Hydrocodone is a highly addictive opioid drug with a high potential for abuse and addiction.

What Is Hydrocodone Addiction?

As the most prescribed painkiller in America, hydrocodone continues to be a contributing factor in the American opioid epidemic. This generic opioid is used to manage pain and coughing, but it can easily become addictive—even to those it’s prescribed to.

If a person has been taking hydrocodone following surgery or to manage chronic pain or coughing, they may develop an opioid addiction. As hydrocodone attaches to the brain’s opioid receptors, a tolerance builds for the drug. A person can eventually become dependent on the drug’s euphoric high. Hydrocodone addiction can lead to fatal overdose, so it’s important to understand the risks associated with this drug.

Is Hydrocodone Addictive?

“Is hydrocodone addictive?” is one of the most common questions related to this substance. Hydrocodone is a highly addictive opioid drug with a high potential for abuse and addiction. If a person develops a dependence and then stops taking hydrocodone, the body typically experiences withdrawal symptoms. The next question to consider is, “What makes hydrocodone addictive?” Opioids produce calming, anti-depressive and euphoric effects, which often “hook” people on the drug. Due to the likelihood of hydrocodone addiction, it’s possible to become dependent on the drug while taking it for medical purposes with a legitimate prescription from a doctor.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classifies hydrocodone as a Schedule II controlled substance. The five drug schedules are determined based on a drug’s medical uses and its potential for abuse. Although hydrocodone presents a high risk, it does have legitimate medical uses, so it’s a Schedule II drug.

Hydrocodone Addiction Statistics & Stories

Although it was first discovered in the 1920s, most scientists didn’t begin paying attention to the rate of addiction, overdose and death surrounding hydrocodone until the 1960s. Since then, numerous reports have been published. Some significant hydrocodone abuse statistics include:

  • In America, hydrocodone is the most frequently prescribed opioid, with 83.6 million prescriptions filled in 2017
  • In 2011, approximately 100,000 emergency room visits in America involved hydrocodone combination products
  • Approximately 0.8, 1.7 and 2.9 percent of 8th-, 10th- and 12th-grade children used Vicodin for non-medical reasons in the past year, according to the 2016 Monitoring the Future Survey report
  • Hydrocodone has been the second most frequently seen prescription opioid in drug evidence submitted to forensic laboratories since 2009

Hydrocodone has made headlines through the years as celebrities like Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson and Brittany Murphy have been found dead after using the drug. Rock singer Courtney Love was famously arrested and charged for illegal possession of hydrocodone and other painkillers. Additionally, “Friends” star Matthew Perry checked himself into rehab for a hydrocodone addiction in 1997.

Getting hooked on the drug also extends past the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. Anyone can develop a hydrocodone addiction. While on the presidential campaign trail for her husband Sen. John McCain, Cindy McCain spoke to the nation about her former hydrocodone addiction involving Vicodin that started after two back surgeries.

Signs and Symptoms of Hydrocodone Addiction

If you are concerned that someone you know may be using hydrocodone, there are some signs and symptoms you can look for.

Physical signs:

  • Feeling overly euphoric or happy
  • Appearing to be sleepy, lazy or lethargic
  • Having a reduced sense of stress
  • Experiencing numbness

Behavioral signs:

  • Changes in mood or personality
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not taken

Negative side effects:

  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Sleeping problems
  • Nightmares
  • Muscle weakness
  • Itchiness

Severe side effects:

  • Obstruction of the bowels
  • Breathing trouble
  • Slow or irregular heartbeat
  • Problems urinating
  • Vomiting

Withdrawal symptoms may also indicate that someone has been misusing hydrocodone. These symptoms include:

  • Cold chills and shivering
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Hallucinations
  • Aches
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Depression

Am I Addicted to Hydrocodone?

If you think that you or a loved one might be addicted to hydrocodone, remember that you are not alone. There is help available and hope for recovery. If you want to gauge further whether you or a loved one might be addicted, try our free assessment tool as a next step.

Risks and Complications of Hydrocodone Addiction

Misusing hydrocodone and hydrocodone addiction can lead to any number of difficult complications and consequences, some of which can alter a person’s life permanently—or even be fatal. 

Effects of Hydrocodone Addiction

When hydrocodone is misused, it can have serious health and social consequences.

Health consequences of hydrocodone abuse include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Blurry vision
  • Trouble hearing
  • Dizziness
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Impaired cognition
  • Depression
  • Liver damage
  • Jaundice
  • Anxiety
  • Coma
  • Death

Social consequences of hydrocodone abuse:

  • Job loss
  • Lower grades
  • Demotion
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and relationships

Hydrocodone Overdose

Hydrocodone overdose is a serious and potentially fatal threat. Hydrocodone overdose symptoms can range in severity and affect different body systems. Some common symptoms include:

  • Digestive problems: vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps
  • Nervous system problems: drowsiness, confusion, and agitation
  • Breathing problems: shortness of breath, slow or irregular breathing, and respiratory failure
  • Skin discoloration: blue or purple skin due to lack of oxygen

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Do not wait to see whether the symptoms worsen. Hydrocodone overdose can be fatal, and early intervention is essential.

Hydrocodone overdose often requires naloxone for treatment. Naloxone is an anti-overdose compound that prevents overdose at the receptor level. Naloxone is a safe and effective treatment for opioid overdose and saves thousands of lives every year.

Hydrocodone Withdrawal 

If a person develops a dependence on hydrocodone and then stops taking it, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be unpleasant and even dangerous, but they are usually temporary. Some common hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Shaking
  • Irritability
  • Excessive sweating
  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Anxiety
  • Aching
  • Stomach aches and diarrhea
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heartbeat

The severity of withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on the person and how long they have been taking hydrocodone. If you are experiencing hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms, it is important to seek medical help.

Hydrocodone Withdrawal Timeline

The timeline for hydrocodone withdrawal can vary depending on a number of factors, including:

  • Age: Younger people tend to experience withdrawal symptoms more quickly than older people.
  • Height: Taller people tend to have a longer withdrawal period than shorter people.
  • Body weight: People with more body fat tend to have a longer withdrawal period than people with less body fat.
  • Genetics: Some people are more sensitive to withdrawal symptoms than others.
  • Health of the kidney and liver: People with kidney or liver problems may have a longer withdrawal period.
  • Metabolism: People with a fast metabolism tend to have a shorter withdrawal period than people with a slow metabolism.
  • Frequency of use: People who use hydrocodone more often tend to have a longer withdrawal period than people who use it less often.
  • Dosage: People who take higher doses of hydrocodone tend to have a longer withdrawal period than people who take lower doses.

The most severe physical withdrawal symptoms peak within the first five days or so while the body experiences sweating, vomiting and diarrhea. Psychological withdrawal symptoms from hydrocodone can last for a month or longer, even after physical withdrawal symptoms end. These symptoms can include anxiety, irritability, mood swings and depression.

Hydrocodone Headache

Headaches are a common withdrawal symptom from opioids, and hydrocodone is no different. The type of headache a person experiences during withdrawal can vary, but some common types include:

  • Tension headaches: These headaches are often caused by the emotional and psychological symptoms of withdrawal, such as anxiety, irritability and depression.
  • Migraines: These headaches are associated with a lack of dopamine production, which is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood and pain perception.
  • Dehydration headaches: These headaches can occur due to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, which are common symptoms of withdrawal.
  • Headaches due to high blood pressure: High blood pressure is another common symptom of withdrawal, and it can also lead to headaches.

Hydrocodone Addiction Treatment & Rehab Options

Hydrocodone treatment options vary from center to center throughout the country. Programs can be time-intensive or focused on a single aspect of recovery, ranging from local detox clinics or outpatient therapy to a full continuum of care at an accredited rehab facility. The kind of addiction treatment someone needs will depend entirely on a thorough evaluation from a medical professional. But regardless of the diagnosis, enrolling in a program that has progressive levels of care can be incredibly healing. Hydrocodone treatment at The Recovery Village is both comprehensive and evidence-based, including programs such as:

Our facilities are located across the country, in the states of Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Washington and more. No matter where you are, you can find healing from hydrocodone addiction at one of The Recovery Village centers.

If you or a loved one is addicted to hydrocodone, participating in a full continuum of care gives you a solid foundation for long-term sobriety. However, If this isn’t the kind of program you’re interested in, other hydrocodone treatment and rehab options are available. View resources by state and levels of care in your area.

Paying for Hydrocodone Treatment

While getting the care you need is important for your long-term health, hydrocodone addiction treatment is also a significant financial commitment. Before choosing to attend The Recovery Village or any other facility, it’s important to evaluate your finances to determine what you can afford. Contacting your insurance company is another first step in this process to see how much rehab is covered under your policy. At The Recovery Village, we know that understanding insurance coverage can be confusing, and we don’t want anyone to have to turn down treatment because of financial issues. This process can be made simple by speaking with one of our intake coordinators free of charge. Each of our representatives is well-versed in the nuances of insurance policies and can discuss your personal financial situation with full confidentiality. The Recovery Village can make it easy for you or a loved one to get the care needed for hydrocodone addiction. Call today to discover how paying for rehab might be less stressful than you think.

Mixing Hydrocodone and Alcohol

Combining hydrocodone and alcohol is extremely dangerous. Both hydrocodone and alcohol are depressants, meaning they slow down the central nervous system. When these substances are combined, the effects can be additive, meaning that the effects of one substance are amplified by the other. This can lead to a number of serious health problems, including:

  • Shallow breathing
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Impaired judgment
  • Liver damage
  • Hearing loss
  • Seizures
  • Heart failure
  • Overdose
  • Coma

Even if you are not addicted to either hydrocodone or alcohol, it is important to avoid combining them. The risks are simply too great. If you are struggling with addiction, there are resources available to help you. Please reach out for help if you need it.

Get Help for Hydrocodone Addiction Today

Is hydrocodone addictive? Yes, but the good news is there are many options available to treat hydrocodone addiction. Contact The Recovery Village to learn more about getting help and treatment for hydrocodone addiction.

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Editor – Abby Doty
Abby Doty graduated from Hamline University in 2021 with a Bachelor's in English and Psychology. She has written and edited creative and literary work as well as academic pieces focused primarily on psychology and mental health. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more


What is hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is an opioid drug used for managing pain and suppressing coughs. A well-known, brand-name prescription opioid is Vicodin, which contains hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid because it’s a chemically manipulated form of the natural opiate codeine. A German pharmaceutical company developed hydrocodone in the 1920s in an effort to find an alternative to codeine that had less risk of toxicity. Later that decade, American scientists were also experimenting with hydrocodone as a replacement for highly addictive cough medicines that contained opioids. Hydrocodone was identified as the best alternative because it reduced pain and managing coughing.

Thirty years later, in 1961, the first reports on the likelihood of hydrocodone’s addictive properties were published. Despite the warnings, however, hydrocodone has continued to grow in popularity.

What does hydrocodone look like?

Hydrocodone is available in a tablet form and a drinkable liquid form. The drug is most commonly prescribed as a small, white, oval-shaped tablet. Each pill is inscribed with the number of milligrams of hydrocodone in the pill. Hydrocodone tablets can vary in dosage from 5 mg to 120 mg per pill. Two major pharmaceutical companies manufacture liquid hydrocodone: Pharmaceutical Associates Inc. and Par Pharmaceuticals. The medications are yellow and red, respectively.

What are some other names for hydrocodone?

Several pharmaceutical companies sell brand-name versions of hydrocodone. Examples of brand-name drugs that contain hydrocodone and acetaminophen include:

  • Vicodin
  • Norco
  • Xodol
  • Lortab
  • Zolvit
  • Lorcet
  • Panacet

Additionally, another opioid-containing drug is Vicoprofen, which is hydrocodone with ibuprofen.

Hydrocodone is also referred to by street names or slang terms, including:

  • Hydros
  • Tabs
  • Watsons
  • Vics
  • Vicos
  • Vikes
  • 357s
  • Lorris/Loris
  • Nirco
What is hydrocodone prescribed for?

Doctors prescribe hydrocodone to manage severe pain or suppress coughs. Patients who receive hydrocodone often have a persistent cough, chronic pain or may have recently undergone surgery. The drug has such a high potential for dependence that people who start with a medical need for the drug often become dependent on and addicted to it. As a result, to fuel addictions and avoid withdrawal symptoms, many prescriptions are continued longer than necessary.

Does insurance cover hydrocodone addiction treatment?

We believe recovery should be available to anyone in need of care, so we work directly with your insurance provider to find the best program for you. Many insurance policies will offer coverage options for drug rehab, and many insurance plans are accepted at The Recovery Village. We are more than happy to accept insurance to pay for hydrocodone addiction treatment, and our intake coordinators can help you determine what your insurance will and won’t cover. Speak to one of our representatives today to confirm the benefits your insurance offers for hydrocodone treatment.

If you’d rather not call an intake coordinator, you can verify your benefits online in just minutes.

I don't have insurance, are there alternative payment options?

If your insurance does not cover the cost of rehab, or you do not have health insurance, most treatment centers accept private pay to cover the expense of hydrocodone addiction treatment. Please contact our admissions office for more information on the cost of addiction treatment and detailed payment plans.

To learn more about insurance coverage, paying for rehab and more, The Recovery Village has several helpful guides, including:


ClinCalc. “Acetaminophen; Hydrocodone – Drug Usage Statistics“>Acetamin[…]ge Statistics.” Accessed August 14, 2023.

Drugs.com. “HYDROcodone Monograph for Professionals“>HYDROcod[…]Professionals.” April 19, 2023. Accessed August 14, 2023.

Drug Enforcement Administration. “Hydrocodone“>Hydrocodone.” October 2019. Accessed August 14, 2023.

Pietrangelo, Ann. “Prescriptions for Hydrocodone Have Dropped Since DEA Classification Change“>Prescrip[…]cation Change.” Healthline, February 4, 2016. Accessed August 14, 2023.

American Society of Addiction Medicine. “National Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder“>National[…] Use Disorder.” December 18, 2019. Accessed August 14, 2023.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Protracted Withdrawal“>Protracted Withdrawal.” July 2010. Accessed August 14, 2023.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.