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 can easily become addictive — even to those it’s prescribed to. If you or a loved one have been taking hydrocodone following a surgery or to manage chronic pain or coughing, you are at serious risk to develop an opioid addiction. While most people start using hydrocodone to manage extreme pain following an injury or surgery, many endure a lifetime of pain caused by abuse of or addiction to the opioid drug. As hydrocodone attaches to the brain’s opioid receptors, a tolerance builds for the drug and users eventually become dependent on its euphoric high. Hydrocodone abuse is deadly and can lead to overdose.
Hydrocodone is an opioid drug used for managing pain and suppressing coughs. A well-known brand name prescription of hydrocodone is Vicodin. All opiates come from the poppy plant, however hydrocodone is considered to be semi-synthetic 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 managed a person’s cough.
Thirty years later, in 1961, the first reports on hydrocodone and its addictive properties was published. Despite the warnings, however, hydrocodone has continued to grow in popularity amongst medical professionals and drug abusers. Hydrocodone was the most dispensed prescription every year between 2006–2010, with roughly 131,200,000 distributed in 2010.
Hydrocodone is available in tablet and liquid, drinkable 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 vary from 10 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.

hydrocodone addictions
Several pharmaceutical companies sell brand-name versions of hydrocodone. Examples of brand name hydrocodone includes:

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

You may hear hydrocodone referred by other street names or slang terms, including:

  • Hydros
  • Tabs
  • Watsons
  • Vics
  • Vicos
  • Vikes
  • 357s
  • Lorris/Loris
  • Nirco
  • Perks

Doctors prescribe hydrocodone to manage severe pain or suppress coughs. Patients who receive hydrocodone often have persistent cough, chronic pain, or may have recently undergone surgery.

The drug has such a high potential for dependence that users who start with a medical need for the drug often become addicted. As a result, to fuel addictions, many prescriptions are continued longer than necessary or diverted to abusers.

The proper dosage amounts of hydrocodone vary based on the patient’s main management needs. For patients who are not dependent on opioids, the dosage is typically 10 mg per every 12 hours or 20 mg per every 24 hours. Any increases in hydrocodone should be made 10 mg at a time, once every 12 hours for 3–7 days. 
Hydrocodone is a highly addictive opioid drug with a high potential for abuse and addiction. Opioids — even chemically manufactured ones like hydrocodone — produce calming, anti-depressing, and euphoric effects, which often “hook” users on the drug. Hydrocodone is so addictive that it’s possible to become dependent on the drug while taking it for medical purposes with a legitimate prescription from a doctor.

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

Hydrocodone has many side effects, including blocking pain, reducing coughing, and feelings of euphoria. Continuing to use or abuse hydrocodone can also cause more serious side effects that affect a person’s health in the short term.

Some short-term side effects of hydrocodone abuse include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slowed or irregular heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Allergic reaction, such as swelling, itching or rash
  • Fatigue

When hydrocodone abuse is prolonged, the short-term side effects make way for more serious damage.

Long-term side effects of hydrocodone abuse include:

  • Hearing loss
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Liver damage
  • Depression
  • Seizures
  • Blurred vision
  • Addiction
Hydrocodone is often mixed with other prescription pills, alcohol or illicit drugs. Combining hydrocodone with other drugs is not recommended, however, because the combination often dulls the side effects of hydrocodone and can lead to overdose.

Some common hydrocodone combinations include:

  • Hydrocodone and Alcohol – The biggest risk from mixing hydrocodone and alcohol is liver damage because both drugs leave the body through the liver. When used together, the liver works twice as hard to expel both drugs at once, causing the side effects from each to last longer. This buildup of toxins in the liver can quickly damage the organ. Both drugs also impact the central nervous system, potentially causing amnesia, coma, and heart failure.  
  • Hydrocodone and Marijuana – Using cannabis and hydrocodone together may amplify side effects of the drugs — especially drowsiness, confusion, difficulty concentrating, motor coordination, and judgement. People who have smoked cannabis and are using hydrocodone should avoid driving a vehicle and other tasks that require judgement and coordination.
  • Hydrocodone and Benzos – Studies show the combined use of hydrocodone and benzodiazepines is deadly. According to a British Medical Journal report, 49% of the 2,400 veterans who were prescribed opioid painkillers and died of a drug overdose were also prescribed benzos.
Taking too much hydrocodone at once can lead to drug overdose and death. Overdose is a real threat because it’s possible to build an opioid tolerance so quickly, causing a person to take increasingly large doses.

Symptoms of hydrocodone overdose include:

  • Difficulty breathing or no breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weak pulse
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma
  • Fingernails or lips turning blue
  • Nausea and vomiting
Although it was first discovered in the 1920s, 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:

  • Between 2006–2010, hydrocodone was the most distributed prescription drug in the U.S.
  • 82,500 emergency room visits in 2011 were related to hydrocodone abuse
  • Hydrocodone was a contributing factor in 431 deaths in Florida in 2013 during a six-month period
  • 4.8% of high school seniors surveyed in 2014 said they used Vicodin, a popular brand name prescription of hydrocodone, in the past year
  • Vicodin costs around $9 for 30 pills at the pharmacy, and roughly $20 for one pill on the streets

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. Rocker Courtney Love was famously arrested and charged for illegal possession of hydrocodone and other painkillers.

“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 glam of Hollywood. Anyone can become addicted to hydrocodone. While on the presidential campaign trail for her husband, Sen. John McCain, Cindy McCain spoke to the nation about her former Vicodin addiction that started after two back surgeries.

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Hydrocodone Addiction was last modified: April 5th, 2017 by The Recovery Village