Hydrocodone is among the opioid analgesic classification of prescription drugs. It is used to treat pain like codeine and morphine, by binding to opioid receptors in the brain. Hydrocodone can be effective in treating severe pain, such as that caused by surgery. However, as is the case with many opioids, it can be highly addictive. The common hydrocodone-containing drugs are Vicodin, Norco and Lortab. Each year, over 140 million prescriptions are written for such drugs. This is also one of the most widely abused prescription drugs of our day.
Signs and Symptoms
Taking hydrocodone (even according to prescription) can cause undesirable side effects such as confusion, constipation, sleepiness, nausea and vomiting and dizziness. Taking the drug regularly will cause tolerance, which means that a person will have to take more and more to get the same effects. This risks overdose.
Abuse is any use of a hydrocodone drug that is not prescribed by a doctor. If you take a hydrocodone-containing medication more often than prescribed, in larger doses than prescribed, in any way other than prescribed (such as chewing pills instead of swallowing them) or without a prescription, this is abuse. 1
The following symptoms indicate a problem in drug use. If many of the following symptoms are present, there might be a problem with drug abuse.
- Frequently requesting medication refills
- Visiting many different doctors to get prescriptions
- Exaggerating or feigning symptoms to receive a prescription
- Quickly running out of money
- Spending increased amounts of time in isolation
- Losing interest or focus on normal activities and directing attention to obtaining hydrocodone
Addiction is when drug abuse becomes compulsive. This might cause a person to think that he or she needs a drug to get through the day. Even though taking the drug causes problems in relatively all areas of life, a hydrocodone addict will still consider the drug abuse necessary.
Overdosing on the drug is easy when there is a habit of abuse and/or addiction. Even when a person takes the same amount that he or she has become accustomed to, the body might react with a different potency tolerance based on outside environmental factors. The symptoms of an overdose include:
- Weak muscles
- Heart beating slowly
- Breath rate decreased
- Skin becoming clammy and cold
- Death 2
Hydrocodone addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders
Many seek to abuse hydrocodone-containing drugs for the calm and euphoric state of mind that the drug use produces. Of course, such highs are short-lived and will result in a greater level of distress once the high is over. This does shed light, however, on the fact that sometimes the addiction results because of a person’s inability to properly find a calm state of mind in a healthy way. This may be due to an undiagnosed mental health disorder.
Addiction treatment will screen for any mental health disorders that may have led to or developed as a result of drug addiction. If any mental health disorders are discovered, treatment will be tailored to fit the cognitive and emotional needs of the patient. Often, treating one disorder perpetuates the ability to heal from the other.
The Process of Treatment
Many strong opioid addictions are best treated with inpatient care. This guarantees that the drug will not be available during the treatment process. A person in inpatient care will have to stop focusing his or her attention on how to acquire the drug, as the drug will not be available. Lectures on addiction will be given that should be useful in learning to manage daily life off of drugs. Therapy will be provided to help such a person learn instead to focus on managing responsibilities without substance abuse. This therapy can be in both group and individual settings. Generally, the inpatient stay is for a minimum of about one month although each individual case is unique.
Detox from hydrocodone can be very uncomfortable, but it is by no means the most difficult out there. Inpatient care can help to smooth the symptoms and care for any medical concerns that may arise along the way. If a person chooses to go through detox in the inpatient care setting, he or she might decide to spend the rest of the rehabilitation experience in his or her own home environment by pursuing outpatient care. This might mean spending a few hours a day at treatment, then spending the rest of the day in normal activities. This is an excellent way to learn to manage day to day anxieties and responsibilities with a sober lifestyle.
Hydrocodone addiction is very treatable, so emotional stability and full addiction management is within the reach of any individual.
1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Hydrocodone.” Last revised 5/15/15. Found online 2/18/16 at: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a614045.html.
2. U.S. Department of Justice. “Drug Fact Sheet. Hydrocodone.” Found online 2/18/16 at: http://www.dea.gov/druginfo/drug_data_sheets/Hydrocodone.pdf.