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Hydrocodone, in the opioid family alongside codeine and heroin, is prescribed to millions of patients each year to reduce pain. As the most prescribed drug in the U.S., its extensive use leads to countless cases of abuse and addiction. Addicts can find the help they need at a local treatment facility.

  • Drug Name Hydrocodone
  • Addiction Liability High
  • Scientific Name Hydrocodone
  • Street Names Vics, Vicos, Hydros, Tabs, Watsons
  • How It's Used Swallowed, Snorted, Injected
  • Side Effects Dizziness, Vomiting, Slowed Breathing, Dry Mouth, Headache, Seizure, Coma
  • Psychological Dependence Very High
  • Physical Dependence Very High

Hydrocodone 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 like 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.

Graph showing 24.4M using pills

24.4 Million people in the U.S. reported using hydrocodone for non medical purposes.

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.

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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 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.

Andrew Kolodny, Physician

In 2009, more than 100,000 ER visits were caused by 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.

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:

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.

Pill Bottle Label

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

If you or someone you know develops a dependency on hydrocodone, reach out to your doctor and find out if a visit to a treatment facility may be a good choice.

Help and Treatment for Hydrocodone Addiction

Rehab facilities oversee the treatment of addictions to drugs like hydrocodone, from the detoxification phase all the way to graduation.

No two addictions are exactly alike, so each patient requires a personalized diagnosis to determine the best course of action.

Typical treatment plans for painkiller addictions implement therapy and counseling sessions. These can help patients develop new behaviors to replace their proclivity to abuse pills.

Following a successful recovery, you may be referred to a local community support group to stay proactive in your sobriety. Your doctor may also recommend a new medication, to aid in the transition away from the more dangerous and addictive substance and help manage your pain.

Painkiller addicts relapse often, and attending treatment cannot guarantee smooth sailing ahead. But for many people, it’s a big step in the right direction. Kicking a habit like hydrocodone requires the personal decision to get better, and the motivation to stay clean in the face of temptation.

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