Vicodin Addiction – Abuse, Effects, Treatment & Recovery

What is Vicodin and how does it affect the brain?

Vicodin is the brand name for a medication that combines two ingredients:

  1. Hydrocodone: a Schedule II opioid drug with similar health effects to morphine or heroin.
  2. Acetaminophen: a Schedule III antipyretic drug with analgesic effects. Its common effects are the reduction of fever and pain to a small extent. It also boosts the effects of hydrocodone.

Vicodin is a Schedule II narcotic and nervous system depressant used as a treatment for moderate to severe pain. When an opioid such as hydrocodone enters the body it connects to opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other systems. The hydrocodone in Vicodin binds to the mu-opioid receptors that block signals on their way to the brain’s pain receptors. Once absorbed, the mix of hydrocodone and acetaminophen lowers feelings of pain, causing a sense of euphoria, pleasure, and relaxation—these pleasurable feelings are what give Vicodin the potential for substance abuse.

Recreational, non-patient use of hydrocodone has increased in recent years due to its opioid effects. People abuse this Schedule II narcotic purely for its effect as an opioid, even if they never needed it for controlling chronic pain. Many people assume that because Vicodin is a prescription medication, it has fewer negative health effects, less potential for abuse, or is a less addictive substance than illegal drugs such as heroin. They crave the feeling of pleasure that Vicodin creates, and achieve it by taking increased doses of Vicodin.

In October 2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) rescheduled Vicodin and other drugs combined with hydrocodone from Schedule III to Schedule II due to the high risk for misuse and abuse for patients and non-patients.

Vicodin drug facts

  • A 2013 study found that 5.3% of 12th graders in the United States abuse Vicodin.
  • Vicodin is a fast-acting pain treatment—with most patients/users feeling its effects in under an hour.
  • In 2011, a report showed that an estimated 131 million Americans were prescribed Vicodin as a pain treatment, with many suggesting the Schedule II narcotic was prescribed unnecessarily.
  • According to multiple studies, an average of 55% of users of any prescription opioid painkiller in the United States obtained the medication through friends or family, whereas only 20% of users obtained the medication through prescription as a patient.
  • In the US, 22% of males and 17% of females used illegal drugs or misused prescription drugs within the last year.
  • 24.7% of people with drug disorders in the US have an opioid use disorder.

Vicodin & opiate dependence, addiction & substance abuse disorders

Vicodin abuse is characterized as any use of a drug that is not prescribed by a doctor. Because of the combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen, Vicodin has the potential to be highly addictive. Like any opioid use disorder, it can be extremely detrimental to a person’s health.

The DEA even saw fit to ensure that Vicodin would be more tightly controlled than it had previously been in the United States—meaning it would be harder to obtain. This offered a higher level of protection for Americans who might be susceptible to abuse of the drug.

Vicodin abuse can have a myriad of negative health effects, followed by a long recovery process that can be difficult for patients and their families. One of the more serious health effects of Vicodin addiction/abuse is liver damage or even liver failure. The negative effects that Vicodin has in the liver are known to be caused by the acetaminophen as well as the hydrocodone that the drug contains. Usually, liver damage starts to appear in users who take 4,000mg or more of the opioid analgesic Acetaminophen per day—though, this is heavily influenced by the physical makeup of the user and their current health level. Because of this, the FDA banned the marketing of any product or treatment in the United States that contains over 325mg of acetaminophen.

Symptoms and negative side effects of Vicodin use and substance use disorder

The abuse of Vicodin has a range of health side effects, some severe. The severity of the effects that Vicodin has on a person’s health is one of the reasons many people who abuse Vicodin have a hard time detoxing from the drug or quitting altogether. Effects could include psychological symptoms, emotional symptoms, and physical symptoms.

List of common health effects from using Vicodin:

  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting

List of serious health effects from using Vicodin:

  • Decreased rate of breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Serotonin syndrome
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Liver failure
  • Impaired judgment
  • Confusion
  • Profound drowsiness
  • Loss of consciousness

The fallout from a substance abuse disorder or addiction to Vicodin can go beyond just physical symptoms. They can affect the family and friends of the abuser and have life-changing effects on relationships.

Sticking to your individual therapy or treatment plan is the best of all preventative measures for prescription drug abuse. Always ensure that you are taking the correct dose of Vicodin and you are checking in with your treatment/care providers if you have any questions.

If you are concerned about taking Vicodin and think that you may be susceptible to substance abuse or an opioid addiction disorder, ask your doctor about addiction treatment options. Treatment for people with substance use disorders is common and you shouldn’t be afraid to reach out if you need help.

Learn more about Vicodin withdrawal and addiction treatment.

Signs of Vicodin & opioid addiction

A Vicodin addiction can be difficult to process at first, with many patients/users unaware that they have a problem until it’s too late. It’s common for many people to realize that they have an opioid addiction or physical dependence only when they try to stop using the drug, at which point they begin to experience effects of addiction like withdrawals, and feel that they must continue to use the drug in order to function. Without access to detox or addiction therapy, this can have disastrous effects on preexisting mental health conditions or cause mental disorders.

Known signs of Vicodin addiction signs include:

  • Consuming a larger dose of Vicodin than you should be, for a longer period than is prescribed by your doctor.
  • Experiencing difficulty or withdrawals when trying to come off the drug. This can range from muscle aches and bone pain to fever, vomiting, or even behavioral symptoms caused by depressive disorders.
  • Devoting a large amount of time to procurement and use of Vicodin.
  • Spending a large amount of time physically or psychologically recovering from Vicodin use.
  • Financial issues as a result of spending money on Vicodin or other opioids.
  • Craving Vicodin.
  • Not feeling yourself when you are not using Vicodin.
  • Failing to meet relationship or work standards because of Vicodin use.
  • Prioritizing Vicodin use over other commitments (especially to loved ones).
  • Continuing to use Vicodin despite a decline in health level.
  • Developing a tolerance to Vicodin.

People exhibiting these signs should seek Vicodin addiction treatment immediately.

Vicodin overdose

Vicodin overdose in the United States

A Vicodin overdose can have extreme dangers. As with other opioid overdoses, one of the most serious health effects is the slowing or stopping of breathing which can lead to death in some cases.

List of common symptoms of Vicodin abuse/overdose:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Constricted pupils
  • Slow or weakened heart rate
  • Respiratory symptoms such as slowed or restricted breathing
  • Coma
  • Seizure

If someone begins to exhibit symptoms of overdose, take them to the hospital or call 911 and request emergency medical assistance.

Signs and symptoms of liver damage due to Vicodin abuse

The acetaminophen in Vicodin can play a large part in Vicodin overdose, especially in regards to liver damage or failure. If users have abused Vicodin and combine their use with alcohol for a prolonged period of time, it can cause hepatic necrosis, which will result in liver damage or failure due to the organ’s inability to process both substances simultaneously. Because of this, it is often the case that a person who abuses drugs and alcohol will have to seek alcohol treatment in tandem with their drug treatment program.

If you are taking Vicodin and begin to exhibit any of the following physical symptoms, seek medical care immediately:

  • The yellow appearance of skin or eyeballs
  • Pain or swelling in the upper right abdomen
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • A general feeling of poor health
  • Sleepiness, confusion, or disorientation
  • Bad breath
  • Blurred vision
  • Tremors

Prescription pain medications & Vicodin in the United States

Schedule II opiate narcotics like Vicodin come with numerous causes and risk factors that lead to dependence. Patients can find themselves reliant on the drug for relief from painful conditions or to avoid withdrawal symptoms—even if their use comes as a result of professional referrals. When an addiction to prescription painkillers kicks in and patients can’t get these painkillers legally, it’s common for them to seek the drug through illegal sources or to turn to illicit street drugs—despite the risk of overdose, adverse effects, or even death—often, this is where the development of addiction occurs.

Contact ANR Clinic today to learn more about our revolutionary, evidence-based opioid addiction treatment methods that minimize unwanted health effects and withdrawal symptoms of Vicodin.

ANR treatment was invented by Dr. Andre Waismann. Dr. Waismann identified the biological roots of dependency. Since then, Dr. Waismann and his medical professionals have successfully treated more than 24,000 patients worldwide that are struggling with opiate addiction.

Throughout his career, he has lectured and educated health professionals in dozens of countries around the world to this day.

Vicodin FAQ

Mixing alcohol and Vicodin can be extremely detrimental to a person’s health. If consumed at the same time, these two drugs can lead to hepatic necrosis and cause liver damage or even failure.
Peak effects can be experienced in 30 to 60 minutes and can continue for up to six hours.
Vicodin is a very effective, yet highly addictive Schedule II narcotic. This narcotic works by metabolizing in the liver and converting to morphine. This morphine blocks the receptors in the brain responsible for pain management and provides relief and feelings of pleasure or euphoria. This effect can have life-changing benefits for those with a condition that requires a pain reliever, but it can also give people reason to abuse the drug.
The Hydrocodone in Vicodin interacts with the release of dopamine and opioid receptors located throughout the body to lower pain; it also creates a sense of pleasure and enters users into a relaxed, calm condition. This can help both patients and staff overcome the barriers to treatment and recovery that are caused by pain.
Vicodin is not currently used to treat the risk associated with COVID-19 directly. Prolonged use of opioid pain medication at high doses can have a negative effect on a patient’s health and immune system, which could exacerbate symptoms of COVID-19. The only effective measure against COVID-19 at this time is a COVID-19 vaccination.

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
  • 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 addiction recovery and substance use disorder treatment programs available. While some are available free of charge through charity or community resources, in other cases, you may need to pay for treatment.

Click here to see what addictions we treat.

It is not uncommon for drug addicts to develop co-occurring opioid use disorders. For example, someone may find themselves addicted to synthetic marijuana and be addicted to codeine simultaneously or have both drug and alcohol addiction.
There are many forms of opioid addiction disorder treatment programs available in the US. These drug rehab centers and treatments can be very effective in some cases and can save lives. They include medication-assisted treatments using addiction medicine such as methadone, experiential therapy, residential treatment programs, partial hospitalization program (PHP), inpatient treatment, intensive outpatient programs, and cognitive behavioral therapy or individual therapy.
Vicodin use, opioid use, and substance abuse, in general, can cause or exacerbate a myriad of psychological and behavioral symptoms such as depression, bipolar disorder, or suicidal ideation, especially if addiction or dependence starts to occur. If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of poor mental health or a mental health condition, suggest therapy. This is particularly important to take into account for relapse prevention if someone is a recovering addict

Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) is an addiction therapy and treatment program 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 mitigate withdrawal symptoms associated with substance abuse. The ANR treatment is conducted at various ANR treatment centers across the United States.

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