After an intense surgery or injury, many doctors may prescribe a narcotic painkiller called Vicodin. As a Schedule II controlled substance, Vicodin has a high risk of being misused. Misusers can quickly become dependent on it, paving the way for addiction to develop. If an individual feels that Vicodin is essential to function during everyday life, an addiction may have developed. Although Vicodin has a legitimate medical purpose, the prescription narcotic is dangerous to those who may take it for the euphoric high it can provide.

What Is Vicodin?

Vicodin is a brand-name prescription narcotic. The main ingredients in the painkiller are:

  • Hydrocodone, a semi-synthetic opioid
  • Acetaminophen, an analgesic and the active ingredient in Tylenol

Vicodin is typically prescribed for severe pain that cannot be controlled without a narcotic. Considering Vicodin is one of the most addictive painkillers, the risk of an addiction developing is high. Hydrocodone, the main ingredient in Vicodin, was first discovered in the 1920s. Since hydrocodone has been circulating for the past century, people have learned that mixing it with other drugs, such as acetaminophen, can increase its strength and effects.

The Vicodin brand is no longer in production; however, hydrocodone/acetaminophen is often prescribed as a generic option. In addition, there are many other names for the narcotic when it is distributed illegally. Drug dealers and abusers use slang terms for Vicodin to stay under the radar. Street names for Vicodin include:

  • 357s
  • Fluff
  • Hydros
  • Idiot Pills
  • Lorris
  • Norco
  • Scratch
  • Tabs
  • Vicos
  • Vics
  • Vikes
  • Watsons

Related Topic: Street Names for Drugs

Vicodin also became very popular within Hollywood, giving individuals more incentive to try the drug since they knew celebrities utilized it. Fortunately, many members of the Hollywood elite came forward with their struggles to warn others regarding the dangers of Vicodin addiction.

Kelly Osbourne is one of the most well-known celebrities to share her story about her battle with Vicodin. Osbourne wrote in her book Fierce that her Vicodin addiction started with a prescription. As her tolerance level rose, she was consuming up to 50 pills of Vicodin a day. Her friends and parents quickly noticed her symptoms — notably drowsiness and nodding off. Eventually, she pursued Vicodin addiction rehab and received the necessary treatment to begin a life of sobriety.

The Recovery Village can give people the opportunity to treat a Vicodin addiction immediately when symptoms appear. Like Osbourne, the proper treatment tools can make all the difference when obtaining a drug-free life.

Symptoms of Vicodin Addiction

Those who struggle with Vicodin addiction may not notice their symptoms at first, as the euphoric high and their level of relaxation can mask symptoms. As the Vicodin tolerance grows, so do the addiction symptoms. Someone struggling with an addiction to Vicodin can experience emotional symptoms like anxiety, irritability or mood swings. A person may display signs of Vicodin addiction like:

  • Taking more Vicodin or for a longer time than intended.
  • Previous unsuccessful attempts to cut back or control Vicodin use.
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining, using or recovering from Vicodin.
  • Cravings for Vicodin.
  • Failing to keep up with obligations at work, school or home because of Vicodin.
  • Social or interpersonal problems linked to Vicodin use.
  • Giving up other important activities because of Vicodin.
  • Recurrent Vicodin use even when it is physically dangerous to do so.
  • Continuing Vicodin even though you know the drug is harming you.
  • Needing more Vicodin to achieve the same effects you had at first.
  • Withdrawal symptoms when you stop Vicodin.

When an addiction to Vicodin forms, it is highly recommended to seek help from an accredited facility or work with a medical professional. Most people believe they can ease themselves off the drug on their own, but this is not the safest way to clear the body of Vicodin.

Some people believe the addiction will fade if they stop drug usage altogether. However, physicians and therapists do not recommend this practice for several reasons. When quitting the use of Vicodin suddenly, the body goes through withdrawal and experiences forceful and uncomfortable side effects rather quickly. Quitting cold turkey is also not guaranteed to be successful and increases the chance of setbacks.

If someone chooses to treat their addiction, working with medical professionals will allow them to analyze the patient’s situation to determine the best way to wean them off the drug. This method is known as tapering. During this process, doctors will decrease the amount of Vicodin taken weekly to ease the body off the drug. Tapering is typically the safest method used to detox from drugs.

What Causes Vicodin Addiction?

Addiction is a complex psychosocial phenomenon, and many factors contribute to a Vicodin addiction. However, some Vicodin-specific factors can increase the likelihood of an addiction forming. These include Vicodin overprescribing and the drug’s powerful effects on the brain.

Overprescription and Vicodin Addiction

At first, the addictive potential of opioids like Vicodin was not clearly understood. Vicodin, in fact, used to be a Schedule III controlled substance and was not made a Schedule II controlled substance until 2014. Even now, some doctors may prescribe more Vicodin than a person needs to ensure that pain is well-controlled. To combat possible overprescription, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed guidelines about when it is appropriate for doctors to prescribe opioids.

Effects of Vicodin on the Brain

The hydrocodone component of Vicodin is a psychoactive substance impacting the opioid receptors of the brain and spinal cord. Like other opioids, the drug also triggers the brain’s reward system, leading to a flood of the feel-good chemical dopamine when you take a dose. Over time, this can lead to a compulsion to take the drug even when not medically necessary, paving the way to an addiction.

Vicodin Overdose

Vicodin contains the active ingredients hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Both substances can be dangerous in high doses, and taking too much Vicodin can lead to an overdose.

A Vicodin overdose can cause many serious symptoms, including:

  • Respiratory depression: This decrease in breathing can lead to coma or death.
  • Seizures: This sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain can cause jerking movements and loss of consciousness.
  • Low blood pressure: This can lead to dizziness, fainting and even death.
  • Liver damage: Acetaminophen can damage the liver, even in small doses. Taking too much acetaminophen can lead to liver failure, which can be fatal.

If you think you or someone you know has overdosed on Vicodin, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Call 911 or your local emergency number.

Vicodin and Other Substances

Vicodin can be a dangerous medication alone, but combining it with other drugs or alcohol can make it even more dangerous. As a result, it is important to be cautious when taking other medications with Vicodin. Before taking other medications, it is important to check with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure they are safe to take with Vicodin.

Vicodin and Alcohol

Vicodin and alcohol are depressants that can have serious side effects when taken together. For this reason, the FDA has a boxed warning on Vicodin to avoid use with alcohol. These side effects can include: 

  • Liver damage
  • Breathing problems
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Constipation 
  • Difficulty urinating

The combination of Vicodin and alcohol is particularly dangerous because both substances can damage the liver. In addition, hydrocodone, the active ingredient in Vicodin, can slow breathing, especially in older adults or people with lung problems.

Vicodin and Valium

Combining an opioid medication (Vicodin) with a benzodiazepine (Valium) is highly dangerous and can result in coma or death. Vicodin carries an FDA-boxed warning against taking the drug with benzodiazepines for this reason. Both drugs are depressants and can dramatically slow breathing. Additionally, the combination can cause drowsiness, dizziness, confusion and slurred speech. Seizures may even occur in acute cases. Please consult your doctor — even if they prescribed both together — before ingesting Vicodin and Valium.

Vicodin and Tylenol

Because Vicodin already contains acetaminophen, combining it with other acetaminophen-containing products is extremely dangerous and toxic to your liver. Products containing acetaminophen are widespread and often available over-the-counter, including Tylenol and cough, cold and flu treatments. If you are unsure whether a product contains acetaminophen, contact your doctor or pharmacist. The maximum recommended dose of acetaminophen is 3 grams (3000 milligrams) in 24 hours.

Vicodin Withdrawal and Detox

When a person stops taking Vicodin, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can start as early as 12 hours after the last dose and typically last about a week. The most common short-term withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Runny nose and eyes
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle aches and cramping
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia

These symptoms can be physically draining, but it is important to remember that they are a normal part of detoxing the body and a sign that you are one step closer to your goals in recovery. If you undergo detox at a treatment center like one of The Recovery Village’s professional facilities, your doctors and staff will attend to any physical or mental discomfort during this time.

Treatment for Vicodin Addiction

Vicodin addiction treatment typically begins with detoxification to rid the body of the drug and its toxins. Once physically stable, patients can begin meeting with counselors for one-on-one therapy to understand the motivations behind their addiction and how to deal with stressors that may have triggered it. In addition to medical support and counseling, patients may also enjoy alternative therapy options to ease their journey toward recovery. Along the way, patients will learn the necessary coping skills for addiction to help them avoid relapse and maintain a happy and healthy sober life free from Vicodin.

If you or someone you know is struggling with Vicodin addiction, help is available. Contact The Recovery Village today to find the location closest to you.

What Does Vicodin Look Like?

Vicodin can vary in appearance and how they are used. When prescribed by a medical professional, the drug comes as a tablet or an oral liquid. 

The pill form sometimes has a perforated line down the back of the pill to make it easier to split in half if a full dosage is not needed and usually has an imprint to help identify the drug and dose. The color, size and shape of the tablets can vary widely.

Vicodin can also be crushed into a powder. Individuals who choose to utilize the drug illegally usually crush it themselves. Rather than be taken orally, the powder is snorted into the body by the user. Doing this allows the Vicodin to permeate the system in a short time compared to being swallowed, but it also puts individuals at a higher risk of harm and powerful side effects.

What Is Vicodin Used For?

Vicodin is a prescription painkiller intended for those suffering from severe pain, like pain following surgery. Medical professionals prescribe the medication to help alleviate pain and make the patient more comfortable. When used correctly, the medication can calm a patient’s discomfort.

While addiction can occur from building tolerance to the drug, individuals misusing it tend to take Vicodin to alleviate minor symptoms, such as a headache. The user begins to rely on the medication for that sense of relief and tranquilization that follows the slightest discomfort.

However, people not using Vicodin to lessen pain tend to use the drug recreationally to obtain a euphoric high. With these recreational users, since there is no medical need to take the drug, the tolerance level is aimed toward achieving a certain level of euphoria.

Is Vicodin an Opioid?

Vicodin is a combination of acetaminophen (an over-the-counter analgesic) and hydrocodone (an opioid). While experts are unsure how acetaminophen works, hydrocodone works by activating mu-opioid receptors. Both affect the CNS and reduce pain.

It’s possible that an opioid addiction can form from taking Vicodin. This kind of substance misuse centers around the dependency on prescription painkillers to function. Other types of opioids that people can develop addictions to are:

  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Oxycodone (including OxyContin)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Morphine
  • Tramadol

As well as treating addiction to Vicodin, The Recovery Village also offers individualized treatment plans to help people manage opioid addiction addictions.

Vicodin Dosage

Vicodin should only be taken exactly as prescribed by your doctor. The proper dosage of Vicodin that should be taken depends on each patient’s situation. When brand-name Vicodin was available, the recommended doses were:

  • Vicodin (5/300): one or two tablets every four to six hours, not to exceed eight tablets
  • Vicodin ES (7.5/300): one tablet every four to six hours, not to exceed six tablets
  • Vicodin HP (10/300): one tablet every four to six hours, not to exceed six tablets

The dosage and strength prescribed by a doctor depend on the severity of the individual’s pain. However, when people become addicted to Vicodin, the body and brain begin to crave excessive amounts of the higher dosages to experience a similar high that other opioids can provide, such as heroin.

The Vicodin dosage consumed will also determine the severity of the addiction and the kind of detox a person will go through. A person who has taken a small amount of the drug for a few months may not have as intense side effects and withdrawal symptoms as someone who has been misusing the drug for a year. An example of the kind of withdrawal symptoms that can be experienced depending on the severity of the addiction include:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Mood swings
  • Chills
  • Tremors
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Hostility

Knowing the possible symptoms is another reason seeking professional help can benefit recovery. 

It’s important to remember that each person has a different chemical makeup, thus varying the results and reactions each person will have to Vicodin. It’s also important not to compare one person’s situation to another. Recovery is not a race or competition. Receiving help is something to be proud of rather than something to rush.

At The Recovery Village, patients can work one-on-one with a treatment team to determine the best route of action to assist them the most efficiently. During a thorough and detailed medical detoxification process, doctors and therapists evaluate the severity of the addiction and establish a plan to rid the body of the drug safely. Withdrawal symptoms for each person will vary, but doctors can prescribe medication to ease the severity of those symptoms.

Once a successful medical detox is complete, patients may be recommended for one of the unique treatment programs at The Recovery Village. Such treatment plans can include inpatient, outpatient, intensive inpatient or partial hospitalization programs. Treatment plans can consist of one-on-one, group and recreational therapy.

If attending a treatment center offered by The Recovery Village is not an option, try looking through our online facility locator to find a center closest to you. Distance should not stand in the way of a drug-free life.The Recovery Village has locations nationwide to help assist those struggling with a Vicodin addiction or any other substance use disorder. Start your recovery process and contact us today.

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Editor – Theresa Valenzky
Theresa Valenzky graduated from the University of Akron with a Bachelor of Arts in News/Mass Media Communication and a certificate in psychology. She is passionate about providing genuine information to encourage and guide healing in all aspects of life. 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
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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.