What is Hydrocodone?
Between the years of 1997 and 2005, retail sales of five major painkillers rose 90 percent, according to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration statistics. It’s possible to attribute this rise to changes in public perception. In the past, pain was considered a part of life, and people who were in pain were often encouraged to grit their teeth, pretend the pain wasn’t there and move forward with their lives. As the link between pain and depression seemed to become more and more clear, however, people became less and less interested in learning how to cope with pain. They didn’t want to simply ignore it and allow other mental health issues to blossom. Instead, they wanted strong medications to make the pain go away, right now.
While improved pain control is undoubtedly helpful, especially for people who have major medical health concerns, not all of the increase in painkiller sales can be chalked up to beneficial societal changes. In fact, much of the rise could be pinned on addiction. Hydrocodone, in particular, seems to be a painkiller associated with high levels of abuse and addiction, and those concerns can be devastating for a person’s long-term physical and mental health. For example, the Drug Abuse Warning Network reports that emergency department visits due to hydrocodone products increased 123 percent between 2004 and 2008. Some people died due to their abuse of the drug.
These aren’t people who were using a beneficial drug to control pain. These are people who got locked into a cycle of abuse and addiction, and it was harmful to their health. Addictions to hydrocodone can be damaging, but there are a variety of tools that can help people to leave their addictions in the past. This article will outline a few approaches therapists use in order to help their clients recover from these devastating addictions.
Recovering from an addiction to hydrocodone begins when a person admits that the problem exists and that it must be stopped. Some people come to that realization during conversations with their families, in which they’re provided with proof that the addiction has been noticed and that it’s destructive. Interventions like this may provide some hydrocodone addicts with all the information they’ll need to steel their will and prepare for rehab. Some people don’t seem to understand that they have an addiction, however, and they may continue to deny the abuse by saying:
- “I can stop anytime I want to.”
- “At least I only take pills. I don’t shoot drugs or anything.”
- “I only take these for pain. That’s it.”
- “This is my business, and it shouldn’t concern anyone else.”
It can be hard for families to break through this level of denial, but counselors may have tools that a standard family simply cannot access. If families can convince a hydrocodone addict to attend just a few simple counseling sessions, the counselor can use motivational interviewing techniques to help the addicted person see the need for addiction treatment.
In a motivational interviewing session, a counselor might ask an addicted person how many hydrocodone tablets he/she takes on a standard day. The counselor then might point out the number of tablets doctors typically recommend for people in chronic pain. Addicted people might take twice or three times the recommended number of pills, and when this fact is presented, the addict might have a slow realization that perhaps addiction really is an issue. Motivational interviewing uses gentle prodding like this in order to help the person see the behavior in a whole new light.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that motivational interviewing allows clients to be active in therapy. They can choose to stay the same, or they can choose to change based on the new information provided. No rules or wishes are imposed on the person. Instead, the person is allowed to either respond to subtle suggestions or ignore them altogether. People who might balk at being “told” what to do might see the need for a formal hydrocodone rehab program.
Dealing with Cravings
Hydrocodone has a chemical structure that’s quite similar to heroin, and just as people addicted to heroin often need medications in order to keep their cravings for drugs in check, people addicted to hydrocodone often need medication in order to avoid physical discomfort and cravings. Replacement medications such as methadone or buprenorphine can fool the brain into believing it has access to hydrocodone, and all is well. This can be helpful during the withdrawal stages, as the brain won’t react with alarm as it adjusts to normal functioning without hydrocodone, but it can also be helpful during rehab, when people are working through therapy and contemplating a return to their communities. With the help of replacement medications, they can take these important steps without being distracted by physical discomfort or overwhelming drug cravings.
Those who take replacement medications are asked to adhere to a strict schedule. Methadone is typically taken daily, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports, while buprenorphine can be taken either daily or every other day. Skipping a dose can lead to a relapse in symptoms, so this is never advised. Similarly, people with addictive histories might also be tempted to abuse their medications in order to “get high.” Those who might be tempted to cheat in this way may be given a separate medication, naloxone, which can block the euphoric properties associated with drug abuse. They can still take their replacement medications as directed, but if they take high doses, no euphoria will occur.
In a typical therapy program for hydrocodone abuse, therapists use cognitive behavioral techniques to help clients learn to develop excellent relapse prevention skills. In therapy, people learn to change their thought patterns, breaking apart negative thoughts instead of acting upon them. People also learn how to deal with feelings of stress and inadequacy, rather than suppressing those feelings with hydrocodone. Some programs use incentives to keep their clients enrolled in care. For each session the person completes, or each urine test that’s free of hydrocodone, the person receives a small prize or gift.
Some therapy sessions are held in a one-on-one basis in a therapist’s office, but other sessions are held in group settings in which many addicted people come together to listen to the therapist and practice their new skills with one another. These group meetings can help people to build up their social skills, which might help them to function a little better in society when their treatment programs are complete.
People can use both medications and therapy to help them stay sober when treatment is complete, but there are other aspects of life that could play a key role in recovery from a hydrocodone addiction.
In a study of the subject, published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, those opioid addicts in recovery five years after treatment had ended attributed their recovery to:
- Personal motivation to get well
- Experiences in the treatment program
- Their religious or spiritual beliefs
- Their families
- Their jobs
Having a full and active life, bursting with activities that help people to feel whole and complete, allows a hydrocodone addiction to wither on the vine. Pulling together a life like this might seem difficult, when the addiction is strong and the person feels his/her life falling apart, but addiction treatment programs can also be of vital help in this effort.
Therapists can pull together sessions to help all members of the family come together to discuss their differences and commonalities. Counselors can link clients with community programs that can help them find employment. Support groups can increase a person’s sense of spirituality and link with the divine. All of these aspects can be addressed in a comprehensive program for hydrocodone addiction.
Dealing With Pain
Some people develop hydrocodone addictions because they have a chronic pain issue that didn’t seem to resolve in any other way. When these people are asked to stop abusing their painkilling drugs, they may be terrified that they’ll be asked to live in pain from here to eternity. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Addiction programs may encourage the person to work with his/her doctor on a more effective pain control program. This might include switching to a non-opiate painkiller, rather than hydrocodone. This might also include physical therapy, massage therapy, strengthening exercises or even surgery to address the underlying physical dysfunction. Once that issue has been addressed and the pain is gone, the person might be even more likely to succeed in an addiction program. Addiction programs might also provide alternative medicine treatments that could reduce pain, such as:
- Tai chi
By using these methods, people might gain full control of any lingering pain, and if the pain returns, they’ll know what to do to keep the pain in check, without reverting to hydrocodone use and abuse. Similarly, a study in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found that those who were members of addiction support groups and who had stable family support were less likely to abuse opioids like hydrocodone compared to people who did not have these attributes.
Once again, therapy for addiction would seem to help provide people with the tools they’d need to keep from abusing hydrocodone, even if the pain did return and they were provided with medications for that pain. With the complete suite of tools they picked up in rehab, and an ongoing will to stay sober, people can resist the temptation to relapse to the world of drug abuse.
Hydrocodone can be an effective medication for pain control, but people who use the drug can quickly fall under its sway and develop serious and debilitating cases of addiction. Overcoming these issues alone is hard but with the help of a structured treatment program, people can get better. Many of our clients have mental illnesses as well as addictions, and we’re adept at developing comprehensive treatment programs that address both issues at the same time, offering our clients a complete path to recovery.
With our help, you can beat an addiction to hydrocodone. Please call us to find out more.