Vicodin is an intensely powerful drug that can change the way the brain perceives pain, and for some people, it can bring relief and the ability to return to an active and healthy lifestyle. The pills can boost euphoria levels inside the brain, however, and some people are drawn to the happiness the pills can bring. When people abuse Vicodin pills they’ve been prescribed or when they abuse pills they get from someone else, an addiction can quickly follow. A Vicodin addiction like this is a chronic condition, and medical treatment is required to ensure the person can take control once more.
Unfortunately, some people don’t get the help they need for a Vicodin addiction because they don’t recognize their addiction when it appears. It’s understandable, as it can be difficult for addicted people to discern whether or not they are addicted to a substance they might take each day. Often, it’s up to family members and friends to spot the addiction issue and encourage the person to get help and get better.
From Therapy to Abuse
Opioids like Vicodin are often provided for people with chronic conditions. In a study of the issue in the journal Pain Physician, researchers found that about 90 percent of people who have pain conditions treated outside of a pain management clinic use opioids like Vicodin.[i] The pills seem to bring them relief, and they’re easy for doctors to dispense. As a result, people with pain might be able to walk into a doctor’s office, describe their symptoms and walk out with a handful of pills. It’s just easy to get these medications.
Some people who take Vicodin for pain control never move from use to abuse. They simply take the pills as they are prescribed, each and every day, and they’re not tempted to abuse the drug. Unfortunately, some people do move from taking pills appropriately to taking the pills in a destructive manner. In fact, according to a separate study in the journal Pain Physician, 24 percent of people given a prescription for an opioid like Vicodin in response to a pain complaint develop an abusive pattern of use in time.[ii]
While some people abuse Vicodin after obtaining a prescription for drugs, others use these pills on a strictly recreational basis, never receiving a prescription at all. These users may have pain conditions they’re trying to handle on their own, but they may also have psychological pain that they’re trying to amend with the help of pharmacology. For example, in a study in the journal Pain, researchers found that mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety were predictive of opioid abuse as 45.3 percent of those who abused opioids had these other mental health issues.[iii] For some, these little pills seem like gateways to a happier place.
People without a prescription shouldn’t be able to access Vicodin at all, but it seems as though the pills are reasonably easy for anyone to get. In a study of the issue in the journal Pain Medicine, researchers found that people obtained prescription drugs like Vicodin from a variety of sources, including the following:
- Patients with pain conditions
- Doctors willing to write prescriptions without a visit
- Pill brokers
- The elderly
Some users buy drugs online from websites that require no prescription at all while others work within the community, stealing and buying drugs where they can. While anyone who uses and abuses prescription drugs in this fashion should consider getting help, as this kind of use can be incredibly damaging to a person’s health and happiness, not everyone who abuses these drugs has a case of addiction. That only comes about when specific qualifications are met.
Vicodin side effects often appear the first few times a person takes Vicodin. The body needs time to get used to the drug, and in the interim, people can experience drowsiness or dizziness, difficulty paying attention to conversations or organizing thoughts. In time, however, the drug doesn’t seem to cause any changes at all even though damage is taking place at a cellular level. If the use continues, signs of physical dependence can take hold.
The physical symptoms of Vicodin dependence can be subtle and easy to ignore, especially for people who take the pills each day to keep a pain problem under control. In fact, the signs might be ignored completely, unless the person misses a dose or tries to stop taking the drug.
Then the body rebels, and the physical dependence is revealed through withdrawal symptoms, including the following:
- Headaches and agitation
- Sweating and diarrhea
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bone and muscle pain
These symptoms start slowly and increase in intensity. Some people correct the illness by returning to drug use as they simply cannot handle the pain and suffering. Those who wait, however, may find that their discomfort peaks and plateaus within about 72 hours.
This physical dependence will take place in anyone who takes a prescription opiate regularly for any length of time. The signs can be troubling, but in general, they’re not considered hallmarks of an addiction issue. After all, some people develop these signs even when they’re taking the drug as it’s prescribed. An addiction only takes place when the physical signs are augmented by psychological distress.
Mental Health Concerns
Psychological changes characterize a Vicodin addiction. People like this may experience deep cravings for the drug, and they crave the euphoric high associated with taking the pills.
In a desperate urge to achieve that high, these people may focus on the following goals:
- Maintaining a supply of pills at any cost
- Supplementing the prescription with alcohol and other pills
- Fraudulently purchasing double and triple prescriptions
- Buying extra pills on the street
People who have prescriptions may disregard the orders of their doctors, taking pills on a haphazard schedule that depends more on mood than on signs of pain. People like this might also find it difficult to achieve a high, so they might snort their Vicodin pills or chew them before swallowing them. In time, people might take such high doses of their pills that they begin to pass out during their drug-taking episodes. Overdosing on Vicodin can be quite serious, and people might end up in the hospital due to their habits. Even so, people who have experienced an overdose might still claim that they don’t have an addiction. The drug keeps them in denial even as their lives begin to unravel.
Experts use a series of very strict rules in order to diagnose an addiction to a drug like Vicodin, and according to these rules, people can only be addicted if they do one or more of the following things within a 12-month period:
- Use the drug despite its consequences related to work, home or school obligations
- Use the drug recurrently, even when its use is physically hazardous
- Develop legal troubles due to drug use
- Continue to use even though social or interpersonal problems arise
People with these signs are focusing their lives on their addictions allowing all other goals and concerns to simply fade away. More Vicodin pills are all they want, and they’re willing to take those pills even when their lives are falling apart around them. People with a psychological addiction to Vicodin like this are in trouble, and at this point, Vicodin rehab becomes necessary.
Discussing the Issue
Some people who abuse Vicodin are well aware that their behavior can’t be considered healthy, and they’re more than happy to accept help when it’s offered by loving family members or friends. There are some people, however, who believe that they are using Vicodin appropriately, and they remain in deep denial about the dangers their habits can cause. Families of a person like this might experience recurrent fights in which they try to bring up the abuse and hear only denial from the person they love. Sometimes, it’s best to plan ahead for a talk, just to make sure the family’s message of concern gets through.
In a formal intervention for Vicodin addiction, the family members can discuss all of the warning signs they’ve see in the person they love. They might discuss physical changes, emotional changes or even financial difficulties they can attribute to the use of Vicodin. Offering proof of arrests or crimes committed due to Vicodin might also be helpful.
Then, the family can remind the person that treatment can help and that the person won’t need to keep using and abusing this dangerous drug forever. The more hard proof the family can provide, the more likely it might be that the person with the addiction will accept the help of a treatment program.