Can You Overdose on Vicodin?

Vicodin is one of several brand-name variants of the popular opioid drug hydrocodone. This prescription drug in particular is classified as a painkiller, with a combination of an opioid — the above-mentioned hydrocodone — and a paracetamol compound. The second component is more universally known as acetaminophen, or Tylenol.

Though remarkably similar to another pain-relief medicine on the market, Percocet, Vicodin is not the same thing. Each contains a semisynthetic opioid as its base ingredient. Percocet uses oxycodone, while Vicodin uses hydrocodone. Additionally, both use acetaminophen to round out the main active ingredients. With analogous ingredient functionality, not to mention the “codone” suffix in their names, it is no wonder the two are frequently confused in people’s heads. 

Vicodin use can lead to a substance use disorder, even when taken as prescribed. This is because the opioid component of the drug is addictive. Building up a harmful tolerance is likely as well. Individuals may become used to the pain-reducing properties of the drug and need them to function. 

We know that Vicodin-related deaths are not as high as they once were. The trend for prescription opioid deaths are down across the board. However, the hydrocodone found within Vicodin begins a trend all its own. More and more, researchers are finding that opioid users are forsaking pills for wickeder alternatives such a fentanyl and heroin. Both of these dangerous street drugs are cheaper and achieve stronger highs at smaller dosages.

Vicodin occupies a sort of opioid gray area in the current epidemic facing the United States. It is not responsible for most of the 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016. It isn’t even responsible for a majority of all 14,400 prescription opioid deaths that fell under that main figure. It is, however, guilty by association — or should we say addiction — as it is certainly a stepping stone for future use of its deadlier relatives.

Policy makers are attacking the plague from the bottom up, namely, by controlling prescription amounts for pills like Vicodin. This fight takes a grassroots approach that extends to everyone; it begins with an understanding of opioid dangers, consequences and treatment. It begins with knowledge that you can find here. 

Vicodin Overdose | Vicodin Overdose Treatment, Signs, & Symptoms
We must look back to the components of Vicodin — hydrocodone and acetaminophen — to answer the overdose question. Both of the active compounds in Vicodin can lead to an overdose when consumed in excess.

There are several explanations as to why a Vicodin overdose may occur, perhaps the most common two being self-medicating to relieve excess pain and illicit recreational use to relive a euphoric high.

Because each Vicodin pills contains upwards of 300 mg of acetaminophen, a user is looking at the possibility of severe liver complications with even minimal usage. Some consequences of acetaminophen ingestion include:

  • At 1,000 mg: This is when an overdose of acetaminophen may begin. This can befall a victim at just over three Vicodin tablets.
  • At 4,000 mg: Major liver poisoning and damage is all but a guaranteed if this much acetaminophen is taken in one day.
  • At 7,000 mg: Death is the foreseeable outcome at these high levels. Almost no amount of tolerance can prevent this result.
When people think of a Vicodin overdose, they are most likely imagining the effects of hydrocodone rather than acetaminophen.

Hydrocodone comes in a concentration of 5 mg for every 300 mg of acetaminophen. One or two tablets are the recommended dose within a four-to-six-hour window. Used as directed, this equals out to no more than 8 pills in a given day.

90 mg is the scientifically and medically accepted amount to produce a fatal overdose of hydrocodone. Thus, 18 Vicodin pills will lead to an overdose of such magnitude. As you’ll notice, this already puts an individual far above the liver’s tolerance of acetaminophen at 5,400 mg, meaning a victim would experience two separate overdoses if they managed to consume this many pills. This is to say nothing of “how” these pills are ingested either — crushing, snorting or injecting Vicodin leads to more overdoses than standard oral application.

Vicodin overdose symptoms mirror those of a hydrocodone-only overdose with additional symptoms of acetaminophen ingestion. Symptoms may involve:

  • Gastrointestinal imbalance: Nausea, vomiting, cramps, and loss of appetite are some of the first recognizable indications of a Vicodin overdose.
  • Body fatigue and cloudy thoughts: While confusion may originate from the mind, the body will exhibit lethargy of its own.
  • Painful or difficult breathing: Oxygen deprivation is a serious concern. Report any chest pain to first responders during an initial 911 call. This is a characteristic opioid overdose symptom.
On top of overdose symptoms, an outside observer may discover that an overdose victim demonstrates additional signs of trauma such as blue lips, damp skin or even unconsciousness.

Several signs also exist for acetaminophen overdoses, too. Treat the below symptoms as proportionately destructive as those created by hydrocodone.

  • Yellowing skin
  • Irregular bowel movements
  • Painful abdominal muscles
  • Angry or erratic behavior
  • Coma
The opioid factor found in Vicodin requires the most immediate medical attention in Vicodin treatment. Hydrocodone, along with any and all other opioids, necessitates an overdose antagonist drug. The premier choice in this regard is naloxone. While an antidote heals a victim, naloxone does something else entirely. It blocks the key opioid receptors found within the central nervous system that lead to an overdose. This isn’t a cure — the correct terminology would be closer to naloxone being a suppressor. Once suppressed, an overdose victim can be transported and treated at a nearby facility under the keen eyes of medical personnel.

Vicodin overdose doesn’t have to be the end of your story. If you or someone you love is struggling with a Vicodin addiction, help is closer than you think. The Recovery Village specializes in addressing substance use disorders of all kinds, along with the co-occurring disorders that can influence them. Reach out to speak to an intake coordinator today and take the first step toward a better life. 

Vicodin Overdose | Can You Overdose on Vicodin?
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