Hydrocodone is one of the more potent opiates prescribed in modern medicine. It is typically used in pain relief scenarios after significantly painful surgeries or medical procedures. This medication is typically prescribed for patients who can’t take other types of pain medication
The challenge with Hydrocodone is that drugs from the opiate family can be highly addictive. Although pain relief alternatives like meloxicam are being slowly introduced, opiates still make up the majority of prescription pain relievers prescribed today.
These drugs being the only viable option for pain relief for years has led to them being prescribed to millions of patients over the past few decades. In turn, this has caused the rise of the opiate/opioid crisis we deal with today.
One of the best ways we can start to transition away from these harmful medications is to start to learn a little bit more about them. In this article, we’re going to do just that. Read on to learn more.
How Long Until Hydrocodone Takes Effect
Hydrocodone is typically taken orally. This means it needs to pass through a patient’s digestive system before the effects will be felt. According to packaging on the drug itself, peak levels within a patient’s bloodstream are reached in about 1 hour and 20 minutes with a 10-mg dosage.
When hydrocodone is taken regularly, patients start to build up a tolerance for the medication. When this happens it may take longer for it to take effect and the pain relief may not be as strong. If this is the case, your doctor may want to increase the prescription dosage. Patients should not increase their dosage of Hydrocodone on their own. Always speak with your doctor before making any changes.
How Long Does Hydrocodone Last
The time it takes for any particular drug to wear off is measured by its half-life. The half-life is the amount of time it takes for a patient to process half of the drug out of their system. In healthy males, the half-life of hydrocodone is about 3.8 hours.
Keep in mind that everybody is different. The rate at which medicine metabolizes through the body varies from person to person. This means the half-life can vary depending on who you are.
It takes more than one half-life for a drug to complete leave the system. Experts say that a typical dose of hydrocodone can stay in a person’s system for about a day. But, once the effects wear off, hydrocodone can still linger in the system.
After a patient is done feeling the direct effects of hydrocodone the drug can linger in a person’s saliva for 12 to 36 hours after; it can linger in a person’s urine for up to 4 days after; and in a person’s hair for up to 90 days after dosage.
Other Factors Affecting How Long Hydrocodone Can Last
The half-life of hydrocodone mentioned earlier is that of a healthy male. It’s important to distinguish this fact, because a lot of other factors can determine the actual half-life of the drug.
How fast your body metabolizes hydrocodone depends on:
- body fat content
- other medications
- liver function
- how long you’ve been taking hydrocodone
- other medical conditions
- if you’ve taken other opioids before
It’s important to discuss your current prescribed medications, as well as your medical history, with your doctor. They are both important factors affecting how long hydrocodone can last. Working together, you both can decide on the dosage and frequency of the medication that is right for you.
Hydrocodone, like most other medications, should not be taken in combination with other substances. Alcohol, in particular, can cause the effects of hydrocodone to increase when the two are combined. Introducing alcohol will also cause hydrocodone to linger in the body longer.
Combining alcohol and hydrocodone can also increase the risk of fatal hydrocodone overdose.
But alcohol isn’t the only medication that amplifies hydrocodone. MAO inhibitor antidepressants, medications containing antihistamines, anti-anxiety medicines, and tricyclic antidepressants have all been known to increase the effects of hydrocodone.
Respiratory depression, as well as possible overdose, is another serious side effect to watch for. Possibly fatal respiratory depression can be caused by hydrocodone when it’s paired with macrolide antibiotics (i.e. erythromycin), protease inhibitors, and azole antifungal agents.
Symptoms of Withdrawal
Symptoms of hydrocodone withdrawal can be very serious. As such, hydrocodone dosage shouldn’t be reduced or stopped without consulting a doctor. A doctor may taper a patient off of the medication by gradually decreasing the dosage over time.
Experts say, when dealing with hydrocodone, the dosage should be tapered by 25-50 percent every 2-4 days. Everyone experiences withdrawal differently, and withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe. Some of these symptoms are:
- widened pupils
- muscle cramps
- rapid breathing
- rapid heartbeat
- joint pain
Typically, withdrawal symptoms are at their worst up to 3 days after stopping and reduce drastically within a week. A doctor may be able to help you manage withdrawal symptoms. They may do so by providing treatment themselves, or by pointing you in the direction of a counselor or therapist to help with your recovery.
Hydrocodone can be helpful when taken responsibly, but it can also be dangerous. The risk of overdosing on opiates and opioids is much higher than other drugs. And their addictive nature is much stronger.
According to a study done by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, over 20,000 Americans died from prescription-related opioid overdose in 2015. Hydrocodone should only be taken as prescribed, and taken under the supervision of your healthcare professional. Even if you feel the medicine is not working well, you should never take more than the recommended dosage.
Yes, hydrocodone is a prescription drug, but it still needs to be used with caution. Patients should use extreme care before taking it while on other prescriptions, and it should never be combined with other recreational drugs. Doing this significantly increases the risk of very serious side effects.
If you, or someone you know taking hydrocodone, start to experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, vomiting, hallucinations, unresponsiveness, extreme sleepiness, depressed breathing, unusual dizziness, or lightheadedness, seek emergency medical care immediately.
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