Hydrocodone, a type of opioid drug, is the second most frequently seen drug in illegal drug activity, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The drug was used by 11.5 million people in the United States over the age of 12 in 2016, most commonly for pain relief. Abuse of hydrocodone occurs when the drug is overused or a significantly higher dose than prescribed is taken, especially on a routine basis.
At FHE Health, we help many patients suffering from hydrocodone addiction. Our team offers comprehensive treatment for this type of substance use disorder.
What Is Hydrocodone?
Hydrocodone is the main ingredient found in numerous types of painkillers. Doctors prescribe this narcotic for relief of moderate to severe pain, usually only for short-term use due to dental or injury-related pain. In 2013, doctors wrote 136.7 million prescriptions for hydrocodone-related products, according to the DEA.
Used over a long period, it can cause symptoms of addiction. Considered an opioid or semi-synthetic opiate, this drug works much like codeine, oxycodone and morphine. It is possible to overdose from consuming too much or due to long-term, chronic use. Celebrities such as Philip Seymour Hoffman, Anna Nicole Smith and Bruce Lee are said to have died from overuse of this type of painkiller.
Hydrocodone is sold in a number of ways, including through several brand names such as Vicodin, Norco, Lortab and Zohydro. There are dozens of other brands and generic products sold with various amounts of hydrocodone in them. Slang terms for the drug include codone drug, codone pills, hydro pills, m 365 pill and others.
Most commonly used in a pill form, the tablets range from pink, small oval pills to white capsules. Most tablets contain 2.5 to 10 mg of hydrocodone, sometimes paired with acetaminophen or other drugs. Doctors may also prescribe extended-release forms in capsules and tablets to treat pain for long periods.
What Does Hydrocodone Do?
Hydrocodone works to treat pain by changing the way the brain and the central nervous system respond to discomfort. It helps in shutting off the brain’s pain communications, giving a person a sense of relief. It does not improve an injury or treat a disease. If it’s combined with acetaminophen, as many prescriptions are, it can work to reduce fever.
Most commonly, doctors prescribe the lowest dosage possible for the shortest period of time. Increasing the amount taken may offer some relief for pain not otherwise treated. However, most prescriptions are written for three to seven days, not for long-term use, due to the high risk of dependency.
The dosage and type of the drug determines how long it remains in a person’s system. It begins to work within 20 to 60 minutes for most people. Many prescriptions are written to include several dosages per day as it typically continues to work for four to eight hours. It is then metabolized by the liver and broken down.
Addiction to Hydrocodone
Addiction to hydrocodone is common in those who overuse the drug. It occurs because hydrocodone creates connections to the proteins located in the spinal cord and brain, called opioid receptors. While stopping pain signals, it also creates a euphoric feeling. People who use the drug for this feeling typically suffer from addiction.
Additionally, hydrocodone addiction occurs because it takes the body a long time to form a tolerance for the drug. That means you can take it for a long time at a small dose and continue to experience the same high. This encourages continued use.
What Are the Dangers of Using Hydrocodone?
The most common danger of using this drug is that it creates dependency in the brain. Dependency occurs when a person’s body requires the substance in order to function properly and without pain. Dependency is different from addiction, but both can occur. Long-term or heavy use of hydrocodone increases the risk of overdose.
Hydrocodone Abuse — How Can You Tell?
People who abuse hydrocodone exhibit behavior such as the following:
- They take more of the drug than their prescription indicates.
- They mix it with alcohol to increase the potency and high they feel.
- They take the drug when they no longer need it medically, such as after an injury heals.
- They use the drug illicitly without obtaining a prescription.
- They fake injuries or pain in an effort to obtain a new prescription; they doctor shop.
Signs of Hydrocodone Abuse
If you believe your loved one has an addiction to hydrocodone, it’s important to seek out immediate care due to the high risk of overdose. Common signs of hydrocodone use include:
- A slowed heartbeat
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Unexplained fear or depression
Anyone, even those taking hydrocodone for the first time, may experience these symptoms. Abuse occurs when these side effects become more common.
Short-Term Side Effects and Risks of Hydrocodone Use
When a person is abusing hydrocodone for a short period of time, they may see those symptoms escalate into higher risk effects. Overdose can occur at any time, even when a person is using the drug for a short period. Abuse side effects in the short term include:
- Anxiety and dysphoria development
- Significant fatigue
- Dizziness and difficulty walking or engaging in activities
- Muscle weakness that is significant
- Intense headaches
- Bowel obstruction due to overuse
- Breathing difficulty
- An irregular heartbeat
- Difficulty urinating
Long-Term Side Effects and Risks of Hydrocodone Use
A person who uses the drug over a long period of time is at risk for side effects and health risks such as:
- Confusion and loss of identity
- Slowed respirations
- Irregular heartbeats
- Loss of consciousness
Treatment for Hydrocodone Substance Abuse
Those with an addiction or dependency to hydrocodone may require detox. They may also benefit from inpatient or intensive outpatient care, depending on their level of dependency. Treatment will include cognitive behavioral therapy for most people and may also include group and individual counseling sessions, a 12-step program and relationship counseling.
When Is Hydrocodone Addiction Treated?
A person needs to seek out addiction treatment if they are unable to stop using hydrocodone on their own. This may be evident if:
- They are not completing responsibilities because of the drug.
- They are unable to function in day-to-day life.
- They are doctor shopping to find a new source.
- Most of the day is spent trying to locate more of the drug.
- They’ve overdosed on it previously.
Withdrawal Symptoms from Hydrocodone and Detox Needs
A key reason to seek out professional counseling for hydrocodone addiction is because it can have significant withdrawal symptoms. In those who have used the drug for a long time, withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening. Care in a medically monitored program for detoxification is necessary. Withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Constant shivering
- Body aches and pains
- Intense sweating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heart rate
- Depression and anxiety
- High fever
- Loss of consciousness
If any type of withdrawal symptoms occur when you do not get the drug, this is an indication of dependency that requires addiction treatment.
Hydrocodone Treatment at FHE Health
Hydrocodone, as well as all opioid drug addictions, can be treated at FHE Health. We offer inpatient and outpatient care for men and women struggling with substance use disorders like this. Care starts with a private, no-obligation consultation over the phone. If you or a loved one needs addiction treatment, contact our admissions team today.