Hydrocodone Addiction

Hydrocodone is an addictive opioid found in the prescription painkiller Vicodin. The drug is widely used to treat moderate to severe pain. But when taken in high doses, hydrocodone can lead to addiction and severe health problems.
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With nearly 94 million prescriptions written each year, hydrocodone is one of the most popular opioids in the United States. But the wide availability of hydrocodone and other painkillers has contributed to the opioid epidemic.

Fast Facts: Hydrocodone

Abuse Potential
Brand Names
Vicodin, Norco, Lorcet, Lortab, Dolacet
Drug Class
Street Names
Vike, Watson-387, Hydro, Fluff, V-itamin
How It's Used
Swallowed, Chewed, Injected, Snorted
Side Effects
Clammy Skin, Sleepiness, Muscle Weakness, Slowed Breathing, Coma
Legal Status
Schedule II

The popularity and potency of hydrocodone has caused many Americans to become addicted to the drug. Taking hydrocodone in high doses or using it illicitly can lead to opioid addiction. And once you are addicted, it is hard to get better.

But it is possible to recover from hydrocodone addiction with proper treatment. Rehab treatment can help people overcome withdrawal symptoms and learn techniques to avoid relapse during recovery.

What Is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic prescription painkiller. The drug is the active ingredient in many popular opioid brands, including Lortab, Lorcet and Vicodin. It is often combined with acetaminophen in medications prescribed to relieve moderate to severe pain.

According to a 2017 report by the Drug Enforcement Administration, hydrocodone was the most widely prescribed opioid in the United States from 2007 to 2016. More than 6.2 billion hydrocodone pills were dispensed or sold nationwide in 2016.

When used as directed, hydrocodone can effectively alleviate pain. However, the prescription opioid can cause addiction and a host of dangerous side effects when used in excess.

How Addictive Is Hydrocodone?

As a Schedule II drug, hydrocodone has a high potential for abuse, physical dependence and psychological addiction. The strength of hydrocodone is similar to that of morphine. Hydrocodone is more potent than tramadol but not as strong as oxycodone.

The severity of a hydrocodone addiction depends on the person’s genetics and history of drug use. Some people who abuse hydrocodone do not become addicted, while others can develop an addiction rapidly.

Signs of hydrocodone addiction include:
  • Seeking the drug compulsively despite knowing the consequences
  • Abandoning hobbies
  • Becoming socially isolated
  • Experiencing financial problems
  • Displaying reckless behavior, such as driving while high

Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms occur when people quit using the opioid suddenly after prolonged use. The symptoms may include restlessness, joint pain, increased heartbeat, sleeping problems and anxiety.

Addiction and frequency of use also affect how long hydrocodone stays in your system. It takes longer for the drug to be cleared from the bodies of people who are addicted to the prescription opioid.

How Is Hydrocodone Abused?

Hydrocodone is legally available as a tablet or oral liquid. People most often abuse the drug by swallowing it. However, it can also be crushed and injected into veins or snorted to produce a more immediate high. Many people mix hydrocodone and alcohol to achieve pleasurable effects.

The opioid can create a powerful high. People often abuse hydrocodone repeatedly for its euphoric effects, which can increase their tolerance to the substance. As their tolerance grows, they need to take increasingly higher doses of the drug to achieve the desired effects.

People often get hydrocodone and other opioids from family members or friends. In some cases, they steal opioids or purchase them from street dealers. But prescription drugs obtained on the street are often mixed with more powerful substances, such as fentanyl, that increase the risk of experiencing a fatal overdose.

According to the DEA’s 2017 National Drug Threat Survey, prescription opioids — specifically oxycodone and hydrocodone — are the most common type of controlled prescription drugs diverted and abused in the United States.

Source: 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment

Side Effects of Hydrocodone

Prescription opioids are extremely dangerous. They can harm a person’s physical, psychological and social health. The side effects of hydrocodone can be mild or severe, and prolonged use can increase a person’s risk for significant health problems.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, hydrocodone side effects include:
  • Back pain
  • Muscle tension
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Stomach pain

However, more serious effects can occur. Severe side effects of hydrocodone include:
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shivering
  • Swelling of the face, tongue or throat
  • Confusion
  • Chest pain

Combining hydrocodone with other drugs can exacerbate the effects of the drug. For example, mixing hydrocodone and weed can lead to respiratory distress or coma, while mixing hydrocodone and Xanax can depress breathing and induce sleepiness.

Treating Hydrocodone Addiction

To avoid hydrocodone addiction, only take the medication as prescribed. If you believe you are addicted to the drug, seek professional assistance. Opioid rehab and treatment is the most effective approach to overcoming addiction.

Treatment for prescription opioid addiction starts with a detoxification phase. During detox, addiction experts assist you in dealing with painful withdrawal symptoms until hydrocodone is cleared from your system.

Physicians may also provide methadone or buprenorphine during detox. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, these medications relieve drug cravings and prevent other withdrawal symptoms.

Rehab treatment also uses behavioral treatments to help people overcome hydrocodone addiction. Treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy teach clients the underlying causes of their substance abuse problems. These therapies also help people avoid triggers and find ways to enjoy a drug-free life.

Do not let the stigma of addiction keep you from seeking lifesaving treatment. The public perception of addiction is changing, and more people understand that it is a disease and not a choice. Seeking medical assistance for a substance use disorder can help you avoid a lifetime of health problems.

Medical Disclaimer: DrugRehab.com aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a 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 provider.

Matt Gonzales
Content Writer, DrugRehab.com
Matt Gonzales is a writer and researcher for DrugRehab.com. He graduated with a degree in journalism from East Carolina University and began his professional writing career in 2011. Matt covers the latest drug trends and shares inspirational stories of people who have overcome addiction. Certified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in health literacy, Matt leverages his experience in addiction research to provide hope to those struggling with substance use disorders.

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