Vicodin Addiction

Vicodin is the most popular prescription painkiller in the United States. But hydrocodone can cause addiction, which affects your health, relationships and financial stability. Addiction can be discouraging, but rehab can offer support in your journey to recovery.
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Vicodin is a brand of prescription painkiller that contains acetaminophen, a drug used to treat minor aches and pains, and the addictive opioid hydrocodone. Vicodin is prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain.

Fast Facts: Vicodin

Abuse Potential
Scientific Name
Drug Class
Street Names
Vics, Norcos
How It's Used
Swallowed, Snorted, Injected
Side Effects
Bloody Urine, Irregular Heartbeat, Fainting, Trouble Breathing, Unconsciousness
Legal Status
Schedule II

While it is effective when used properly, misusing Vicodin can be harmful. It can lead to physical problems such as stomach pain and mental health issues that can linger for years. If you are addicted to Vicodin or think you might be, seek professional treatment.

Is Vicodin Addictive?

Vicodin changes your perception of pain and your emotional response to it. The substance can produce feelings of lightheadedness and euphoria, which have resulted in the widespread misuse of hydrocodone nationwide.

Hydrocodone is one of the most misused drugs in the United States. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 6.9 million people had misused hydrocodone products like Vicodin during the previous year.

The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies hydrocodone as a Schedule II substance. This means that hydrocodone products such as Vicodin have a high potential for abuse and their use can result in severe physical or psychological dependence.

The more Vicodin you use, the higher your tolerance becomes. As your tolerance grows, so does your risk for hydrocodone addiction. People addicted to Vicodin compulsively use the drug despite knowing the consequences, often sacrificing their health, responsibilities and relationships.

Even when taken at recommended doses, Vicodin can result in addiction. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of prescription painkillers because their brains have not yet fully developed.

People addicted to Vicodin may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking it. Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms include mild effects such as yawning and a runny nose. But they can also include more serious symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting.

Side Effects of Vicodin

Individuals react differently to Vicodin. The most common side effects are lightheadedness and dizziness. According to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, the effects of hydrocodone last from four to six hours.

But more severe effects, such as depression and addiction, can linger for a lifetime.

Side effects of Vicodin include:

  • Headache
  • Stomach pain
  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting

Vicodin can also cause life-threatening allergic reactions. These symptoms include itching, vomiting and swelling of the face, mouth and throat. If you experience an allergic reaction to Vicodin, call your physician or 911 immediately.

Severe side effects of Vicodin include:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Trouble walking
  • Confusion
  • Changes in hearing or eyesight
  • Mood swings
  • Fever or chills
  • Depression

It is possible to overdose on Vicodin. An overdose occurs when people have adverse reactions to an excessive amount of a drug. Left untreated, an overdose can lead to death.

Symptoms of Vicodin overdose include chest pain, bloody urine, trouble breathing, extreme drowsiness and changes in consciousness. If you or your loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

Preventing Vicodin Addiction

The best way to prevent Vicodin addiction is to avoid misuse. If you are prescribed the medication, be sure to follow the directions on the label. Taking it too much or too often can lead to overdose, dependence or addiction.

Also, never mix Vicodin with alcohol or other drugs. Combining the medication with other substances can be fatal. And do not stop or change a dosing regimen without first discussing it with your doctor.

Always store the medication in a safe, secure location. Do not share your pills with others because this can cause them to experience an overdose or develop addiction. Sharing painkillers has contributed to the opioid epidemic.

Overdosing on Vicodin is difficult to identify, but telltale signs include:

  • Unpleasant breath odor
  • Severe sleepiness
  • Increased sweating
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Trouble breathing

In addition, always discard unused medication, including any unused Vicodin pills, properly. You can dispose of unused or expired medications at a medicine take-back event.

You can also talk to your doctor about alternative ways to reduce pain. For example, a 2015 report by Harvard University stated that yoga can alleviate pain caused by arthritis, fibromyalgia and other conditions. Your physician can offer a number of pain-management options.

Treating Vicodin Addiction

Many individuals with a substance use disorder do not seek professional assistance. But addiction is a treatable disease. And the most effective way to overcome Vicodin abuse is to seek rehab for opioid addiction.

Rehab centers use evidence-based strategies to alleviate opioid abuse. A treatment plan may include opioid agonist medications, such as methadone, to relieve withdrawal symptoms. They may also include cognitive behavioral therapy to teach strategies for living a healthier life.

Individuals battling Vicodin addiction are also susceptible to long-term mental health problems such as depression. If you are experiencing co-occurring disorders, both diseases can be simultaneously treated at rehab. This can decrease the risk for relapse upon recovery.

If you believe that Vicodin use is affecting your life, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s national helpline at 800-662-4357. A representative can offer information about the dangers of prescription opioids and explain your treatment options.

Medical Disclaimer: 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,
Matt Gonzales is a writer and researcher for 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.
Kim Borwick, MA

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