Healthy Living

What Does Vicodin Do, and How Long Does Vicodin Stay in Your System?

What Does Vicodin Do, and How Long Does Vicodin Stay in Your System?

Key Takeaways

  • Vicodin is a combination pain management drug containing two active ingredients, namely acetaminophen and hydrocodone.
  • An overdose of Vicodin could result in serious medical conditions.

Vicodin is a blended drug used for pain management, comprising two ingredients: acetaminophen and hydrocodone. The effects of Vicodin last for about four hours, however, traces of the drug will remain in the body for several days and can even be present in the hair for the next few months.

The amount of time for Vicodin to be removed from the body depends on several key factors, including the body’s fat content.

Vicodin is a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Hydrocodone is an opioid pain medicine, which is occasionally called a narcotic. Acetaminophen is a mild pain reliever that enhances the effects of hydrocodone. Vicodin tablets are used to relieve moderate to severe pain. The drug is safe if taken in the appropriate dosage recommended by the doctor.

The withdrawal symptoms of this medication can be extremely difficult to manage without some form of medical help. Always avoid self-medication of Vicodin, as it can be hazardous.

Hydrocodone affects the brain by changing the way the body reacts to pain. Vicodin is not recommended for those with certain sensitivities due to the possible hydrocodone side effects, which include very slow or shallow breathing.

Vicodin is also not recommended for children younger than six years old. It should be kept away from children, as even a small amount can cause a life-threatening overdose in them.

How Does Vicodin Work?

Vicodin is the brand name used to refer to the combination drug comprised of acetaminophen and hydrocodone. This combination medicine is used to gain relief from moderate to severe pain. It comprises an opioid (narcotic) pain-relieving component (hydrocodone) and a non-opioid pain-relieving component (acetaminophen).

Hydrocodone acts in the brain to change the body’s response to pain. Acetaminophen may also reduce fever. Acetaminophen and hydrocodone are both medicines typically used for pain relief, but each works through different mechanisms.

While the exact functioning method of acetaminophen is unclear, it is thought that acetaminophen restricts a particular enzyme called cyclo-oxygenase (COX), which is found in the brain. Hydrocodone, on the other hand, treats pain by actually blocking pain signals from reaching the rest of the body.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Vicodin

Some of the main advantages of Vicodin for pain management include:

  • Vicodin has an extremely effective combination that helps relieve moderate to severe pain.
  • Compared to taking either of the medicines separately, the combination of Vicodin is found to be the most effective for relieving pain.

People between the ages of eighteen and sixty who have no other specific medical conditions and do not consume other medications are likely to experience some side effects, including:

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Breathlessness or shallow breathing
  • Extreme drowsiness, dizziness, or lightheadedness
  • Addiction or excessive dependence on the drug that could cause withdrawal symptoms or drug abuse
  • When consumed for a longer period of time, the drug could become ineffective due to increased tolerance
  • Excessive consumption of acetaminophen (more than 4000 mg per day) can lead to liver failure in some rare cases. To prevent this, avoid consuming extra doses of acetaminophen when taking Vicodin.
  • The product may contain some inactive ingredients as core components that may result in allergic reactions or other problems.

Vicodin is a powerful pain killer to treat pain and aches. However, it should only be consumed as per the instructions given by the doctor to prevent an overdose. Self-medication should be avoided to prevent unwanted health incidents.

Points to Remember When Using Vicodin

  • Vicodin is a prescription drug that should only be consumed under specific instructions from the doctor or registered medical service provider.
  • Vicodin is advisable only for temporary consumption; long-term use could cause an addiction.
  • Drowsiness and light-headedness are common symptoms of this drug, so avoid activities that require focus and attentiveness, such as driving or operating machinery, after taking a dose.
  • It is important to stick to the dosage recommended by the registered medical service provider to avoid an overdose.
  • An overdose of any medicine is always harmful, so be careful while taking your prescribed dosage. A Vicodin overdose may not be lethal, but it can severely damage core body parts, like the liver, and a very high dose can cause death.
  • Be alert to your symptoms after consuming this drug and immediately inform your doctor if you notice any breathing issues, such as wheezing, shortness of breath, slow or shallow breathing, etc.
  • If you develop an addiction to the drug, it is important to alert your medical service provider to find assistance with withdrawal or a prescription for a safer, alternative medication.

How Should Vicodin Be Consumed?

Vicodin must be consumed exactly as recommended by your healthcare provider. An overdose of this medication should be strictly avoided, as it can result in severe liver damage or even death. The medicine should not be consumed for a period longer than what is recommended by the doctor.

While consuming this drug, it is important to refer to the instructions on the prescription given by the doctor, as well as any information mentioned in the medicine leaflet. Speak to your doctor if the medicine is not effective in relieving your pain. Taking a higher dosage will not benefit you, and the higher the dosage, the greater the damage to the body.

Since Vicodin contains two powerful ingredients, an overdose could cause serious health implications. For instance, excessive consumption of the acetaminophen component could lead to liver damage or failure in extreme cases. The maximum permitted amount of acetaminophen is restricted to about one gram per dose and four grams per day. It is important to keep in mind how much acetaminophen you are consuming in a day to prevent an overdose.

This medication is also available in liquid form, and each dose must be measured with a measuring spoon or cup provided with it. If you don't have a measuring device, ensure you get one from the pharmacist.

Alcoholics have a greater chance of liver damage, as Vicodin and alcohol together can be very harmful to the liver and result in its failure.

Vicodin is usually not recommended for young children due to its strong side effects. But when it is prescribed for children by a registered medical practitioner, one needs to be very accurate about the dosage, as even a small overdose may be harmful to the child’s health. Check the labels every time you give a dose to your child and be extremely careful while using this medication with children.

When on Vicodin, it is advised to drink six to eight glasses of water to prevent side effects, like constipation, and an increased water intake also helps flush out toxic elements from the body.

Diet is also very important when on Vicodin. Increase fiber intake to help relieve constipation, and avoid using other medicated products, like stool softeners and laxatives, without consulting your medical service provider. Vicodin can be addictive when used for a long duration, so it must not be stopped suddenly, as it could lead to withdrawal symptoms.

Your doctor will ideally stop the medication by slowly decreasing the dosage and frequency before ceasing the medicine completely. So, don’t make any decisions on your own; always consult the doctor.

Opioid use can lead to severe drowsiness and dizziness, so do not drive or use machinery that may injure you, especially when you first start the medication.

A specific opioid dose can be safe for certain people, but life-threatening for others, especially children. So, never give these medicines to anyone, and always consult a registered medical service provider. Self-medication is dangerous for you and your loved ones, too.

You may have unusual numbers in urine test results due to the effects of this medication. Hence, when you are referring to any urine test reports, inform the doctor about the consumption of this drug. If you are preparing for surgery, speak to your surgeon beforehand about taking this medication. You may be advised to stop taking Vicodin for a short period of time to regulate the blood or urine test reports and to smooth the surgical procedure.

Always try to read and understand the active ingredients in the medicine. To avoid an accidental overdose, one should always be careful when taking multiple medicines with similar ingredients and core components.

It is recommended to read the ingredients on the medicine label to avoid health hazards.

Vicodin should be stored at room temperature, away from heat and moisture. It helps to know how many tablets you have consumed from a new bottle; the hydrocodone component of this drug is known to cause drug abuse, so it must be kept out of reach of children and other family members.

It should be stored in a place not easily reachable by anyone, especially children. Always consult a doctor rather than taking this medicine without a prescription. Each individual’s dosage will vary, so avoid taking or giving this medicine to anyone without a prescription from a registered medical practitioner.

Studies performed by the National Institutes of Health have shown that appropriately-managed medical use of opioid medicines is safe, efficiently manages pain, and rarely causes addiction.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Stopping Vicodin consumption suddenly may induce withdrawal symptoms, such as restlessness, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, irritability, insomnia, watery eyes, cold flashes, involuntary leg movement, runny nose, loss of appetite, and extremely shaky chills.

The addictive nature of this drug requires that its intake be controlled. Your doctor may help you find relief from withdrawal symptoms.

The pain from withdrawal is often the most influential factor for abuse. If the medication has been stopped, the simple way to check whether someone is continuing to abuse the drug is through a Vicodin test.

Missing a Dose and Overdose

Vicodin must be consumed at the same time every day or as recommended by your healthcare provider. If you miss a dose, it is recommended to take it as soon as you remember. However, if it is time for the next dose, skip the missed one and continue with the next dose.

It is best to avoid an extra dose to make up for a missed one, as an overdose may lead to severe damage to the body and can cause liver failure, too. The proper gap between the two dosages has to be maintained to avoid any health issues.

If an overdose occurs, seek immediate medical assistance, as this could prove to be fatal and life-threatening. Symptoms of a Vicodin overdose include severe drowsiness, perspiration, vomiting, nausea, confused state of mind, discoloration of the lips, and reduced heart rate, just to name a few.

If you notice any of these symptoms and are uncertain about an overdose, seek medical help immediately.

Final Thoughts

Vicodin may be very effective in treating certain types of pain, but there are side effects that must be monitored. Additionally, discuss any problems with your medical service provider and be sure to take the drug as directed. If taken as per the physician’s recommendation, this medicine can greatly help treat moderate or somewhat severe pain.