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Vicodin Addiction: The Dangers of Vicodin Abuse

man deep in thought representing Percocet withdrawal

Vicodin Addiction

Vicodin addiction can develop rapidly due to the hydrocodone content of this potent opioid painkiller.

Discover how you may become addicted to Vicodin even when using the medication as directed and learn how you can connect with evidence-based treatment to combat Vicodin addiction (opioid use disorder).

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What is Vicodin?

Vicodin is a prescription painkiller indicated for the treatment of moderate or severe pain. Vicodin painkiller medication contains two active ingredients:

  • Hydrocodone: A powerful synthetic opioid that activates the same neurotransmitters or chemical messengers as illicit narcotics like heroin.
  • Acetaminophen: Acetaminophen is the active ingredient found in Tylenol, a mild OTC painkiller.


Vicodin pills contain doses of 5mg, 7.5mg, or 10mg of hydrocodone. Depending on the hydrocodone dosage, acetaminophen content varies from 300mg to 325mg.

Most people prescribed a dosage of Vicodin for pain relief take one tablet every four to six hours throughout the day. Vicodin abuse is typically associated with much higher doses.

A woman in the car looking troubled, representing vicodin abuse

Is Vicodin Addictive?

The DEA (U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency) reclassified Vicodin was as a Schedule II controlled substance in 2014. Previously, the medication was categorized under Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act. Vicodin was reclassified because of the potential for abuse and addiction of Vicodin and other combination medications that contain hydrocodone.

Taking Vicodin long-term will cause tolerance to build rapidly. When this occurs, you will require more of the medication or more frequent doses to achieve the initial Vicodin effects. This form of Vicodin abuse will hasten the development of physical dependence on opioids. If you become dependent on Vicodin, you will experience intensely unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if you discontinue use of the medication. Addiction often follows in the form of opioid use disorder.

Vicodin addiction involves more than physical dependence on the medication. Opioid use disorder is defined as a chronic, progressive brain condition characterized by the compulsive use of opioids regardless of negative consequences. Vicodin addiction symptoms are outlined in DSM-5-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Although incurable, Vicodin addiction treatment that includes MAT (medication-assisted treatment) and behavioral interventions like psychotherapy and counseling typically produces positive outcomes.


Vicodin was first sold as a brand-name narcotic in 1978 and became widely available in 1983. The main ingredients in Vicodin date back to the 1800s. Hydrocodone was synthesized in the 1920s, and acetaminophen was made from distilling a byproduct of coal tar.

The DEA tightened restrictions on Vicodin prescriptions to protect those who abuse or misuse Vicodin. In 2013, hydrocodone became the most frequently prescribed opiate in the United States. Today, doctors will face penalties if they prescribe hydrocodone or Vicodin incorrectly, as Vicodin abuse can result from incorrect prescription or oversight. 

How Addictive is Vicodin?

Vicodin is addictive due to the hydrocodone content of the medication. Like all opioids, hydrocodone works by binding to specific receptors in the brain and body to reduce pain and create feelings of euphoria. These effects can be pleasurable, and some people may develop physical dependence on Vicodin or other opioids over time. Dependence often but not always leads to addiction.

The risk of addiction to Vicodin can be influenced by various factors, such as:

  • Duration of Vicodin use: The longer you use Vicodin, the more likely you are to develop a dependence and subsequent addiction to the medication.


  • Dosage: Higher doses of Vicodin can increase the risk of addiction.


  • Route of administration: Crushing and then snorting Vicodin can increase the drug’s potency and heighten the risk of Vicodin addiction.


  • Personal factors: Personal factors like genetics, co-occurring mental health conditions, and a history of substance abuse can also increase the likelihood of addiction developing.

Data from NSDUH 2021 (National Survey on Drug Use and Health) indicates that of the 5 million U.S. adults who reported using prescription painkillers like Vicodin in 2021, 2.6 million developed a diagnosable opioid use disorder in the same year.

So how long does Vicodin last?

How Long Does Vicodin Stay in Your System?

Vicodin has an elimination half-life of four hours. The half-life of a medication expresses the length of time it takes for blood concentration levels to reduce by half. It takes from four to five half-lives for a substance to be eliminated from the system completely.

Many variables impact how long Vicodin stays in your system. These include:

  • Strength of last Vicodin dose
  • Body mass
  • Body fat content
  • Age
  • Liver health
  • Duration and extent of Vicodin abuse
  • Other addictive substances being used

How Long Does Vicodin Stay in Your System?

Vicodin has an elimination half-life of four hours. The half-life of a medication expresses the length of time it takes for blood concentration levels to reduce by half. It takes from four to five half-lives for a substance to be eliminated from the system completely.

Many variables impact how long Vicodin stays in your system. These include:

  • Strength of last Vicodin dose
  • Body mass
  • Body fat content
  • Age
  • Liver health
  • Duration and extent of Vicodin abuse
  • Other addictive substances being used

Is Vicodin Dangerous?

If you’re wondering, is vicodin dangerous, the answer is yes, it can be. 

If not used properly under the supervision of a prescribing physician, Vicodin use can lead to serious effects like:

  • Addiction
  • Overdose
  • Liver damage
  • Withdrawal
  • Trouble breathing
  • Interactions if mixed with other substances or medications
While Vicodin is helpful in a medically supervised environment, it’s important to seek help if you or a loved one are engaging in Vicodin abuse. 
Because of these Vicodin medication dangers, it’s critical that you seek help if an addiction develops. 
Now let’s look at vicodin side effects. 





People who were given prescription pain relievers by a friend or relative.



Number of 12th graders that abuse a Vicodin prescription.

Vicodin Withdrawal

Withdrawal from Vicodin, like withdrawal from any opioid, can be aggravating and uncomfortable, but it is a relatively brief process. Symptoms typically dissipate after 7 to 10 days.

Vicodin withdrawal symptoms present about 8 hours after the last use due to the short half-life of the medication. These symptoms are a physical and psychological response from a system accustomed to the continuous presence of opioids.

If you are physically dependent on Vicodin, withdrawal is best undertaken by engaging with a supervised medical detox program. The treatment team may administer medications to streamline Vicodin withdrawal and cravings. You will also have access to continuous clinical and emotional care, minimizing the likelihood of relapse or complications disrupting your recovery.


Vicodin withdrawal is associated with similar withdrawal symptoms to those triggered by other opioids. Vicodin withdrawal symptoms may include:


  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Nasal congestion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Appetite loss
  • Intense cravings for Vicodin

Vicodin Addiction Treatment

The most effective Vicodin addiction treatment begins with a supervised medical detox. This will mitigate the severe withdrawal symptoms and Vicodin cravings while ensuring that you are medically monitored and have access to emotional care.

Vicodin detox helps you to break physical dependence on opioids, and you can move from detox into an inpatient or outpatient treatment program, enabling you to address the psychological aspect of opioid addiction.

MAT (medication-assisted treatment) is proven effective for treating opioid use disorders like Vicodin. FDA-approved medications buprenorphine and naltrexone may help reduce the intensity of withdrawal, and methadone may help promote ongoing abstinence from opioids.

During Vicodin addiction treatment, you will also engage with individual and group counseling sessions. One-to-one sessions allow you to explore the root causes of your addiction with a therapist. In group sessions, you can benefit from the support of peers with lived experience of Vicodin abuse.

Psychotherapy like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) complements MAT and helps you to:

  • Identify personal triggers for opioid abuse.
  • Create and implement healthy coping mechanisms to replace Vicodin abuse.


Many Vicodin addiction treatments like Gratitude Lodge also provide access to holistic treatments for a whole-body approach to recovery. Discover how we can help you kickstart your recovery in Orange County.


Whether you have been using Vicodin as directed or abusing this prescription opioid-based drug, we can help you initiate a sustained recovery at Gratitude Lodge in Southern California.

Our supervised medical detox program offers the safest and most comfortable pathway to Vicodin detox and ongoing recovery. After a week or so of opioid detox, you can transition into a 30-day inpatient program or an IOP (intensive outpatient program), depending on your personal circumstances and the severity of your Vicodin addiction.

If you have an opioid addiction and a co-occurring mental health disorder, we offer integrated dual diagnosis treatment to help you unpack both conditions simultaneously.

All treatment programs at our pet-friendly rehabs offer individualized opioid addiction treatment that combines holistic and science-backed therapies that may include:

  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Psychotherapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapies
  • Aftercare


When you are committed to recovery from Vicodin addiction, call Gratitude Lodge at 888-861-1658. We are here to help you from detox to discharge and beyond.

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Vicodin Addiction FAQs

Both Vicodin and Percocet are opioid pain medications and can be equally addictive when not used as prescribed or when misused. Both drugs carry a risk of dependence and addiction, so it’s essential to use them only as directed by a healthcare professional and avoid prolonged or excessive use.

Vicodin is a prescription medication used to relieve moderate to severe pain. Its primary benefit is providing effective pain relief for conditions such as injuries, surgeries, or chronic pain, helping patients manage discomfort and improve their quality of life when used as prescribed under medical supervision.

Vicodin is an opioid medication, and like other opioids, it can be highly addictive. When used improperly, for extended periods, or without a valid medical need, there is a significant risk of developing dependence and addiction to Vicodin.