How to Help Your Body Detox From Vicodin

Vilma Ruddock
Woman with cup of hot drink

Help your body detox from Vicodin® by planning how to manage and cope with the distressing withdrawal symptoms and remain comfortable and strong. Like other opioid pain medicines, withdrawal from Vicodin can be a major stress on your body. Preparing ahead for your detox at home can ease your journey until your body repairs itself from the toxic effects of the drug.

Gradual vs Cold Turkey Detox

When you gradually decrease your daily Vicodin dose, your body has time to readapt to function without the drug. After you take your last pill, your withdrawal symptoms will be milder and easier than if you quit cold turkey. Quitting the drug cold turkey doesn't give your brain and other organs time to readjust from the chemical effects of Vicodin, so your detox will be harder on you.

Gradual Detox

If you are under a doctor's care, he can plan a gradual drug detox for you by decreasing the amount of your Vicodin dose and reducing the number of the usual four to six doses you take each day. For example, depending on your starting dose, your doctor 's strategy might include the following:

  • Cut your Vicodin dose by one or two milligrams each week for four weeks until you are off.
  • During the four weeks, he could prescribe alternating between two different Vicodin doses at your scheduled times during each day.
  • You might skip a dose or two of the drug each day--or on alternate days every week--until you taper down to one dose a day for a week, and then off.

The specifics and success of a gradual taper depends on your usual Vicodin dose, how long you have been taking it, and how quickly your liver metabolizes the short-acting opioid. In general, the strategy is to reduce the drug dose and schedule in such a way that allows the opioid effects on the body to return to normal without triggering full-blown detox symptoms in between doses.

You can manage your own gradual detox if you have a supply of the drug to cover your dose taper, but it is better to involve a doctor in helping you figure the safest and best plan. If you do your own taper, enlist a trusted family member or friend to ration your pills to you if you don't trust yourself not to take more than your detox schedule allows you each day.

Cold Turkey Detox

If you quit Vicodin cold turkey, it might be better to do so under expert medical care. Talk to your doctor or consider detox in a structured, outpatient or inpatient treatment facility if you have been taking large doses of the drug for a long time. If you decide to go cold turkey and detox at home without medical supervision, be sure to have a back up support system in place in the event the symptoms of your abrupt withdrawal are severe and too difficult to handle.

Proceeding With the Detox

Time To Detox card

To minimize time-off from work, a good strategy for a planned detox is to start on the weekend. For example:

  1. Take your last pill about around 9:00pm to 10:00 pm on Friday night.
  2. Your detox symptoms will start early Saturday morning.
  3. The symptoms will peak around Tuesday morning.

During these rough three days, you might be tempted to restart Vicodin or take other opioids. Use your supplies and symptom remedies and call on your support system to help you resist the temptation and stay strong on a difficult journey.

What to Expect

Because Vicodin is a short-acting opioid, expect the symptoms of withdrawal to begin about six to eight hours after your last pill, whether you quit the drug cold turkey or gradually decrease your dose. Your symptoms will get worse during the first three days and then decrease in severity.

This acute withdrawal phase will last about seven days. After that, some people might continue in post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), and have some mild symptoms. PAWS can make you feel you are not completely recovered from the effects of detox, which can last weeks to months. This is less likely with Vicodin® than with longer-acting opioids such as Oxycontin® (oxycodone), or methadone.

Coping With Your Acute Detox Symptoms

Vicodin detox symptoms can be predicted from knowing how opioids and their withdrawal affect various body systems. There is no reliable evidence that any single herbal or other "natural" preparations or cocktails being offered for opioid withdrawal relief is safe or effective.

The best strategy to help your body detox from Vicodin and recuperate is to treat the common withdrawal symptoms and challenges with home aids, over-the-counter (OTC) remedies, and prescription medicines that are known to work. Use OTCs or prescription medicines only through the detox. It is also important to seek medical help if you are feeling too ill or weak to function, or you get light-headed, dizzy, or faint at any time.

Anxiety and Tremors

Try deep breathing and other relaxation techniques to relax your muscles and decrease your anxiety, agitation, or tremors. Listen to soothing music and meditate, which you should try to learn before you begin your detox.

If these strategies are not helpful, ask your doctor about a prescription medicine such as Clonidine, which lowers heart rate and relaxes blood vessels and thus decreases feelings of anxiety. Gabapentin, which suppresses nerve activity, can also diminish your anxiety and tremors.

Flu-Like Muscle Aches and Pains

Woman reclining on the bed

Flu-like symptoms are a common source of distress in opioid withdrawal. Relieve the muscle aches and pains with OTC ibuprofen or acetaminophen, taken as directed by the bottle label or as your doctor recommends. A 15 to 30 minute soothing bath, with or without Epsom salts, can be helpful for these symptoms. Just don't fall asleep in the tub.

Hot and Cold Sweats

For hot sweats, drink cold water or unsweetened drinks and try cool cloths on your forehead, chest, or neck for relief. Keep damp wash cloths in plastic bags in the fridge or freezer for this purpose, or buy cold gel packs and keep two or three in the freezer. A tepid bath or shower can also help.

Wear comfortable, light cotton, at-home clothing you can change easily. You might alternate between hot and cold sweats. Have warm blankets, a heating pad, and warm socks on hand and use as needed.

Disturbed Sleep

Insomnia and other sleep disturbances are common in opioid withdrawal. Use strategies that can help you relax before and at bedtime. Try soothing music, deep breathing, visualization, meditation, and other relaxation techniques. Your body needs good quality sleep to recuperate from the effects of Vicodin.

Depressed Mood

You might feel depressed and unable to experience pleasure during your detox. Tap into things that can elevate your mood and psychic energy, such as relaxation and meditation, and walking or other exercise. Get out of the house as soon as you are able and enjoy the outdoors to distract yourself from feeling cooped up inside. If necessary, you can ask your doctor for a short-term antidepressant.

Drug Craving

Long-term abuse of Vicodin can lead to addiction, which can lead to craving for the drug during detox, especially if you quit cold turkey. Drug craving can make it challenging to complete your detox. If you are detoxing under a doctor's care, ask about methadone or buprenorphine, which can dampen the craving of opioid addiction.

Diarrhea and Abdominal Cramps

OTC Imodium (loperamide) slows bowel contractions. It is effective for treating diarrhea and abdominal cramps, which are common opioid detox symptoms. Imodium can relieve other withdrawal symptoms because it binds to opioid receptors without causing negative effects. Take the pills as directed on the bottle label.

Nausea and Vomiting

Peppermint or ginger are useful for relieving nausea and upset stomach and may prevent you from vomiting. Drink two or three cups of peppermint tea or a ginger tea daily, suck on ginger or peppermint candy, or chew a small piece of ginger as needed. Ginger ale also has a history as a home remedy for settling nausea and can also be used as a source of fluids. Ask your doctor for a prescription anti-nausea medicine if home remedies don't work.

Dehydration

It is easy to become dehydrated from vomiting and diarrhea, as well as from hot sweats and shaking. Use plain water, coconut water, and other unsweetened drinks to replenish your fluids. Drink frequently, but only a small amount each time to prevent increased nausea or vomiting. If your urine is clear light yellow, you are likely drinking enough.

Electrolytes Depletion

You can lose vital electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, through frequent diarrhea and vomiting, and from sweating. To replenish your electrolytes, drink Gatorade or Pedialyte as a rehydrating solution or add electrolyte powder to water.

Poor Appetite

Nausea, vomiting, and feeling miserable will rob you of your appetite. However, it is important to try to eat enough healthy protein and carbs for muscle strength and energy, and help your body repair. Take a daily multivitamin to supplement a diet that was likely deficient even before you started on your detox, and try the following food options:

  • Greek yogurt usually has about 22 grams of protein per cup. For flavor, use a fork to whip in two tablespoons of crushed, canned pineapple, half a ripe banana chopped small, or a couple tablespoons of applesauce. You can also try protein smoothies made with yogurt and banana or other fruit.

  • Eat light, bland foods such as broth, prepared soups, mashed potato whipped with yogurt and a small amount of butter, steamed broccoli, carrots, or other soft vegetables.
  • If you have difficulty keeping foods down, try following the BRAT diet.

You can gradually start eating other sources of protein, such as fish and skinless chicken, when bowel symptoms improve.

General Discomfort

To improve your comfort and well-being, gather extra standard pillows or a get a body pillow for rest or sleep. In addition, get a whole body massage if you can, and find other ways to distract yourself from your symptoms and low feelings.

Keep yourself entertained and distracted while inside by listening to or watching some TV, CDs, DVDs, Netflix, YouTube series, or movies. Listen to audiobooks, which you can download to your device from Apple iBooks, an iTunes app, or from other sites like Kindle books before starting your detox.

Preparing

Physical dependence on Vicodin (hydrocodone/acetaminophen) makes your body's affected organ systems malfunction when you stop taking the drug. You get unpleasant withdrawal symptoms until your systems reset to function normally without the pills.

You won't have the drive or energy to organize the things you need when you are in the throes of your Vicodin detox symptoms and feel ill. It is even more important to prepare for a rougher withdrawal if you quit cold turkey. Before you begin, prepare the following to ease your body's detox journey.

Supplies for Withdrawal Symptoms

Gather essential items to relieve the expected withdrawal symptoms, decrease your stress, and make yourself more comfortable.

Water, Food, and Other Supplies

Since you won't be feeling well enough to go out shopping, it's helpful to stock up on supplies you'll need.

  • Buy water, other fluids, and foods.
  • Prepare broths, light soups, and meals you can freeze.
  • Don't forget to stock up on toilet paper, tissues, paper towels, and garbage bags.
  • Consider getting paper plates and plastic utensils so you won't have to worry about dirty dishes.

Child Care

Arrange for child care, if you need, to cover the seven days of your acute withdrawal detox phase because you may feel too ill to care for your children.

Organize Your Household

Pay your bills and take care of other household essentials and errands ahead of time so you can focus on your detox.

Time off From Work

Plan to take four to seven days off from work during the acute phase of your symptoms.

Support System

Enlist support from your husband/partner, a trusted family member, or friends to see you through, help you stick with your detox, and be available in case of emergency.

Successful Vicodin Recovery

Detox is the first step in recovery from your Vicodin dependence or addiction. How well you prepare for and manage your withdrawal symptoms is a key to success in completing the detox and your long-term recovery from taking Vicodin.

How to Help Your Body Detox From Vicodin