Hydrocodone Addiction – Abuse, Effects, Treatment & Recovery
What is hydrocodone?
Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid painkiller medication intended to interact with the body’s opioid receptors to modify the way the brain and central nervous system processes pain. Healthcare providers may prescribe hydrocodone to treat moderate-to-severe pain or decrease coughing.
Hydrocodone products can come as a tablet, capsule (including long-acting capsule), syrup, and clear liquid solution (including long-acting liquid)—many of which have been subject to numerous clinical trials to ascertain their effectiveness and safety. These hydrocodone products can be swallowed, chewed, injected, or snorted—with high abuse potential.
- According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2018, about 2 percent of the American population, or 5.5 million people older than age 12, misused hydrocodone products.
- According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the United States accounts for almost 100 percent of the world’s hydrocodone prescriptions.
- In 2018, the most common types of prescription hydrocodone pain relievers that were abused included: Vicodin®, Lortab®, Norco®, Zohydro® ER, and generic hydrocodone.
- The United States is the sole consumer of Vicodin®, a medication that contains hydrocodone.
Hydrocodone – opiate drug dependence, addiction & substance use disorder
How does someone develop a dependence or addiction to hydrocodone?
Because of its opioid effects, people can become addicted to hydrocodone fairly easily. Oftentimes, they won’t realize that they have a dependence or addiction to hydrocodone until they try to come off the drug, at which time they begin to experience Hydrocodone withdrawal.
A person’s reaction to hydrocodone and other opiates that contain the drug depends largely on their level of health and physical makeup—for instance, someone may experience weaker opioid withdrawals to someone else. However, no one is immune to the effects of hydrocodone abuse. If a patient begins to abuse opioids by taking the drug in higher doses for a longer period than is prescribed by their doctor, they are considered an opioid abuser. It’s extremely common for substance abuse to lead to dependence, opioid withdrawals/cravings, and eventually, addiction.
One key prerequisite to dependence is tolerance. The more hydrocodone a person takes, the more likely it is that they will need to take more to avoid opioid withdrawals experience the same level of euphoria that they initially attained when they took the drug for the first time.
Symptoms and health issues due to hydrocodone use
Some people tend to exhibit more symptoms than others when it comes to hydrocodone addiction. However, common symptoms to look out for are:
- Slow heart rate
- Dizziness or drowsiness
- Depressed respiratory system (slowed breathing)
- Fear, confusion, or paranoia
- Depression or mental illness
- Migraine or headache
- Ringing ears
- Poor vision
- Muscle aches and weakness
People experiencing negative side effects from hydrocodone use should contact a doctor immediately.
(Read here on how long does hydrocodone stay in your system).
Signs of hydrocodone abuse and opioid addiction – short and long-term use
If you are unsure if you or someone you know has an opioid use disorder or addiction to an opioid such as hydrocodone, it is best to request an appointment with a health professional who can provide medical advice and health information. However, there are some signs of opiate addiction you can look out for:
- The substance is taken in higher doses than prescribed, and/or for longer periods than prescribed.
- Inability to quit hydrocodone/opioid use despite the desire to do so.
- Devoting a large amount of time to the acquisition of hydrocodone or other opioids — often, at the expense of work or family time.
- Spending a large amount of time recovering from the use of the drug.
- Craving the substance to a point where acquiring it becomes prioritized over almost everything.
- Inability to live up to standards of work or relationships due to drug use.
- Acquiring the drug through illegal methods such as theft, fraud, or the black market.
- Using hydrocodone, even if it means risking relationships or jobs.
- Continuing to use the drug despite experiencing potentially life-threatening health effects.
- Using the drug to cope with the physical or psychological pain that was caused by prescription drug abuse in the first place.
- Experiencing tolerance to the drug.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when coming off the drug.
Hydrocodone abuse and overdose in the United States
If a person is susceptible to opioid abuse and takes too much hydrocodone or other drugs that contain the substance, an overdose may occur. When a person overdoses, they can experience a myriad of side effects — some deadly. Common warning signs and symptoms of hydrocodone overdose include:
- Constricted pupils
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach aches or pain in the abdomen
- Sleepiness or drowsiness
- Slow or weakened heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Depressed breathing or inability to breathe at all
- Blue lips and/or fingernails
- Loss of consciousness
If you see someone exhibiting signs of opioid overdose, call 911 immediately and request emergency medical care.
Naloxone is one way of mitigating or reversing the health effects of opioid overdose. Naloxone works by binding to opioid receptors in much the same fashion as opioids themselves, thus blocking the opioid from taking effect. In the case of fentanyl, which is much stronger than most other opioid drugs, multiple doses of naloxone may be required to treat an overdose. In some states, naloxone can be dispensed at pharmacies or drug stores without prescription.
Prescription pain management medications & hydrocodone
To make it more effective, hydrocodone is often combined with other drugs such as acetaminophen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
Because of its effectiveness in relieving pain, hydrocodone can be found in a variety of opioid pain medications and prescription drugs—many of which are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Common prescription painkillers that contain hydrocodone, known as hydrocodone combination products, include but are not limited to:
- Zohydro ER
Hydrocodone combined with other non-opioids still comes with a high risk for dependence. Patients can find themselves reliant on the drugs for pain relief or to avoid withdrawal symptoms. When they can’t get these opioid pain medications legally, they often turn to illicit street drugs—despite the risk of overdose, adverse effects, or even death.
Hydrocodone – Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
If someone develops an addiction that concerns the use of drugs or alcohol, it is known as substance use disorder, but these are not the only types of addiction. The list of addictions is almost endless. Some of the most common include:
- Internet addiction
- Gambling addiction
- Alcohol addiction
- Cocaine addiction
- Heroin addiction
- Meth addiction
- Benzodiazepines addiction
- Sleeping pill addiction
- Prescription drug addiction
- Synthetic opioid addiction
Because of the different levels of danger that addiction symptoms can cause, some forms of addiction may require different levels of care and addiction therapies. Thankfully, there are many hydrocodone addiction treatments and substance use disorder recovery programs available. While some are available free of charge through charity or community resources, in other cases, you may need to pay for treatment.
Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) is an addiction recovery treatment that aims to bring the nervous system back to health and balance by decreasing receptor production in the brain while allowing the body to resume proper levels of endorphin production. ANR also allows the metabolizing and elimination of unnecessary exogenous opioids from the body which can help to treat opioid use disorders. The ANR addiction centers are located at various ANR addiction recovery centers across the country.