Prescriptions for hydrocodone formulations like Vicodin are written so freely that people think it’s safe to take it, and nobody ever expects to become addicted. When you realize you have a hydrocodone addiction, cold turkey withdrawal might seem like the best way to get off it. For some it might work, and for others there will be an inevitable relapse.
Hydrocodone Addiction, Cold Turkey on Thanksgiving
One guy in a recovery room told about going through withdrawal from hydrocodone addiction cold turkey courtesy of his mother. Ironically, she chose Thanksgiving Day to reach the pinnacle of frustration with his addiction. The family was gathered to celebrate this national day of thanks and she decided that he had snatched some money from her wallet for the last time. The rude comments he tossed toward visiting relatives as he left the family home were the icing on the cake.
He was standing on the street corner just after scoring when a police car pulled up. His mother jumped out of it and pointed at him dramatically, exclaiming “That’s him!” The police had him bent over the car and handcuffed before you could say Please Pass the Gravy, and by the time he was arraigned on Friday evening he was well into the symptoms of withdrawal from hydrocodone addiction cold turkey.
What Are the Symptoms of Hydrocodone Withdrawal?
Your body will send you signals that it wants more hydrocodone. It will coax and wheedle at you to take more of this medication, and if you don’t comply, the signals—or symptoms—will get downright nasty. Remember, even though your kindly old family doctor prescribed it, the hydrocodone is still a deadly opiate. This is what you can expect withdrawing from hydrocodone addiction cold turkey:
- Watery eyes
- Runny, stuffed up nose
- Chills alternating with sweating
- Increased sensitivity to touch, leading to pain
- Goose bumps
- Nausea, and even vomiting
- Rapid heart beat
- Blood pressure elevation
- Restless legs symptoms
- Tremors, shaking
- Muscle aches and pain
Not Everybody Is an Addict
If you find yourself unable to manage withdrawal from hydrocodone cold turkey, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an addict. When a doctor prescribes Vicodins and Lortabs for a genuine reason over a long term, the result is likely to be the development of tolerance and the inability to withdraw. Addiction is only diagnosed when a person develops preoccupation with the drug that costs them money, job, relationships, and health.
In one case, an 84-year-old woman underwent radiation therapy for cancer of the jaw. Under normal circumstances she had a high tolerance for pain; following open-heart surgery and an earlier total knee replacement, the only time she took prescribed pain pills was prior to any physical therapy sessions. Nevertheless, the mouth sores she developed from the radiation therapy overwhelmed her and she began taking the Vicodin tablets. As the sores gradually healed—and she beat the cancer—she needed less medication for pain, but she then discovered that without Vicodin, she could not sleep for more than two hours at a time.
When she realized she had a problem, she decided to go through withdrawal for her unexpected hydrocodone addiction cold turkey. She started by decreasing her dose, titrating it downward a few days at a time. Initially she was taking a tablet several times throughout the day. Within 10 days she was down to a half tablet right before bedtime, and then she stopped altogether. Although she avoided the most unpleasant symptoms of cold turkey withdrawal from hydrocodone, it was several weeks until she could sleep for four or more hours at a time. But she stuck with it.
Withdrawal Using the Thomas Recipe
Some people swear that with hydrocodone addiction, cold turkey withdrawal is possible using the Thomas Recipe. The big problem with that type of withdrawal is that you’re taking benzodiazepines at a time when you’re trying to get off an opiate, and benzos mixed with opiates makes a deadly combination. In addition, you may end up with a benzo addiction.
The idea is to set aside several days for detoxing cold turkey from hydrocodone by using a benzo plus a variety of supplements, Imodium, and ibuprofen. The supplements must include at least 500mg L-Tyrosine, B6 to help your body absorb it, plus enough potassium, copper, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus to make up the recommended daily allowance. The person should have access to a bathtub for immersion soaks to help with aches and restless legs. Periods of exercise will generate some endorphins to reverse any malaise.
Instead of the benzos, because of the danger they pose to you during hydrocodone addiction, cold turkey withdrawal may be possible if you substitute valerian root and passion flower. Some people claim that those two supplements constitute a natural relaxant that will help you remain calm through withdrawal.
But Does It Work?
We cannot recommend the Thomas Recipe, not only because of the danger of benzos, but also because reviews on its success remain mixed. It is not promoted by official organizations such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) or the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA).
For example, one woman claims that “each of the days” that she uses the Thomas Recipe it helps her. Someone else points out that she is undergoing “many days” of addiction symptoms and withdrawal cravings. This second person has turned toward Suboxone treatment for hydrocodone addiction. Cold turkey leaves you with endless cravings and symptoms; Suboxone or methadone treatment can provide relief in a matter of hours.
NIDA has actually taken a look at ultra-rapid detox using anesthesia. Results of this method show that pre-existing medical conditions were aggravated in a significant percentage of detoxing patients.
Suboxone, on the other hand, is a primary therapy supported by both SAMHSA and NIDA. It’s a partial opiate agonist, which means it acts somewhat like an opiate on your brain, satisfying the receptors that yelp at you for more opiates. However, by its nature you will not experience the euphoric high that comes with hydrocodone or other opiates. You will find yourself able to sustain a recovery without going through all those unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. You will find that your recovery allows you to concentrate on getting your life back together.
So you can try to withdraw cold turkey from hydrocodone, with the risk of horrible symptoms and irresistible cravings. Or you can call a methadone or Suboxone treatment program for a safe and well supervised way to beat your addiction. The choice is yours.