Although Vicodin was taken off the market, it’s technically still available in generic versions, such as hydrocodone and acetaminophen, hydrocodone/acetaminophen, or hydrocodone/APAP. The medication was – and its variants are – prescribed to people who have undergone oral surgery or other outpatient procedures, as well as those who have chronic pain or back pain. Unfortunately, because it contains hydrocodone, Vicodin was abused for a high, increasing users’ risks for overdose and other problems. To better understand its risks, our Christian drug rehab is answering the commonly asked question: how long does Vicodin stay in your system?
Vicodin is similar to most opioids in the way it works. As an opioid agonist, it binds to mu-Opioid receptors in the central nervous system and other areas of the body. Mu-Opioid receptors regulate the nervous system’s excitability, and when Vicodin binds to these receptors, it produces sedation and blocks pain signals.
However, Vicodin and similar versions can also produce various side effects. These side effects are usually mild and become less apparent and frequent as the body becomes accustomed to the medication. Common Vicodin side effects include:
Dysphoria (a state of unease)
Impairment of mental and physical performance
Usually, it takes about an hour for Vicodin to work. The dosage reaches peak concentration around 1.3 hours (around 80 minutes) after it’s taken. For those who have been taking the medication longer and have developed a tolerance to it, it may take longer to feel relief from symptoms, or the effect of the same dose may not be as strong.
Oftentimes, patients who are struggling with chronic pain will panic when they notice their opioid medications aren’t as effective as they once were. In response, they’ll take more doses than they’re prescribed. With repeated use, opioids like Vicodin or hydrocodone/amphetamine medications can lead to physical dependence.
This is when the brain changes how it functions to accommodate the drug, eventually inhibiting it from functioning properly on its own. At this point, withdrawal symptoms occur when the person stops taking the drug. Because these are highly uncomfortable, many individuals with Vicodin dependence will continue to abuse it or other opioids to avoid these symptoms.
Eventually, this form of drug-taking behavior can result in addiction. In addition to growing abuse, overdose deaths associated with Vicodin also have spiked in recent years. The hydrocodone in the medication – the opioid – slows the heart and breathing rate. Especially when combined with alcohol, Vicodin and similar opioids can slow breathing to the point that not enough oxygen is getting to the brain, leading to coma, brain damage, and death.
At the same time, Vicodin contains a high dose of acetaminophen, more commonly known as Tylenol. This substance, if too much is taken at once, can cause liver damage and acute liver failure. Due to these factors, Vicodin was reclassified as a Schedule II controlled substance in the United States in 2014 after the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) found that there were 16,000 opioid-related deaths in the country in 2010, and it was eventually taken off the market.
How long does Vicodin stay in your system? This depends greatly on several factors, including:
Your body fat content
Your body mass
Your liver health
The amount of the last dose you took
Whether there are other drugs present in your system
How long you’ve been using Vicodin
The half-life of Vicodin also plays an important role in how long it lasts in the body. While the side effects of Vicodin last around 4 hours, traces of the drug can remain in the body for much longer. The Vicodin half-life is based on hydrocodone, which has a half-life of about 3.8 hours, meaning it will take 3.8 hours for half of this Vicodin dose to be flushed out of the average body. This means that, overall, Vicodin stays in your system for around 6 to 12 hours, depending on the dose taken.
Keep in mind that the more tolerant the person is to the medication, the longer it may last in their system. Individuals who are older, have liver problems, and/or have slow metabolisms may also take longer to flush Vicodin out of their systems and are also more prone to complications as they withdraw.
If you’re looking to quit using Vicodin after long-term use, seek medical help, as withdrawal symptoms can be highly unpleasant and sometimes dangerous. Our Christian drug rehabilitation center offers opioid withdrawal treatment that can help you or a loved one safely wean off Vicodin and stay clean in long-term recovery.
While there’s no specific Vicodin drug test, there are drug tests for opioids. Opioids like Vicodin or hydrocodone can be detected via urine, saliva, and hair samples. The detection windows include:
Blood: Vicodin cannot be detected in blood tests.
Hair: All opioids, including Vicodin, can be detected in hair samples for up to 90 days after use.
Saliva: Vicodin can be detected in saliva samples anywhere from 12 to 36 hours after the last dose.
Urine: Urine tests for Vicodin have the widest detection windows at 2 to 4 days after use.
Due to the many dangers and adverse side effects of opioids like hydrocodone-containing medications, addiction to Vicodin and other similar drugs shouldn’t be taken lightly. Even without an overdose, taking large amounts of acetaminophen in Vicodin or other generic versions is hard on the liver. Over time, inflammation, scarring, and damage of the liver can occur, resulting in a life-threatening medical condition.
The digestive and respiratory systems can also begin to slow down, causing chronic constipation and intestinal damage. The individual may also be more vulnerable to respiratory and lung infections as a result.
Fortunately, individualized medical support is available for those battling Vicodin addiction and other similar substance use disorders. Our Christian addiction recovery center offers opioid addiction treatment that's combined with addiction therapy programs like CBT to address the physical and psychological challenges of recovery.
For more information about our faith-based recovery programs and how we can help you or a loved one get sober, call Faith in Recovery today at 888-280-4763 or send us your contact information, and our team will reach out to you.