What Does Withdrawal from Hydrocodone Feel Like?
Opiate medications have long been used as an effective treatment for conditions involving pain symptoms. Opiates are also known for their highly addictive properties. Hydrocodone, an often-prescribed opiate drug, also carries a high addiction potential.
According to the West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources, prescription sales for hydrocodone increased by 244 percent between the years 1997 and 2006. This drug’s effects on the workings of the brain account for the symptoms experienced when withdrawal from hydrocodone occurs.
Withdrawal from hydrocodone brings on certain identifiable symptoms that can persist depending on how long a person has used the drug. Recreational users, in particular, can get trapped inside a cycle of abuse since withdrawal from hydrocodone easily prompts continued drug use. In effect, long-term use of the drug greatly increases the degree of discomfort associated with withdrawal from hydrocodone.
Hydrocodone withdrawal effects are really not that much different from those produced by other powerful opiates, such as heroin, morphine and Oxycontin. With ongoing use, the brain becomes increasingly tolerant of hydrocodone so large doses must be taken to maintain the drug’s pain relieving properties.
In the case of recreational use, the pleasant aftereffects of hydrocodone, such as euphoria and calm will also start to subside as tolerance levels increase. When this happens, users increase their dosage amounts in order to maintain these desired effects.
This cycle of drug use breeds physical dependency as the brain comes to rely on hydrocodone effects to function normally. Withdrwal from hydrocodone develops when needed amounts of the drug are lacking. In effect, processes normally regulated by the brain start to breakdown in the absence of needed drug dosage amounts.
Stages of Withdrawal
For someone who’s used for several weeks or months, withdrawal from hydrocodone will happen in stages when detoxing from the drug. The first stage brings on an acute withdrawal period that starts within 12 to 36 hours after the last drug dose and lasts for up to seven days. This stage produces the most intense withdrawal symptoms, some of which include –
- Loss of sleep
- Chills and sweats
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal cramping
The second stage of withdrawal from hydrocodone brings on mostly psychological symptoms. This stage can last for up to two weeks. Symptoms experienced include –
- Ongoing sleep problems
- Extreme depression
- Leg cramps
- Bouts of anxiety
People who’ve used hydrocodone for a year or more can expect to experience a protracted withdrawal period (when detoxing) where symptoms can persist for as long as year. Protracted withdrawal from hydrocodone results from the widespread brain chemical imbalances caused by long-term drug use.
Psychological symptoms persist throughout this period as the brain works to restore a normal chemical equilibrium. The most pronounced symptom often takes the form of a deep-set depression that prevents a person from experiencing joy or any sense of contentment.
Other symptoms may take the form of –
- Persistent anxiety
In the case of chronic hydrocodone users who continue to use the drug, withdrawal symptoms will become progressively worse regardless of how large a dose ingested. In effect, brain chemical imbalances have reached a point where no amount of the drug will ward of withdrawal effects.