Vicodin is a prescription painkiller that contains a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. The half-life of Vicodin—the time required for levels of the drug in the body to be reduced by one-half—is about four hours. A urine screen is the most common means of testing for Vicodin and can detect the presence of the drug or its metabolites for an average of four days, although this process may take longer in heavy, long-term users.
What Is Vicodin?
Hydrocodone is the primary ingredient found in many pain medications and is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from codeine, an opioid alkaloid that occurs naturally in the opium poppy.
Vicodin is used to treat moderate-severe pain, and a prescription is required to obtain it legally. Individuals are often prescribed Vicodin to address chronic pain or pain that results from surgery or due to an injury. Vicodin can be swallowed or crushed and then snorted or injected. Its risk for chemical and psychological dependence is relatively high. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies Vicodin as a Schedule II drug, indicating that a significant potential for misuse has been well-established by the medical community, and it can, therefore, be dangerous.
In the last two decades, Vicodin has increased exponentially in popularity, and many have become addicted to it, contributing to the ongoing opioid epidemic. Fatalities from prescription opioids, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, have increased more than four-fold since the turn of the century.
How Vicodin Affects the Brain and Body
Vicodin’s main psychoactive ingredient, hydrocodone, binds to neurochemical receptors in the brain and spinal cord. Opioids work to block pain signals en route to the brain to alter a person’s perception of pain, as well as their emotional response to it. The euphoric feelings it can induce may become addictive, driving many people to use more Vicodin for a more extended period than recommended or prescribed. Over time, the body may need increasing amounts of the drug to achieve the same effects.
Side effects associated with Vicodin use and misuse include the following:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Impaired concentration
Drug interactions are possible when Vicodin is used in combinations with alcohol, other pain relievers, sleep aids, anti-anxiety remedies, and muscle relaxants. These interactions can interfere with how the medications work and place persons at a heightened risk for severe side effects. The more concerning side effects are slow or shallow breathing, profound dizziness, drowsiness, and liver damage.
A Vicodin overdose can transpire when a person deliberately or inadvertently ingests too much of the drug or combines it with other substances. There are many reasons why an individual might intentionally take too much Vicodin. For instance, they may be trying to hurt themselves due to suicidal ideations, or they may have a severe addiction to Vicodin that requires a substantial amount to satisfy.
Vicodin addiction can be very serious and cause dangerous and detrimental effects. Even if an overdose does not occur, high amounts of acetaminophen and hydrocodone can be taxing on the liver when used excessively. Over time, inflammation, scarring, and irreversible liver damage can occur.
Also, the slowing of the digestive systems can lead to chronic constipation and intestinal damage. Furthermore, depressed breathing can make a person more susceptible to respiratory infections and lung issues.
Vicodin overdose symptoms include:
- Pinpoint pupils
- Low blood pressure
- Bluish fingernails and lips
- Weak or stopped pulse
- Shallow or stopped breathing
Drug Testing for Vicodin
Urine Testing – Urine screens are the most common means to detect Vicodin, and these tests can identify exposure to the drug for about four days or sometimes longer for the most severe of users.
Blood Testing – This method is not typically recommended to identify Vicodin use.
Saliva Testing – Saliva is a convenient way to test for Vicodin use. Saliva testing must be performed within 1.5 days directly after use, within 12-36 hours. Before 12 hours, Vicodin can not be found using this method, and after 36 hours, most, if not all, traces of Vicodin will be gone.
Hair Testing – Testing a hair follicle sample is among the most reliable means to test for drugs because traces of many substances stay in the hair for as long as 90 days after use. When detecting hydrocodone, however, it may take up to ten days for a hair follicle to reveal exposure to the drug, and these tests are often quite expensive. Moreover, for immediate testing results, urine and saliva are widely regarded as the most efficient options.
Factors that Influence How Long Vicodin Stays in the System
Testing date – The longer it takes to be tested after the last use, the lower the chances of a positive appearing on a drug screen.
Dosage – Individuals who use Vicodin less frequently than others will have a smaller amount of hydrocodone in their system and will, therefore, eliminate it faster.
Level of hydration – Drinking water dilutes urine, making the concentration of drug molecules lower and more difficult to detect.
Metabolism – Metabolic rates vary significantly between individuals. The faster a person’s metabolism, the more rapidly drug residue will be purged from the organs.
Overall health status – If a person has reduced liver functioning or damage, his or her body may be less efficient at metabolizing Vicodin, meaning that the drug will remain in the system for a prolonged period.
Exercise – Physical activity increases the rate of metabolism as well as activity in the cardiovascular system, thereby affecting how long substances remain in the body.
Use of other medications or drugs – Past or present use of other substances can influence how long Vicodin stays in a person’s system.
Body mass/body fat content – Chronic, excessive use of Vicodin can cause the opioid to accumulate in fatty tissue, meaning that traces of the drug will linger in the body for longer periods.
How to Rid the Body of Vicodin
The safest and most practical way to eliminate Vicodin from one’s system is to stop using it immediately. This process can be challenging, however, particularly for those who are physically or emotionally addicted to Vicodin. Medical detox is a safe way to undergo this process, as persons are supervised around-the-clock by medical professionals, while toxins, such as Vicodin, are cleared from their system.
After detox, addiction treatment is strongly recommended to ensure long-term healing from addiction and prepare individuals to live a life free from the use of drugs or alcohol.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery offer integrated, personalized treatment programs in both residential and partial hospitalization formats. We employ highly-trained, caring staff who render therapeutic services to those we treat with compassion and expertise. These include psychotherapy, individual and family counseling, group support, experiential activities, mindfulness therapy, aftercare planning, and much, much more.
If you are battling an addiction to Vicodin, other drugs, or alcohol, please contact us today and discover how we can help you break free from addiction and foster the happy and healthy life you deserve!