Need help now? Call our 24/7 confidential hotline 855-520-2898

White question mark icon


Hydrocodone is an addictive opioid that is usually found in combination with acetaminophen in popular prescription pain relievers, such as Vicodin and Lortab. Reckless prescribing of hydrocodone products increase the availability of the drugs and have contributed to growing rates of opioid addiction.
Topics On this page
| | 11 sources

Fast Facts: Hydrocodone

Abuse Potential
Drug Class
Brand Names
Dolacet, Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Vicodin
Street Names
Vics, Vicos, Hydros, Tabs, Watsons
Side Effects
Dizziness, Vomiting, Slowed Breathing, Dry Mouth, Headache, Seizure, Coma
How It's Used
Swallowed, Snorted, Injected
Legal Status
Schedule II

Hydrocodone, Vicodin and Lortab Addiction

Prescriptions for hydrocodone go out by the thousands each day, and the powerful painkiller has been the most prescribed drug in the United States since 2007. Pills such as Vicodin, Lorcet and Lortab combine hydrocodone and acetaminophen, and a number of other brand-name medications utilize hydrocodone along with other components. All told, more than 135 million prescriptions of hydrocodone products are written each year.

Graphic illustrating the number of people who abused hydrocodone in 2013.

2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health

Known to treat moderate pain and also act as a cough suppressant, doctors prescribe tabs of hydrocodone to address any number of injuries or post-surgical pains. It also creates a feeling of sedation and a mild euphoria.

The drug, which is synthesized from codeine, is often abused, with many people crushing up the pills into a powder for snorting or injecting.

A 2013 change approved by the FDA made hydrocodone pills into an extended-release tablet difficult to crush or dissolve. Many people still overuse or misuse hydrocodone, though, and many underestimate the potential harm of hydrocodone until it’s too late.

Used over a long period of time, hydrocodone can create both a physical and psychological dependency. Doctors from coast to coast continue prescribing the drug each day in a variety of forms; this includes the new pill Zohydro, the first prescription narcotic with a pure dose of hydrocodone, which was approved by the FDA in 2013.

“One has to wonder how many more pain patients have to be harmed, how many more people have to become addicted, how many more lives will have to be lost before the FDA finally begins to exercise its authority and responsibility to prohibit drug companies from marketing opioids as if they have been proven safe and effective for long-term use”

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, told the New Yorker after Zohydro was approved.
In 2011, an estimated 82,480 emergency room department visits involved hydrocodone abuse.

Even without a prescription, hydrocodone addicts will find the pills for sale on the street, and patients who are over prescribed the drug often resell pills to their peers for a hefty price. While the medication may serve its purpose when taken responsibly, it’s impossible for doctors to monitor how and when the pills are taken after they write the prescription.

Considering that more than 400,000 ER visits each year involve the class of drugs including hydrocodone, it’s vital for you to practice caution when it comes to this potent drug.

How Long Does It Take for Hydrocodone to Work?

According to a study published in the journal Pain Physician, the onset of hydrocodone typically begins within 20 to 30 minutes. In some cases , the effects of the drug may kick in 10 minutes after consumption.

The effects of hydrocodone can last between four and eight hours. Hydrocodone has a half-life of 3.3 to 4.4 hours , which means it takes that long for the body to eliminate half the medication’s dose from the bloodstream.

Bone Pain, Overdose & Other Side Effects & Risks of Hydrocodone

Like other opiate-based drugs, hydrocodone can be highly addictive – particularly when used over a long period of time. Withdrawal from hydrocodone may cause muscle and bone pain, restlessness, diarrhea and vomiting.

Taking too much hydrocodone can result in overdose, which may lead to loss of consciousness or death. The risk of overdose increases drastically when combined with alcohol or other drugs.

Side effects of hydrocodone use include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Urinary Retention

If your doctor prescribes you hydrocodone, make sure you are aware of the side effects and risks. Do not share the pills with friends or family. Take only the recommended dosage, and avoid drinking alcohol while on the medication.

How Much Hydrocodone Is Too Much?

The amount of hydrocodone a person should take varies by age. For example, most hydrocodone product labels say adults should take 2.5 to 10 milligrams every four to six hours. Common doses for children and teens range from 0.1 to 0.2 milligrams every four to six hours.

Take only the recommended dosage prescribed to you, and avoid drinking alcohol while on the medication. Taking more than prescribed can lead to a number of health problems, including lightheadedness , confusion and seizures. Overdosing on hydrocodone can result in death.

If your doctor prescribes you hydrocodone, make sure you are aware of the side effects and risks.

The risk of hydrocodone overdose increases drastically when combined with alcohol or other drugs.

If you or someone you know believes they are dependent on or addicted to hydrocodone, reach out to a rehab facility for professional detox and therapy. Medications, such as buprenorphine and naltrexone, are available to aid recovery from opioid addiction, and evidence-based therapy and support can help you or your loved one on the path to recovery.

Without treatment, hydrocodone addiction can lead to damaged relationships, loss of employment and financial problems. It can also increase the risk of reckless behavior and death. With treatment, you can avoid the negative consequences of addiction and live a meaningful life in recovery.

Chris Elkins, MA
Senior Content Writer,
Chris Elkins worked as a journalist for three years and was published by multiple newspapers and online publications. Since 2015, he’s written about health-related topics, interviewed addiction experts and authored stories of recovery. Chris has a master’s degree in strategic communication and a graduate certificate in health communication.
Joey Rosenberg
Joey Rosenberg,

Was this article helpful?

How helpful would you rate this article?

    loading logo

    Thanks for helping us make our website better for visitors like you!

    View Sources

    Ready to make a change?

    Get cost-effective, quality addiction care that truly works.

    Start Your Recovery
    Question mark symbol icon

    Who am I calling?

    Calls will be answered by a qualified admissions representative with Advanced Recovery Systems (ARS), the owners of We look forward to helping you!

    Question mark symbol icon

    Who am I calling?

    Phone calls to treatment center listings not associated with ARS will go directly to those centers. and ARS are not responsible for those calls.

    Start your path to recovery today! Call now for 24/7 confidential help.