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Vicodin Addiction, Withdrawal | Hydrocodone Side Effects, Alternatives, Tapering

Last Updated on August 22, 2022 by Carol Gillette

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Michael Loes MD

While the trade name Vicodin was discontinued in 2012 by the FDA, Vicodin equivalent drugs may still be available in a generic version. Vicodin is an opioid analgesic medication for the relief of moderate to moderately severe pain. Vicodin combines hydrocodone, a narcotic pain reliever, with Tylenol© or acetaminophen which boosts the potency of the medication. Discontinuation of Vicodin occurred after statistics showed a risk for Vicodin addiction, overdose deaths, as well as liver damage from high consumption of acetaminophen.1,4,5
Vicodin and generic equivalent drugs combine the opioid hydrocodone with the non-opioid drug acetaminophen, also called Tylenol©. This family of prescription drugs has been linked to the highest number of overdose deaths in the US. Other synthetic opiate drugs in this group include hydrocodone and oxycodone drugs such as OxyNeo, Norco, Lortab, and Lorcet, as well as their generic versions.
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Concerns About Hepatotoxic Effects

One of the biggest concerns surrounding Vicodin and similar hydrocodone/acetaminophen medications are the hepatotoxic (liver damaging) effects. Acetaminophen is the leading cause of death due to liver failure. This is a concern because unlike taking one or two Tylenol pills, the more common OTC usage, a prescription of a combined analgesic opioid like Vicodin may entail taking large amounts daily, over an extended period of time. Even though the DEA and FDA have restricted the amount of acetaminophen per tablet to 325mg, the accumulated volume when taken over days and weeks can be a significant cause for concern about liver damage.

It is highly recommended that a person thoroughly research any prescription drugs for pain relief before starting or stopping their prescription. Withdrawal from Vicodin or generic equivalents may present some difficulty unless a person can access help with strategies and methods to reduce the intense discomforts that can accompany analgesic opiate drug withdrawal.

The information noted below is provided to help anyone interested in learning more about these and other safety and health issues related to Vicodin and similar Schedule II drugs.

Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms can be intense, and, similar to other opioid withdrawals, are hard to tolerate without assistance and a monitored, gradual taper from the drug.

Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms can include:
  • Drug cravings
  • Increased pain
  • Tachycardia (racing heartbeat)
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Runny nose, watery eyes
  • Rashes
  • Reddened skin, flushing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Profuse sweating
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Goosebumps
  • Itching, hives

What Is Vicodin Used For?

In liquid or syrup form, opioid analgesic drugs are sometimes prescribed as cough suppressants. Their most common usage, however, is in oral pill form. Vicodin is prescribed for the relief of moderate to moderately severe pain. Examples might include after a tooth is pulled at the dentist. Another common example could be for pain relief after suffering a broken leg or other injuries. Hydrocodone is a Schedule II drug meaning it carries a high risk for addiction. The compounding of hydrocodone with acetaminophen carries the additional risk of liver failure after regular use.

Despite the potential harm, these drugs remain the most frequently prescribed drugs in the country and are linked to the highest death rates in the US as shown in statistics on overdose deaths and liver failure.

Vicodin Alternative Names and Slang

Vicodin has various slang names outside of clinical use such as Vikings, Vic’s, Vikes, Vicos, Hydros, Idiot pills, V’s, and similar.

Using slang names for drugs is like a code, usually intended to keep their purchase or illicit abuse private and hidden from others.

Vicodin Side Effects

Side effects of Vicodin are quite similar to those of other opioid drugs, and can include:
  • Feeling “high,” euphoric effect, relaxation
  • Lack of pain
  • Yellowing of the eye (instead of white), yellowing of the skin
  • Back pain or side pain
  • Clay-like stools
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Tightness across chest
  • Lowered respiration, slowed breathing
  • Lowered pulse
  • Constipation

Discontinuing/Quitting Vicodin

quitting vicodinAfter taking Vicodin for a period of weeks or months, the time will come to stop the prescription or to stop taking the drug recreationally. This can be difficult to do without careful planning and putting a strategy in place. Dehydration and low sodium levels can be avoided by ensuring adequate liquid intake and adding foods or supplements to daily meals to compensate for the loss of bodily fluids that typically occur.

Since many opioid addictions began unintentionally, as they were prescribed to relieve pain after injuries or other chronic pain, nonpharmacological treatments for managing pain may have been overlooked. Alternative to Meds provides therapeutic massage, acupuncture, mineral baths, and other methods for managing pain without relying on prescription pain medication.10

Symptoms for low sodium levels are quite similar to Vicodin withdrawals and can include weakness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, mental fog, cramps, muscle spasms, lack of energy, irritability, or low mood. In extreme cases, seizures or a coma can also occur. Sometimes IV treatments are needed to safely correct low sodium levels, and this may be required in the event that sodium levels crash because of the loss of salt through frequent vomiting, diarrhea, or profuse sweating. In less severe cases, adding beverages that contain electrolytes may be adequate. Acupuncture has proven efficacy for pain relief and is one of many therapeutics offered at the center for persons in opioid withdrawal.6

Always seek medical guidance if there is concern about symptoms of salt depletion that may occur.3

Some people find that adding natural fiber to the diet, for example, mixed in a smoothie, can help reduce the pain and discomfort of constipation that is associated with opiates.

It is not necessary to suffer unduly. Seek professional help and guidance to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms, and avoid relapse.

Vicodin FAQs

Below are some additional topics that are frequently asked about Vicodin addiction, dependence, withdrawal, and recovery.

Vicodin is one brand name for this group of drugs, which are the most frequently prescribed in the country. Often, in the rush of a doctor’s visit, one may feel inclined to just accept the prescription — after all, it is being written by a trained physician.

Often, doctors themselves may not be totally informed about the risks, dangers, and complications that can accompany a prescription for synthetic opioid pain pills such as Vicodin. Inform yourself as much as possible and you will be in a much better position to make the best possible decisions for your health and for your specific situation.

Is Vicodin an Opioid?

Yes, Vicodin is a synthetic opioid analgesic, meaning it contains an opioid (hydrocodone) and a non-opioid mild pain reliever, acetaminophen. The opioid contained in hydrocodone is derived from opium, just as heroin and other opiates are derived. Vicodin is a Schedule II drug, and carries certain health risks including the risk of dependence and addiction, as stated on the package insert as well as the risk of liver failure.

Has Vicodin Been Discontinued?

Yes, the brand name has been discontinued, but generic equivalents and similar synthetic opioid drugs containing hydrocodone are still sold as generic brands.7

Does Acetaminophen Cause Liver Damage?

Yes, chronic use of acetaminophen causes liver damage, which is potentially fatal. Persons with impaired hepatic function should not take hydrocodone with acetaminophen products.

Should you Drink Alcohol While taking Opioid Pain Pills?

No. Both alcohol and hydrocodone are CNS depressants and when taken together can have a cumulative effect that can lead to unintentional overdose and death.

Treatment for Vicodin Abuse and Addiction

Alternative to Meds Center provides safe and comfortable withdrawal for anyone who has decided to stop their prescribed pain pills and other drugs or alcohol. While Vicodin withdrawals are generally not considered life-threatening, the symptoms can be intense and hard to deal with without assistance.

Gradual tapering is the recommended pathway for any opiate withdrawal, supported by a specific diet to provide the exact precursors needed to rebuild the body’s supply and production of endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s own natural pain-relieving chemicals. During opioid use, the body responds by shutting down endorphin production and also begins to build new pain receptors. Since the drug is being withdrawn, and there is a lack of natural endorphins available, these pain receptors will activate but will have nothing with which to fight the magnified levels of pain that are typically associated with opiate withdrawal. A well-planned withdrawal program will involve gentle tapering, and can also include a short course of bridge medications to help ease the person through the most acutely painful part of the process. Diet, hydration, mild exercise, and physical therapy can also help ease the most difficult parts of the journey.

As well, clearing out neurotoxic material can assist greatly, providing improved appetite, deeper and more sound sleep, less pain, less anxiety, more energy, and other benefits. Counseling is also provided to assist with trauma release, restructuring life plans, cognitive behavioral therapy, and many other beneficial genres of talk therapy with a trusted, caring therapist.

Please reach out to us for more information on generic Vicodin withdrawal in a safe and compassionate setting. We invite you to find out more about how you can regain mental health naturally, without drugs, and no longer be plagued by the symptoms that may have contributed to past medication dependence.

1. Larson AM, Polson J, Fontana RJ, Davern TJ, Lalani E, Hynan LS, Reisch JS, Schiødt FV, Ostapowicz G, Shakil AO, Lee WM; Acute Liver Failure Study Group. Acetaminophen-induced acute liver failure: results of a United States multicenter, prospective study. Hepatology. 2005 Dec;42(6):1364-72. doi: 10.1002/hep.20948. PMID: 16317692. [cited 2022 Aug 22]

2. Moore PA, Dionne RA, Cooper SA, Hersh EV, “Why Do We Prescribe Vicodin” American Dental Assoc [INTERNET] May 2016 [cited 2022 Aug 22]

3. Stoppler MC “12 Hyponatremia (Low Blood Sodium) Symptoms, Signs, Causes and Diet”, MedicineNet Article [ND] [cited 2022 Aug 22]

4. Mattson CL, Tanz LJ, Quinn K, Kariisa M, Patel P, Davis NL. Trends and Geographic Patterns in Drug and Synthetic Opioid Overdose Deaths – United States, 2013-2019. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021 Feb 12;70(6):202-207. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm7006a4. PMID: 33571180; PMCID: PMC7877587. [cited 2022 Aug 22]

5. Benyamin R, Trescot AM, Datta S, Buenaventura R, Adlaka R, Sehgal N, Glaser SE, Vallejo R. Opioid complications and side effects. Pain Physician. 2008 Mar;11(2 Suppl):S105-20. PMID: 18443635. [cited 2022 Aug 22]

6. Vickers AJ, Vertosick EA, Lewith G, MacPherson H, Foster NE, Sherman KJ, Irnich D, Witt CM, Linde K; Acupuncture Trialists’ Collaboration. Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Update of an Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis. J Pain. 2018 May;19(5):455-474. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2017.11.005. Epub 2017 Dec 2. PMID: 29198932; PMCID: PMC5927830. [cited 2022 Aug 22]

7. Cofano S, Yellon R. Hydrocodone. [Updated 2021 Nov 28]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: [cited 2022 Aug 22]

8. Kreek MJ. Opioid interactions with alcohol. Adv Alcohol Subst Abuse. 1984 Summer;3(4):35-46. doi: 10.1300/J251v03n04_04. PMID: 6391108. [cited 2022 Aug 22]

9. Khuri ET, Millman RB, Hartman N, Kreek MJ. Clinical issues concerning alcoholic youthful narcotic abusers. Adv Alcohol Subst Abuse. 1984 Summer;3(4):69-86. doi: 10.1300/J251v03n04_07. PMID: 6507186.[cited 2022 Aug 22]

10. Hargett JL, Criswell AC. Non-pharmacological interventions for acute pain management in patients with opioid abuse or opioid tolerance: a scoping review protocol. JBI Database System Rev Implement Rep. 2019 Jul;17(7):1283-1289. doi: 10.11124/JBISRIR-2017-003878. PMID: 30864979. [cited 2022 Aug 22]

Originally Published Sep 13, 2018 by Diane Ridaeus

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Michael Loes, M.D.


Dr. Michael Loes is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Pain Management and Addiction Medicine. He holds a dual license in Homeopathic and Integrative Medicine. He obtained his medical doctorate at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, 1978. Dr. Loes performed an externship at the National Institute of Health for Psychopharmacology. Additionally, he is a well-published author including Arthritis: The Doctor’s Cure, The Aspirin Alternative, The Healing Response, and Spirit Driven Health: The Psalmist’s Guide for Recovery. He has been awarded the Minnesota Medical Foundation’s “Excellence in Research” Award.

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