Vicodin includes a combination of acetaminophen and the opioid hydrocodone. There are several different dosages of Vicodin, with the acetaminophen dose varying from 500 to 750 milligrams (mg), and hydrocodone from 5 to 10 mg. There are also many other brands and generic preparations of the same two drugs.
Hydrocodone begins to work within 10 to 20 minutes of swallowing the pill. Its pain-relieving effects last 4 to 8 hours. Hydrocodone has a half-life of 3 to 4 hours; that’s how long it takes the body to eliminate half of the drug from the bloodstream.
It takes several half-lives to eliminate all the hydrocodone. A small fraction may still be present in the blood a day or so after taking one pill. In people who take Vicodin or another form of hydrocodone regularly, it may take slightly longer to eliminate all of the drug from the body.
Hydrocodone is excreted in the urine and can be detected in urine drug tests. Hydrocodone is detectable in hair samples for several months after use.
Acetaminophen’s half-life is 2-3 hours. In cases of suspected overdose, blood levels of acetaminophen can be checked periodically until it’s clear they are not rising to toxic levels.
There are also extended-release forms of Vicodin and similar drugs. These remain in the body for a longer period of time, which depends on the preparation and dose.
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