Hydrocodone is a medicine that’s classified as a narcotic analgesic, which means it stops pain by impacting the central nervous system. This medicine is also usually combined with acetaminophen as well, which relieves pain and reduces fever. Acetaminophen itself isn’t habit-forming, but it does carry dangerous side effects when large amounts are used, including liver damage.
Many people wonder how to know if someone is on hydrocodone because it’s frequently prescribed and also abused. When someone is on hydrocodone for an extended period of time, it can lead to both mental and physical dependence. However, if someone follows the therapeutic applications of the drug that are part of their prescription, they reduce the likelihood of abuse.
Some of the common brand names of hydrocodone include:
- Vicodin ES
- Vicodin HP
Some of the side effects of being on hydrocodone/acetaminophen, whether the drug is being used as prescribed or abused, can include:
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- Feeling overly euphoric or happy
- Appearing to be sleepy, lazy or lethargic
- Reduced sense of stress
The reason for many of the positive effects of hydrocodone is that it impacts the brain’s reward system, which is also why it’s so easy to become addicted to drugs like hydrocodone.
Some of the negative side effects of hydrocodone use can include:
- Sleeping problems
- Muscle weakness
Severe side effects of being on hydrocodone, particularly when large amounts are taken, may include:
- Obstruction of the bowels
- Breathing trouble
- Slow or irregular heartbeat
- Problems urinating
When you take hydrocodone over the long-term, or sometimes even for a short period, the body builds up a tolerance to it. That means greater amounts of hydrocodone will be needed to achieve the same effects, and in some cases, tolerance can develop after taking just a few doses.
When someone is addicted to hydrocodone or dependent on it, it can lead to a wide range of physical, behavioral and lifestyle problems.
For example, signs someone is addicted to hydrocodone may include problems at school or work, difficulty meeting commitments and obligations, and relationship conflicts with friends, family, and other loved ones.
Other signs someone is on hydrocodone and also potentially addicted to or dependent on the drug may include:
- Taking too much at a time
- Not following instructions if prescribed hydrocodone
- Mixing hydrocodone with other substances, including alcohol
- Taking hydrocodone after it’s no longer needed for medical reasons
- Faking symptoms or an injury to get prescriptions
- Obtaining hydrocodone illegally and using it without a prescription
- Doctor shopping to obtain multiple prescriptions
Withdrawal symptoms may also be a sign someone is dependent on hydrocodone. Symptoms of hydrocodone withdrawal include cold chills and shivering, anxiety, insomnia, diarrhea, hallucinations, aches, sweating, vomiting, irregular heartbeat and depression.
It’s extremely important that anyone prescribed hydrocodone follow their doctor’s instructions precisely. They shouldn’t ever take larger doses than recommended or take it more often than prescribed. Failing to follow these directions increases the risk of dependence, liver damage and overdose.
Treatment for addiction to opioids, including hydrocodone, can be difficult, particularly during withdrawal. However, if someone is on hydrocodone and is abusing the drug, it’s important they seek help. Long-term side effects of opioid abuse, including the use of hydrocodone, can not only increase the likelihood of using other drugs like heroin, but can also lead to overdose, serious health problems, and death.
Drug treatment centers are designed to help people who are addicted to hydrocodone. If you recognize symptoms of hydrocodone addiction, it’s important to seek help either for yourself or your loved one.