Hydrocodone is the most prescribed painkiller in the country. Because of this, it is vital to understand the inherent risks related to hydrocodone overdoses and just how much is too much.

Hydrocodone is a semisynthetic opioid in a group of similar pain-relieving medicines. Though they resemble each other in name and purpose, hydrocodone is often mistaken for another medication: oxycodone.

It’s true that hydrocodone and oxycodone are alike in many ways. Both medications are used to treat moderate to severe pain as prescribed after injury, surgery or cancer-related ailments. Both also have the potential to be extremely addictive. Additionally, each drug comes in a variety combined with another painkiller called acetaminophen. These include the brand-name drugs Vicodin and Percocet for hydrocodone and oxycodone respectively. The only real difference comes down to the fact that hydrocodone is also used to suppress cough symptoms. This is because it originates from codeine.

Because of its use for chronic pain, hydrocodone pills are highly habit-forming and can lead to serious substance use disorders. Some of this problem can be traced back to a pattern of over-prescribed pills in the United States. In tandem, hydrocodone is one of the main offenders in the opioid epidemic, killing tens of thousands every year across the country.

Hydrocodone is the most prescribed painkiller in the country. Because it is so common, it is vital to understand the inherent risks related to overdoses.

Can You Overdose on Hydrocodone?

Like for every opioid, hydrocodone overdoses are not only possible but are a threat that should be taken seriously. Perhaps the scariest thing to consider with hydrocodone overdoses, in particular, is that unintentional overdoses are so common.

Hydrocodone overdoses can occur for several reasons: an individual self-medicates by taking more pills than directed by their physician, a patient mistakes hydrocodone for another medication, or someone takes hydrocodone without a prescription to achieve a high. Additionally, adding other drugs into the mix intensifies the risk of overdose. Alcohol and other opioids compound the effects and dangers of hydrocodone in the body. The inclusion of acetaminophen, as is the case in Vicodin, also increases the likelihood of overdosing as well as irreversible liver complications.

How Much Hydrocodone Is Too Much?

The recommended dosages of hyrdocodone are 10–40 mg in a 12-hour period, depending on tolerance. This is the most important factor to consider. An individual that exhibits tolerance to hydrocodone must take larger doses to relieve their pain symptoms. Or, if using the drug illicitly, in order to still get high.

How much hydrocodone is too much? Experts point to 90 mg in a day as a fatal amount of hydrocodone. This is just nine times larger than the smallest recommended dose. It’s easier than one may think to accidentally take this tiny number of pills. Taking this amount when seeking out feelings of euphoria is even more likely. 90 mg is also just a benchmark. Several use behaviors can lower the necessary dose to overdose. Crushing and snorting hydrocodone pills is particularly dangerous and the lethal amount actually shrinks when alcohol is added to the equation.

Hydrocodone Overdose Symptoms

Hydrocodone overdose symptoms range in severity and affected body systems. Some of these symptoms may include:

  • Digestive problems with bouts of vomiting, diarrhea and spasms
  • Nervous system imbalances ranging from sleepiness to incoherent thoughts and behaviors
  • Breathing concerns as opioids manipulate the parts of the brain that regulate breathing, causing shortness of breath or more serious respiratory failure
  • Skin discoloration, such as blue or purple skin can be the result of oxygen deprivation

Never overlook a symptom. Hydrocodone is often falsely perceived as being a harmless opioid compared to its potent relatives, even at higher doses. Nothing could be further than the truth. Seek out intervention from emergency responders if you, a loved one, or even a stranger displays these symptoms.

Hydrocodone Overdose Treatment

Hydrocodone is among the most nondescript prescription drugs in existence. It looks like a generic small, white pill. Because of its appearance, hydrocodone is often mistaken for other medications. If you’re able to communicate with first responders while overdosing, or you are observing someone else experiencing an overdose, always inform medical professionals that hydrocodone was the cause of the overdose. Opioids require specific action.

Hydrocodone overdoses often require the use of naloxone. This is an anti-overdose compound that quells the overdose at the receptor level. Naloxone saves thousands of hydrocodone and opioid overdose victims each year.

Are you worried about your hydrocodone intake? Do you know someone addicted to drugs or alcohol? Help and healing are closer than you think. Call The Recovery Village today to speak with a caring representative who can help you get the treatment you need.

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Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
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.