The Vicodin brand of medication is part of a drug class known as opioids. In fact, it is just one of many such brand-name medicines that contain the common painkiller hydrocodone. Along with the opioid painkiller component, Vicodin is rounded out by another compound: acetaminophen. This drug’s name is a bit of a mouthful; most people choose to call it by its brand name, Tylenol.

The hydrocodone of Vicodin lends itself well to the treatment of various levels of pain and discomfort. Its effective range treats pain from sport-related injuries to cancer-induced pain. In comparison, anyone can purchase acetaminophen at their local corner store without a prescription. Both components treat pain, and each makes the other better at its chemical job. In this way, Vicodin is thought to be more effective than hydrocodone by itself.

Vicodin shouldn’t be confused with Percocet, another opioid that functions the same way in the brain and also contains acetaminophen. As established, Vicodin has a main ingredient of hydrocodone, while Percocet is made up of oxycodone instead. Each is referred to as hydrocodone/acetaminophen and oxycodone/acetaminophen respectively.

When discussing the abuse potential of Vicodin, experts focus primarily on the hydrocodone factor. Like all opioids and opiates, Vicodin binds to opioid receptors in the brain to begin its painkilling functionality. This can be a blessing for individuals suffering from chronic pain in the short-term, but after extended use, a Vicodin tolerance can lead to unfortunate outcomes. Before long, people may develop unmanageable substance use disorders.

With overdose deaths attributed to Vicodin (and other prescription opioids) rising, this is as much a societal problem as it is an individual one. While governmental bodies determine the best courses of action to combat a growing opioid epidemic, it can leave the victims and their families wondering what they can do. The answer comes in the form of treatment, one person at a time.

A Vicodin taper is a common, yet efficient, detoxification method. With the help of a Vicodin taper schedule and a team of passionate medical staff, Vicodin addiction can be overcome.

Tapering Off Vicodin

The intent of a taper is to wean off Vicodin gradually. You may have heard the term cold turkey used in reference to drug detox. This is perhaps the most well-known detox method, but it can also be the unhealthiest. When an individual decides to quit Vicodin cold turkey, they will experience the full impact of an opioid withdrawal — among the worst of any drug, besides benzodiazepines and alcohol. Tapering is not about immediately quitting. The practice takes time, patience and a painstaking strategy to avoid the pains of withdrawal, but the rewards of recovery are worth the effort.

Tapering off Vicodin is more or less weaning yourself off of the drug. It’s not the fastest technique, but what it lacks in speed it makes up for in regular consistency. When physicians are asked how to taper off Vicodin, many will point to taper plans as the go-to policies. Besides avoiding cold turkey, Vicodin tapers can sometimes deter a withdrawal outright. Not to mention, the headway that is made gradually reprograms the body to live without Vicodin. It heals itself progressively rather than forcing it into a sink-or-swim ultimatum, like going cold turkey.

A physician-approved Vicodin taper schedule prevents or alleviates the following withdrawal:

Flu-like symptoms

  • Sweating
  • Watery eyes
  • A runny nose
  • Headaches
  • Fever

Psychological symptoms

  • Sweating
  • Cravings
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Plus, other common side effects such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Insomnia
  • Cramping
  • Spasms

How to Taper Off Vicodin

Medical tapers conducted in a rehabilitation facility are the best option for people seeking treatment. Individuals who are prescribed Vicodin may be able to administer an at-home taper with the consent of their physician, though it is not the recommended course of action.

People who use Vicodin recreationally, however, may find that their greatest hope for success resides under the guidance of trained professionals, not at home. While patients who already have a prescription can lessen their dose whenever their doctor deems necessary, those who use Vicodin recreationally are not afforded that luxury.  Their pill quantities and dosage amounts can vary depending on availability, making a scheduled taper all the more difficult.

To avoid complications, a Vicodin taper should not be attempted without the supervision of a medical professional. Vicodin reduction rates will fluctuate depending on each patient’s individual needs, and these needs can change week by week.  Physicians recommend a taper to start off slow: a reduction of 10 percent of Vicodin pills per week, for instance. Faster tapers can call for reductions as high as 25 percent every few days or so. Though, this is only recommended for patients who do not have an extensive record of Vicodin substance use. Regardless of the type of taper, do not attempt to taper off Vicodin without the guidance of a medical professional.

Tapering off Vicodin is an incremental process. Some days will result in huge strides, while others may have setbacks. People who use Vicodin must take each day as it is given to them and, with time, they will find themselves on the other end of a taper.

While some may try to taper off of Vicodin or other drugs on their own, tapers are best performed under the supervision of a trained professional. If you are ready to heal, rehabilitation centers like The Recovery Village offer a safe place for healing. Call  855.888.3098 today to learn more about treatment programs, or to enroll in rehab for Vicodin abuse.

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Editor – Camille Renzoni
Cami Renzoni is a creative writer and editor for The Recovery Village. As an advocate for behavioral health, Cami is certified in mental health first aid and encourages people who face substance use disorders to ask for the help they deserve. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.