Classed as an opioid form of pain relief / medication, hydrocodone is often referred to as a narcotic, a form of pain relief given as a last resort, when all other pain relief options have been exhausted. Narcotics and more specifically, opioids, are very addictive and can offer a hypnotic, sleep-induced state alongside the pain relief benefits.
Drugs like hydrocodone are very effective at blocking pain receptors and there are a number of others that fall under the same class of ‘narcotic’ including Tramadol, Oxycodone, Morphine, Meperidine, Hydromorpone, Fentanyl, and Codeine. As well as helping with generic and long-term pain, hydrocodone and other opioid medications can also be used to treat cancer pain and may require assistance from a pain management specialist for monitoring.
Hydrocodone itself is derived from codeine and is semi-synthetic, created to offer analgesic effects. The feelings it can give the user include feelings of euphoria, pleasure and relaxation, as well as those pain-relief properties they are prescribed for. Bearing that in mind, these feelings of pleasure and euphoria are what make them so attractive to drug abusers, and often what leads to addiction.
Is Hydrocodone Addictive?
Repeated users tend to develop a very rapid tolerance of the hydrocodone drug, needing higher and higher doses to achieve the same ‘hit’ or ‘high’. For those using the medication for pain relief, the dose may needed to be increased with long term pain management, and for drug abusers, higher and higher quantities of the drug are needed with long term use to recreate the same ‘buzz’ or pleasurable sensations, leading to overdose in very serious cases.
This high risk drug, because of the associations with opioids and narcotics, is considered to be a Schedule II controlled substance within the USA.
Hydrocodone has the potential to be a very addictive mediation especially because of that opiate base, and therefore should only be taken as and when prescribed by your doctor or another healthcare professional.
How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay In Your System?
As a general rule, if you were a first time user of this drug, taking only a relatively short dose, the time taken for the drug to be removed from your body would be a relatively short period. The half-life of the drug is just four hours. The half-life is how long it takes the body to remove 50% of the dose you have taken.
This means a first-time user will remove all traces of the drug from their body when they cease to take it within eight to ten hours or so, taking the rough half-life into consideration. This will take longer and there are many factors which will change this.
There are a number of things that will have an effect on how long hydrocodone will stay in your system and a lot of these are down to the user. There are many factors will can alter this length of time, details of which you will find below.
Your height, weight, age, and many other things will all play important contributing factors in how long this medication will stay in your body for. In the same way that a petite person who weighs very little would get drunk before a very tall person who weighs a lot, the drug would affect people in the same way. Those taking the drug for the first time with a lower BMI would be affected quicker and could even be affected for longer than someone with a higher BMI.
As well as your height and weight, your own physical health will have an effect over how long the drug will stay in your system for. If you are unwell or with a weakened immune system, you may find that your body will battle the withdrawals harder than someone who is otherwise considered to be fit and well.
At the same time, an elderly person won’t be as healthy as a younger person and may find that the drug sticks around. The drug will tend to work faster in younger people and on top of that, the older you are, the slow your metabolism will tend to work.
How much you have eaten or drank before taking the drug will alter the way it works in some way, and eating or drinking after ingesting the medication can also have an effect. The drug will take longer to work if you have a full stomach, and it will be slower in the metabolism process. If you take medication on an empty stomach (check with your doctor first as some medications require food beforehand), it will generally be absorbed quicker.
One thing that will definitely change how long hydrocodone stays in your system is the dose you’re taking. Your doctor will prescribe a dose that he or she thinks is suitable for you and it is always advisable to start with a smaller dose and work your way up as and when required. As we’ve discussed, it is not unnatural for users to develop a rather rapid tolerance of the drug so with long term usage, the dose is expected to change.
Those taking higher doses of hydrocodone will find that it stays around in the body for a lot longer than those taking lower doses. At the same time, those who have been taking it for longer periods of time will also still find traces of the drug in the body for longer than what would have been traceable in those only taking it for a short period of time.
Another thing that needs to be taken into consideration when looking at how long hydrocodone stays in the system is whether or not doses have been staggered. Abusers of the drug will often ‘top up’ their levels before the first dose has had a chance to work its way out of the body yet, and this is sometimes a tactic used with pain management also. You will need to allow the drug more time to be removed from the body before you will have a negative drugs test.
Other Medications / Drugs
There will always be certain drug combinations you just can’t take and with hydrocodone, there is no exception. There are inhibitors of CYP2D6 that can’t be taken in conjunction with this medication as these alter the way the drug is cleared from the body. There are a number of these drugs and some of them include:
- Other SSRIs
If you are taking any of these medications, make sure your doctor is fully aware before taking hydrocodone. By ignoring this advice, you could be running the risk of accidentally overdosing on the drug, and in serious cases, the dosage can prove to be fatal.
There are also other drugs which have the opposite effect to these inhibitors, expelling hydrocodone from the body too quickly. Two of these include Rifampin and Dexamethasone.
The more you use hydrocodone, the quicker your body gets used to it. The higher the dose, the quicker your body gets used to it. Over time, the same dose won’t have the same effect on your body and you’ll need a higher dose to manage the pain and to give you the same feelings of pleasure, relaxation and euphoria.
If you are a regular, long-term user of the medication, the drug will take much longer to be expelled from the body. If you are a short-term user, or only use the drug now and again, the drug will be expelled quicker from the body.
Tips For Getting Hydrocodone Out Of Your System Quickly
As with any drug, there are things you can do to make hydrocodone withdrawals much easier. You can expect a lot of symptoms from your withdrawal process, a process that can take anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks to complete, and among the most common are:
- Teary Eyes
- Runny Nose
- Hot / cold sweats
- Muscle pains
- Muscle aches
- Abdominal pains and cramps
In order to make these withdrawal symptoms more bearable, you will need to make sure you are in tip-top condition, eating healthily, consuming the right amounts of all food groups, exercising regularly and getting plenty of sleep. The healthier you are, the easier you will find the withdrawals.
You may also find that counseling can help during this time, especially with the feelings of anxiety, dress and depression. Mental health is something you’ll need to take care of when withdrawing from any drug and when it comes to those considered to be a narcotic, that is never more important.
Hydrocodone Withdrawal Timeline
Within the first 48 hours of ceasing to take hydrocodone, you’ll start to notice symptoms of withdrawal. In fact, this is likely to happen on the first day. The pain is usually the first symptom to appear – cramps, muscle aches and pains, etc.
The days following, days 3 to 5, will bring with it the worst symptoms, and many patients report serious bouts of vomiting with a very upset stomach. The toxins are being expelled from the body during this time and there is likely to be excessive sweating along with the pains and aches and shivering.
Days 6 to 7 will see many of the actual physical symptoms subsiding, leaving just emotional and psychological symptoms to deal with. It is during this time that you will experience serious cravings for the drug, and stress, anxiety, depression and irritability will start to rear their head. You will snap at people for no reason, and you are likely to feel very emotional.
These symptoms can last for many weeks and months, with some people requiring counseling in a bid to get ‘back to normal’.