Vicodin Addiction: Side Effects, Withdrawal, & Treatment

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Vicodin is a branded hydrocodone combination product developed for the treatment of moderate and severe pain.

The hydrocodone content of this potent opioid-based painkiller means that Vicodin addiction can easily occur.

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What is Vicodin?

Vicodin was a branded formulation of hydrocodone that also contained acetaminophen. The pharmaceutical company Abbott discontinued manufacturing and distributing Vicodin in the United States in May 2012. 

Each Vicodin pill contains two active ingredients: 

  1. Acetaminophen: Acetaminophen is the active ingredient used in Tylenol, an over-the-counter painkiller. Each Vicodin tablet contains between 300mg and 325mg of acetaminophen.
  2. Hydrocodone: Hydrocodone is a powerful synthetic opioid. The medication activates the same neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) as heroin and other opiate narcotics. Each Vicodin tablet contains 5mg, 7.5mg, or 10mg of hydrocodone.

Although Vicodin can be a highly effective painkiller, the medication also triggers a variety of potentially unpleasant side effects. 

The most common of these adverse Vicodin side effects include: 

  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Anxiety
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Dry throat
  • Clouded thoughts
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Pinprick pupils

If you experience any of these symptoms severely, or if symptoms persist, consult your physician. 

When prescribed Vicodin for pain relief, you should never suddenly discontinue use without close medical supervision. 

Seek immediate medical guidance if any of the following side effects present when using Vicodin tablets or capsules: 

  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Hallucinations
  • Agitation
  • Chest tightness
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Appetite loss
  • Weakness
  • Faintness or dizziness
  • Slow or irregular breathing

Vicodin, as with all combination medications containing hydrocodone, may trigger additional side effects.

A man experiencing the effects of Vicodin addiction

What Does Vicodin Do?

Vicodin is administered for pain relief lasting for up to six hours, typically for acute pain following surgery. 

Tolerance to Vicodin rapidly forms, meaning the substance has the potential for abuse and addiction – more on opioid use disorder below.

The hydrocodone component of Vicodin slows breathing and heart rates. This can trigger a life-threatening overdose. 

The acetaminophen component of Vicodin can bring about liver damage and possibly acute liver failure in high doses. 

Vicodin was previously a Schedule III controlled substance. In 2014, all hydrocodone products were reclassified under Schedule II of the CSA (Controlled Substances Act). 

How Long Does Vicodin Stay in Your System?

Vicodin has a four-hour half-life.  The opioid will be eliminated completely from the system after between four and five half-lives. 

The following factors influence how long Vicodin stays in the system: 

  • Age
  • Amount of last Vicodin dose
  • Body mass
  • Body fat content
  • Liver health
  • Any other addictive substances in the system
  • Duration of Vicodin abuse

Is Vicodin Addictive?

Like all opioids, using hydrocodone in any form carries the risk of both abuse and addiction. 

The primary reason for the reclassification of hydrocodone as a schedule II controlled substance is the powerful abuse potential of this semi-synthetic opioid. Any use of hydrocodone without a supporting prescription, and any use of hydrocodone other than as prescribed is considered hydrocodone abuse. 

Why are medications like hydrocodone and Vicodin so addictive, then? 

Vicodin is especially addictive due to the way tolerance rapidly forms. As tolerance develops, you will need more Vicodin to achieve the same effects, or you will need to use the medication more frequently. 

Triggering a vicious cycle, continuing to use Vicodin is likely to cause physical dependence. When this occurs, you will need the medication simply to stave off withdrawal symptoms and to feel normal. Tolerance and withdrawal are both symptoms of opioid use disorder. Physical dependence on opioids often but not always accompanies opioid addiction. 

Although hydrocodone addiction can come about quite quickly, hydrocodone addiction treatment typically delivers positive outcomes. 

What should you look out for if you are prescribed Vicodin or another hydrocodone product and you’re concerned about the development of opioid use disorder? 

All hydrocodone addictions are unique, and it can be challenging to establish when abusing this semi-synthetic opioid triggers addiction. 

Hydrocodone addiction is clinically described as OUD (opioid use disorder). OUD is diagnosed as mild, moderate, or severe according to the number of symptoms present. The diagnostic criteria are listed in American Psychiatric Association’s most current edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5-TR 

If you are concerned about hydrocodone addiction, ask yourself the following questions based on your opioid use over the past twelve months: 

  1. Do you often take more opioids than prescribed or for a longer period than intended?
  2. Have you tried and failed to moderate or discontinue your use of hydrocodone?
  3. Are you spending lots of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of hydrocodone?
  4. Have you experienced intense cravings for hydrocodone?
  5. Is your use of hydrocodone causing you to neglect personal and professional obligations?
  6. Do you continue to use opioids even though this is causing or worsening problems in your closest relationships?
  7. Are you spending less time doing things you once enjoyed due to opioid use?
  8. Do you use hydrocodone in situations where it is dangerous to do so?
  9. Are you still using hydrocodone even though you know it is causing or inflaming a physical or mental health condition?
  10. Has tolerance to hydrocodone formed so that you need more of the opioid to achieve the same effects?
  11. Have you experienced uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when the effects of hydrocodone wear off?

The presence of two or three symptoms indicates mild OUD. If four or five symptoms present, this is diagnosed as moderate OUD. Severe OUD is characterized by the presentation of six or more of the above symptoms of hydrocodone addiction. 

If you are concerned about your use of hydrocodone, speak with your healthcare provider, and request a diagnosis or referral for a diagnosis of opioid use disorder. 

When you are ready to engage with treatment, we can help you from detox to discharge and beyond here at California Detox

Vicodin Withdrawal & Detox

Vicodin withdrawal might be uncomfortable, but it is also a brief process. Most withdrawal symptoms will subside after seven to ten days. 

This combination medication has a half-life of 4 hours. This will cause withdrawal symptoms to manifest about eight hours after the last dose of Vicodin. These symptoms are similar in presentation to the withdrawal symptoms of other opioid-based painkillers. These include:  

  • Psychological symptoms: Irritability, anxiety, mood swings, confusion, intense cravings for Vicodin.
  • Physical symptoms: Tremors, enlarged pupils, fever, diarrhea, sweating, flu-like symptoms, nausea, vomiting, nasal congestion, reduced hunger.
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Vicodin Addiction Treatment at California Detox

Those addicted to hydrocodone typically benefit from a supervised medical detox before engaging with Vicodin addiction treatment. Hydrocodone withdrawal involves uncomfortable symptoms that present around eight hours after the last dosage and persist for seven to ten days. 

At our licensed medical detox center here at Laguna Beach, FDA-approved medications can streamline hydrocodone withdrawal. You will also benefit from clinical and emotional care throughout detoxification. 

At California Detox, we offer hydrocodone and Vicodin addiction treatment programs at all levels of intensity, including: 

  • Virtual rehab
  • OPs (traditional outpatient programs)
  • IOPs (intensive outpatient programs)
  • PHPs (partial hospitalization programs)
  • Inpatient rehab

Whatever level of intensity you require, your treatment team will personalize your treatment plan using a combination of EBTs (evidence-based treatments) and holistic therapies. You will have access to these interventions: 

  • MAT: Medication-assisted treatment can be a vital component of a hydrocodone addiction treatment plan. Three FDA-approved medications can help make detox more comfortable and can also help inhibit further opioid use and encourage abstinence. MAT for opioid use disorder always work best when combined with psychotherapy.
  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy is the clinical descriptor for talk therapies like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) or DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy). You will learn how to identify your personal triggers for opioid use and a therapist will help you to create healthy coping strategies and to improve your distress tolerance.
  • Counseling: Counseling is a central part of all addiction treatment programs here at California Detox. Individual sessions allow you to work closely with a counselor or therapist, while group sessions offer powerful peer support and exposure to a wide variety of viewpoints.

For those with hydrocodone addiction and a co-occurring mental health disorder, we offered coordinated and integrated dual diagnosis treatment.

When you’re ready to move beyond hydrocodone addiction and to start building a firm foundation for sustained recovery, call admissions at 949.567.8790.


In addition to causing tolerance and physical dependence, Vicodin is also fiercely psychologically addictive. An addiction to Vicodin causes a loss of control, meaning those addicted to hydrocodone will compulsively use the substance despite an awareness of the negative outcomes triggered. Powerful cravings for opioids prompt many people to continue using hydrocodone in the face of a developing addiction.
Yes. Vicodin is a prescription opioid used to treat moderate and severe pain.


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