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Article Summary

The Process of Vicodin Withdrawal

Vicodin is an opiate-based drug, and just like the chemically similar heroin and morphine it can become habit forming on both a physical and psychological level. When Vicodin use extends over a period of time long enough to become habit forming, the body and brain begins to build a tolerance to the drug that can only be combated with ever larger doses to achieve the same level of relief, and when physical dependence on the dose develops the user will usually suffer some form of withdrawal symptoms if the dose is suddenly stopped or greatly reduced.

Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms from Vicodin can vary enormously from patient to patient, but as a general rule they will be more severe in patients who took high doses for an extended length of time. Some users who used Vicodin only in therapeutic doses for brief periods go through withdrawal without even recognizing it. Many report only flu-like symptoms that persist for several days.

For habitual users, however, the symptoms of withdrawal can be prolonged and severe. They will usually begin between 6 and 30 hours after the last dose was taken, and early symptoms include restlessness, anxiety and agitation, muscle aches, profuse sweating and yawning.

As the period of withdrawal progresses the patient may begin to experience nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, dilated pupils and goose bumps across the body. Panic, paranoia, hyperactivity and insomnia may appear as the body attempts to find a new balance without the drug, and the patient may experience feelings of helplessness and depression that may make them a danger to themselves.

Throughout the withdrawal process most patients will experience severe fatigue that may make it difficult to continue. Many patients abandon their detox due to this sense of weariness.

Risks of Withdrawal

Vicodin withdrawal is not in itself life threatening, and in all but the most severe cases of addiction the patient will make a complete physical recovery. However, several elements of the withdrawal process may cause medical complications. Inhalation of vomit (aspiration) can cause choking and even death if a patient does not receive proper medical attention. Severe dehydration can lead to cardiac problems, and due to the stress the body is under during withdrawal these may become serious.

The greatest risk of Vicodin withdrawal is the reduction in tolerance for the drug that develops in the late stages. When a long term user has developed a tolerance for a high dose of Vicodin, if he were to relapse after several days without a dose there is an increased risk of overdose.

All of the risks of withdrawal can be addressed with proper medical care. Users should never go through Vicodin withdrawal alone and without professional supervision. If medical help is unavailable, at the very least a loved one should be present constantly throughout the process of withdrawal. Patients may be unable to take care of themselves while going through the process, so it's vital that there be someone present should help be needed.

Duration of Withdrawal Symptoms

The time taken to complete the withdrawal process depends on the user, and is usually determined by the level of drug dependence that developed during the period of use. Typically, an user will pass through the physical stages of withdrawal within a few days of cessation, though in some cases symptoms could persist for weeks.

Patients who experience withdrawal symptoms that persist for longer than a week should seek medical help.

Long Term Support

People who have developed an addiction to Vicodin can beat the physical addiction with a few days of detox. However, the psychological addiction to the drug will remain until professional help is sought out. Vicodin users must combine their physical withdrawal with ongoing counseling to help stay clean.

One on one therapy can help users identify the reason for the development of their addiction, and through sessions with a professional they may be able to identify the triggers and influences that led to their addictive behavior.

Group therapy can be helpful in reminding users that they are not suffering alone. Sharing with fellow addicts can help keep addicts on the straight and narrow, and talking about their problems with those who have shared them can help reduce the risk of a relapse.

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