Lortab is a combination medication containing hydrocodone and acetaminophen.

Lortab is a brand-name prescription opioid. Lortab is a Schedule 2 controlled substance, as classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which means it has high abuse potential and can cause dependence or addiction in people who misuse it. Lortab is only legally available with a prescription.

Lortab is a combination medication, which means it fights pain in two ways: in this case, the drug uses hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Because hydrocodone is an opioid, Lortab qualifies as an opioid. Lortab also contains acetaminophen which is a non-opioid pain reliever found in medicines like Tylenol. One key difference between Lortab and other medications containing hydrocodone and acetaminophen is that brand name Lortab is currently only available in a liquid form, called Lortab elixir.

Lortab is usually prescribed to patients who are experiencing short-term pain, likely due to having surgery or sustaining an injury.

Article at a Glance:

  • Lortab contains the opioid hydrocodone and the non-opioid acetaminophen
  • Hydrocodone and acetaminophen work in different ways to relieve pain
  • Lortab is associated with a high potential for abuse
  • Lortab should only be used as prescribed, and at the lowest dosage for the shortest period to avoid dependence or addiction
  • The hydrocodone component of Lortab can cause slowed breathing, drowsiness, constipation, and confusion
  • The acetaminophen component of Lortab can cause liver damage

How Does Lortab Work?

The hydrocodone component of Lortab works like other opioids. When someone takes opioid pain medicine, it decreases pain signals transmitting through the nervous system. Instead of blocking pain it changes the perception of pain. Opioids accomplish this by binding to opioid receptors in the brain.

To curb overdoses and deaths from the use of opioid painkillers like Lortab, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created guidelines on how opioids should be prescribed. Based on the guidelines, opioids like Lortab should only be used for short-term treatment of acute pain, as opposed to a long-term, chronic pain.

Any time someone takes an opioid, there is the potential to develop a dependence and tolerance, especially with long-term use. If someone has a physical dependence on an opioid-like Lortab, withdrawal symptoms will occur when Lortab is stopped, especially if it is stopped suddenly.

Lortab Side Effects

Because Lortab is an opioid, many people are concerned about the potential side effects that the prescription can cause. The hydrocodone contained in Lortab is associated with several adverse effects, such as:

  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Slowed breathing

The acetaminophen in Lortab may cause liver damage or liver failure, which can be fatal. Side Effects vary based on personal factors. Always consult with your primary care provider if you develop any unexpected side effects following Lortab consumption.

Lortab Tolerance and Dependence

Tolerance and dependence are two intertwined concepts. Tolerance develops when the brain and body become used to Lortab. Over time, achieving the desired effect requires higher and higher doses. As tolerance develops, and higher doses are consumed, the risk of addiction and overdose increases. Also, as more Lortab is consumed, the risk of acute liver failure increases because of the acetaminophen contained in the drug.

Dependence develops when a person relies on the drug to function. If a person with an opioid dependence stops using the drug — especially if abruptly — they experience withdrawal symptoms from opioids. Symptoms of opioid withdrawal include aches and pains, diarrhea, vomiting, insomnia, chills, sweating, and involuntary leg movements.

Addiction is a disease of the brain that is characterized by compulsions regarding a substance. Someone who is addicted to an opioid like Lortab might experience cravings, feeling uninterested anything other than the drug or their behavior might change. It’s also important to note that someone can be physically dependent on opioids including Lortab without being addicted. Tapering the opioid, or decreasing the amount used little by little, can help to avoid withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

If you or a loved one struggle with Lortab dependence or addiction, contact The Recovery Village to find out how personalized treatment programs can help achieve a healthier future. Don’t put your future on hold, call today.

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Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Christina Caplinger, RPh
Christina Caplinger is a licensed pharmacist in both Colorado and Idaho and is also a board-certified pharmacotherapy specialist. Read more

Dailymed. “Lortab (syrup).” November 2018. Accessed April 21, 2019.

Department of Justice. “Controlled Substance Schedules.” April 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.”  April 17, 2019. Accessed May 3, 2019.

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.