hydrocodone are going to work faster and longer in the body compared to weaker concentration of the medication. Doctors will work with you to find out when concentration would world best for you.

Hydrocodone form: Hydrocodone comes in tablets, extended-release tablets/solution, syrups, and elixirs. Each form kicks in differently.

Mode of administration: The way you take hydrocodone is important. Tablets will take longer than solutions or liquids. Some people who abuse hydrocodone will chew on the tablets or crush and snort them. This give them a high and works on the body quicker than if you are taking them orally. DO NOT do this.

Manufacturer solutions: Further, manufacturers change the way that hydrocodone dissolves in order to modify solubility characteristics, and therefore slow or quicken drug onset. Here is a list of fastest to slowest drug delivery forms.

Fastest: Elixirs and suspension liquid absorb really quickly into the body and like extended-release tablets can last up to 12 hours of pain relief at a time.

Medium: Syrup, capsules, and tablets are taken every 4 to 6 hours to treat pain. They absorb at a medium rate in the body. Pills should be swallowed and not crushed and chewed.

Slowest: Extended-release tablets are designed to slowly release hydrocodone into the body so that pain is being treating up to 12 hours at a time. Hydrocodone is continually and slowly released into the body.

When does hydrocodone peak?

Hydrocodone that you take every 4 hours will peak at 2 hours after dosing. After hydrocodone has peaked you will still feel the effects of pain relief but it will begin to even out. For forms of hydrocodone which last up to 12 hours, you can expect hydrocodone to peak at its half-life (3.8 hours ± 0.3 hours) and continue to be a potent pain reliever before it wears off.

When does hydrocodone wear off?

Short active hydrocodone wears off in 4 hours. Long lasting hydrocodone wears off in 12 hours. If you have developed a dependency, however, you may notice that hydrocodone doses wearoff sooner in the body. For people physically dependent on hydrocodone, they may experience increased tolerance for hydrocodone and have to take a stronger dose of hydrocodone or may need to take it more often than normally prescribed.

Risks of hydrocodone addiction

Hydrocodone can be habit forming. Hydrocodone works so well, that sometimes people begin to misuse and abuse the medication. Some begin to crush and snort the drug so they can feel it’s effects sooner. Some continue to use it to disengage from their lives. Because you can develop an addiction, it is important to be careful how you take hydrocodone and that you are in consistent contact with your prescribing doctor. If you are worried about the risks of addiction, talk to you doctor.  Maybe another type of medication would be best for you.  Also, be aware that if you are dependent on hydrocodone you do not need to stop hydrocodone cold turkey.

It is also important to be aware of other medications you are taking at the same time as hydrocodone. Other medications can affect the ways hydrocodone work on the body. The results can be negative and potentially dangerous. For example, avoid drinking alcohol or taking other depressants when you are using hydrocodone because they can depress body function. You could stop breathing, slow heart rate or become unconscious.

When does hydrocodone kick in questions

Do you still have a question about how hydrocodone works on the body? Still wonder what is in hydrocodone and how it will affect your body? Please ask any remaining questions and we will get back to you personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: NCBI: hydrocodone
PubMed: hydrocodone
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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