Hydrocodone is a prescription opioid painkiller. Like codeine and morphine, hydrocodone can be an effective treatment for severe pain, such as that caused by surgery or severe illness. Like other opioid drugs, it can be highly addictive.
Common hydrocodone-based drugs include Vicodin, Norco and Lortab. Hydrocodone is the most frequently prescribed opioid in the United States. It is also one of the most widely abused prescription drugs of our day.1
Signs and Symptoms of Hydrocodone Misuse
Taking hydrocodone (even according to prescription) can cause undesirable side effects such as confusion, constipation, sleepiness, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. Regular use of hydrocodone will lead to tolerance, which means that a person will have to take more and more of this drug to get the same effects. Ultimately, overdose death becomes a serious risk.
Any use of any hydrocodone drug that is not prescribed by a doctor is considered abuse. 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.2
If many of the following symptoms are present, there might be a problem with opioid use.
- Frequently requesting medication refills
- Visiting many different doctors to get prescriptions (“doctor shopping”)
- 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 hydrocodone
Dependence begins when the body begins to feel aches, pains, or withdrawal without hydrocodone. Addiction begins when drug use becomes compulsive. Even if hydrocodone causes problems in relatively all areas of life, an addicted person will still consider the drug use necessary.
Overdose becomes more likely when there is a habit of abuse or addiction. The symptoms of an overdose include:
- Weak muscles
- Heart beating slowly
- Decrease in breathing or depth of breaths
- Clammy or cold skin
Hydrocodone Addiction and Co-occurring Mental Health Disorders
Many people misuse narcotic painkillers for the temporary euphoric state they produce. 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 addiction often begins when a person struggles to find a calm state of mind in a healthy way. This may be due to an undiagnosed mental health disorder.
Integrated 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 can be tailored to fit the cognitive and emotional needs of the patient. Often, treatment for one disorder perpetuates the ability to heal from the other.
My addiction started out like many addictions do. I started with doctor prescribed painkillers (hydrocodone, Percocet, and eventually OxyContin). I was completely ignorant to the addictive factor of those medications. I soon became aware when my habit began to cost me on an average of $150-$200 daily and I would become very sick without it!
Yes, I did feel pretty bad [in treatment] for 22 days, but in the grand scheme of life that is really nothing compared to the rest of my life free of addiction! It is worth it! I am so happy I decided to give it a shot. I battled and I won!—Amy J., HeroesInRecovery.com
The Process of Treatment
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 hydrocodone, as the drug will not be available. Dedicated detox services, combined with individual and group therapy, help heal both body and mind.
Detox from hydrocodone can be very uncomfortable, but it is by no means impossible. Inpatient care can smooth the symptoms and address 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 treatable, so emotional stability and full addiction management is within the reach of any individual. Skywood’s experienced recovery professionals can help you find the best treatment possible for yourself or someone you love.
1 Drug Fact Sheet: Hydrocodone.The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Accessed 21 Jul 2017.
2 Hydrocodone.U.S. Department of Health and Human Services15 May 2015. Accessed 21 Jul 2017.
3 Hydrocodone/Oxycodone Overdose. U.S. National Library of Medicine. 31 Jan 2017. Accessed 21 Jul 2017.