Vicodin Side Effects: What is Vicodin?
Vicodin is the brand-name combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen (Tylenol). Vicodin typically relieves pain for up to six hours, and medical professionals often prescribe this pain reliever for patients after surgery. Like any opioid pain medication, Vicodin can be addictive, and some patients build a tolerance to it. This means that the individual takes larger doses of Vicodin or does so compulsively without being able to stop. Physical dependence means that individuals will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the medication. Unlike other opioid pain relievers.
Vicodin can be especially dangerous for the liver. Large doses of acetaminophen were found to cause severe allergic reactions and liver damage in many people, and several people who took over 325 mg of acetaminophen consistently often ended up in the emergency room due to overdose.
The Food and Drug Administration changed its guidelines on acetaminophen products in 2011, especially on the amount of acetaminophen that can be used in prescription painkillers like Percocet (oxycodone) and Vicodin (hydrocodone). The limit was placed at 325 mg, but individuals taking these painkillers should also be wary of acetaminophen in over-the-counter cold and flu medications, to prevent overdose. 
Each Vicodin tablet has 300 mg of Acetaminophen and comes in three different dosage levels of Hydrocodone: 5 mg, 7.5 mg, and 10 mg. Each Vicodin tablet may have 300mg to 325mg of Acetaminophen. It is generally prescribed as one tablet is taken every 4 to 6 hours, though addicts may take much higher doses.
Vicodin Side Effects: Vicodin Abuse
Vicodin is currently labeled as a Schedule II controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration after being changed from Schedule III in October of 2014. Because the abuse potential of Vicodin and other Hydrocodone combination drugs is so high, the DEA voted to tighten restrictions to prevent fraud and protect citizens who are using Vicodin from abuse or misuse. 
Abuse of Vicodin includes any type of use without a prescription or use other than directed by a doctor. One of the negative complications of Vicodin abuse is liver damage or failure caused by the Acetaminophen in the drug. Typical cases of liver damage involve doses of 4,000 mg or more a day of Acetaminophen.
For this reason, in March 2014, the FDA announced that all manufacturers have ceased marketing products with more than 325 mg of Acetaminophen. Previous formulations included 500 to 750 mg of Acetaminophen.
Vicodin Side Effects of abuse
Every substance has negative health consequences, and Vicodin is no exception. The obvious negative Vicodin side effects are the potential for addiction and liver damage. Some of the other common Vicodin abuse and addiction effects, both mild and serious, include:
- Relaxed and calm feeling
- Depressed heart rate
- Depressed breathing rate
- Aches and cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle pain
Vicodin Side Effects: Symptoms Of Vicodin Addiction
It can be hard to recognize a true addiction to Vicodin. Some people develop a dependence (having withdrawals and tolerance to Vicodin) on their prescription and don’t realize it until they stop taking it. Dependence can lead to addiction, which is marked by the compulsive urge to use despite negative consequences.
The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) outlines certain symptoms of those with an addiction. According to the DSM-5, to be diagnosed with Substance Use Disorder (SUD), you must meet two or more of the corresponding criteria within a 12-month period. If you meet two or three of the criteria, you may have a mild SUD. Four to five is considered moderate; if you meet six or more criteria, you could have a severe SUD. The diagnostic criteria include the following:
- Continuing to use Vicodin, even when it causes problems in relationships.
- Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of Vicodin use.
- Using Vicodin again and again, even when it puts you in danger.
- Needing more Vicodin to get the effect you want (tolerance).
- Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more Vicodin.
- Taking Vicodin in larger amounts or for longer than you’re meant to.
- Wanting to cut down or stop using Vicodin but not managing to.
- Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of Vicodin.
- Cravings and urges to use Vicodin.
- Not managing to do what you should at work, home, or school because of Vicodin use.
Vicodin Side Effects: Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline
Vicodin withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of other opioid pain medications. Typical withdrawal symptoms for Vicodin include:
- Psychological changes, like irritability, mood swings, anxiety, and confusion
- Appetite changes, like an increased craving for the drug and reduced sensation of hunger
- Physical symptoms, like tremors, enlarged pupils, nausea and vomiting, sweating, diarrhea, salivation, shivering or goosebumps, rapid breathing, and muscle aches or cramps
- Sleep disturbances, like restlessness, insomnia, or exhaustion
- Symptoms of a cold, like a runny nose, fever, sweating, chills, and nasal congestion
Vicodin Side Effects: Timeline for Withdrawal
The predicted average timeline for Vicodin withdrawal symptoms to end, or significantly dissipate, is 7-10 days. That being said, in some cases, certain symptoms can last for weeks or months, especially psychological symptoms. Like many drug addictions, cravings for Vicodin may suddenly occur years after the individual has stopped taking the drug. Vicodin’s half-life is about four hours, so the drug leaves the body completely after about eight hours. Once the drug begins to leave the body, withdrawal symptoms begin.
Vicodin withdrawal can be a very individual process. While the worst of the withdrawal symptoms most likely end within 1-2 weeks, it is difficult to estimate the timeline accurately for each person.
Vicodin Side Effects: Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome Risk Factors
Some people experience a syndrome called PAWS, or post-acute withdrawal syndrome. This condition can last for weeks or months during which the individual suffers other withdrawal symptoms. This difficult condition makes detox psychologically difficult to endure, and it is difficult to estimate when it will end. Those who experience PAWS are best served in inpatient addiction treatment where 24-hour medical supervision and support are available to aid in relapse prevention. Several factors can affect the amount of time an individual experiences withdrawal symptoms. These factors include:
- Length of Use: If a person took the drug for a few weeks as prescribed, withdrawal symptoms will be minimal, if they occur at all. If a person developed a tolerance for the drug or became addicted to the medication, and took it compulsively for years, withdrawal will be more acute.
- Dose: When a person develops a tolerance for Vicodin, like other opioid painkillers, the person must take more to feel the same effects from the drug. Additionally, the original prescription may have specified a large dose for a particular medical reason. When the person begins to withdraw from Vicodin, withdrawal symptoms will generally be worse if the body is used to large amounts of the medication, compared to smaller doses.
- Addiction: When a person suffers from Vicodin addiction, rather than just tolerance, the psychological compulsiveness involved in addiction will make withdrawal symptoms worse. The person must overcome the psychological, as well as the physical, need to take the drug. This can also make physical symptoms feel more difficult to endure.
- Method of Stopping Use: When a person tries to quit any opioid medication, such as Vicodin, cold turkey without help, the person will likely experience withdrawal symptoms more severely. Medical detox is recommended to make the process more comfortable. In some instances, replacement medications like buprenorphine or methadone may be used to aid the withdrawal process on a longer-term basis. The use of any medication is determined on an individual basis. Additionally, psychological support from therapists, nurses, and other staff members, can radically help clients during the detox process.
Vicodin Side Effects: Vicodin addiction treatment
Once a physical dependence on Vicodin develops, addiction becomes more likely. Vicodin withdrawals can be intense and painful, and many people will continue using Vicodin just to avoid them.
Receiving professional treatment is the most successful way people break their addiction to Vicodin. This type of treatment offers therapy and support in a setting conducive to recovery. It also offers a detox program that helps addicts safely and successfully manage their withdrawal symptoms. These programs also offer medications that ease these symptoms and make recovery more likely. Two of the most common are:
- Buprenorphine: This drug activates the same receptors in the brain as Vicodin, releasing dopamine and relieving withdrawals.
- Naltrexone: Also used for treating Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), Naltrexone reduces cravings and also blocks the effects of Vicodin in the case of a relapse.
Vicodin addiction is a chronic disease that can cause major health, social, and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up Treatment Center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from Vicodin addiction and also help you manage the Vicodin side effects with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.
 The Food and Drug Administration (www.fda.gov)
 U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (www.dea.gov)