Hydrocodone Addiction and Abuse

Many people consider hydrocodone to be the “gateway drug” for other opiates and pain killers, but the issue of hydrocodone addiction itself is a very serious problem. Someone who abuses hydrocodone is allowing their body to build up a tolerance for the drug. Once the tolerance is built up, the user needs more, and eventually, something more powerful to achieve the same effects as before. This is known as physical dependence. Addiction is when both physical and emotional dependence is present.

In 2013, there were 124 million prescriptions written for pills containing hydrocodone, according to The National Institute on Drug Abuse. Also, ABC news says the United States was found to be responsible for 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone consumption. With these facts, you should know that it is that this is a systematic problem on a national scale.

Hydrocone Addiction and Abuse

Hydrocodone is the main ingredient that can be found in some opioid painkillers. Its administration is heavily regulated and monitored because prolonged use will lead to hydrocodone dependence, tolerance, and ultimately, addiction. For those asking what drug hydrocodone is, it’s in the same league as morphine, oxycodone, or codeine. People may be familiar with the brand names Vicodin, Lortab, Norco, and Zohydro, and these are hydrocodone-based painkillers.

Hydrocodone is an extremely dangerous drug. It’s important that you talk to your doctor about other medicines you are taking to determine the counteracting effects or avoid overdose. Parents need to put their pill bottles away from the reach of children. If abused, this drug will cause health risks or even death. When someone has been prescribed this medication, it is possible to experience hydrocodone withdrawal even when taken as directed. People suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD are advised to steer clear of the drug.

In 2014, the US Drug Enforcement Agency moved hydrocodone combination products to Schedule II from the previous Schedule III. According to the DEA, Schedule II refers to dangerous drugs with a high potential for abuse. Abuse of these drugs will lead to severe physical and psychological dependence. The restriction means that doctors may only be able to issue prescriptions for up to three months. Before the stricter schedule, patients could ask to be prescribed for as long as 180 days. Typically, however, prescriptions should only last a month unless an extension has a medical justification.

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Associated Risks of Being Addicted to Hydrocodone

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are 115 people who die daily due to opioid poisoning. Meanwhile, the opioid crisis in the US is already costing taxpayers more than $78 million every year due to federal and state support for addiction rehab, criminal justice, health care, and lost productivity.

Among the disturbing stats on opioid addiction include:

  • 20% to 30% of patients taking painkillers tend to abuse them
  • Of that total, between 8 and 12% develop a disorder of painkiller abuse
  • Overdose cases shot up by 30% between 2016 and 2017
  • Opioid dependents tend to resort to harder drugs like heroin and fentanyl when their doctors no longer issue them a prescription

Meanwhile, the US National Library of Medicine estimated that there are 2 million Americans who are struggling with opioid addiction. The overdose deaths also increased, with 72,000 deaths recorded in the US in 2017. In fact, drug overdose is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in the United States, and opioid painkillers claim more than half of the total.

The behavioral changes that a hydrocodone dependent will exhibit result from the alteration of the chemical chemistry of the brain. The drug abuser will be preoccupied with getting the drug and prioritize that over everything else. He also tends to court danger as a result, such as going to dangerous corners to buy illicit drugs from street sellers. Drug dependents are also prone to petty crimes like stealing to support their addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Hydrocodone Addiction

How do you know that the patient is abusing hydrocodone? If the person takes more than the doctor’s recommended dosage, it’s highly likely that he’s abusing it. It doesn’t matter if the intention is legitimate, which is to take away the pain. The person concerned may also ingest the pill beyond the prescribed period.

Like most opioids, hydrocodone helps manage the pain and gives the user a euphoric feeling. What it does is invade your brain’s reward system after interfering with the limbic system and the pain receptors. This is what makes the user develop a dependence on the drug.

You can expect to feel:

  • Euphoria
  • Intense relaxation
  • Calmness
  • Unexplained happiness
  • Decreased anxiety

Increasing your intake will multiply the effects. However, you are also risking overdose if you take hydrocodone beyond the doctor’s recommendations. By the time the user develops a tolerance for the drug, however, it’s much harder to keep them sober. He will need to take more to achieve the same effects.

Side Effects of Hydrocodone Abuse

There are some warning signs that you can see in a loved one struggling with hydrocodone addiction. Among these signs are:

  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Confusion
  • Lack of focus

You should also watch out for behavioral changes, like losing interest in his studies, school, or work activities or always locking himself inside the room. The main motivation for the user now is when to get the next score. This means they will likely overlook basic hygiene or just about anything else because they are preoccupied with the drug.

However, there are also long-term effects of prolonged hydrocodone use; these include:

  • Liver problems
  • Hearing loss
  • Nausea
  • Chronic constipation
  • Respiratory depression

Overdose Symptoms of Hydrocodone Abuse

For someone who is addicted to hydrocodone, it is easy to overdose. As your body builds up a tolerance to the drug, you will want more and more to feel its original effect. When this happens, you run the risk of overdosing.

If you overdose on hydrocodone, you run the risk of death. Because of the type of medicine, your respiratory system can slow down to the point where it will eventually stop. People with clammy skin, pinpoint pupils, and itching and vomiting have too much hydrocodone. You should not let that person go to sleep and seek medical attention immediately.

Symptoms of overdose may include the following:

  • Clammy skin
  • Cold skin
  • Narrowed pupils
  • Slowed heart rate and breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Coma
  • Death

What to Do in Case of Hydrocodone Overdose?

If you suspect that your loved one is overdosing on hydrocodone, call 911 immediately so they can dispatch medical rescuers to your site. If the victim is unconscious, make sure the airway is clear. If he’s suffering from a seizure, make sure he doesn’t bump his head on anything hard.

However, an antidote drug called Naloxone reverses or blocks the effects of hydrocodone medication. Having one near you can very well save the life of the victim. The government has lifted the restrictions on this drug, which means you can purchase one in emergency cases even without a doctor’s prescription.

In the case of an overdose, give the first dose of this drug before calling 911. If the victim relapses regarding the dangerous symptoms, give him another dose. The common interval would be two to three minutes. Monitor his situation until medical help arrives.

Types of Hydrocodone and Combination Drugs

Unfortunately, there are still cases of this drug being acquired illegally. Hydrocodone is used as also used as a party drug. It is combined with acetaminophen or ibuprofen in brand names like Vicodin. There are also dangers of overuse in combination products such as Vicodin and more. Below are some of the brands of this medication:

  • Vicodin– This drug has 300 mg of acetaminophen combined with it. This may be taken in different dosages depending on the doctor’s prescription. It should be taken no more than every 4 to 6 hours.
  • Norco– This drug is usually prescribed in 7.5 mg or 10 mg of Hydrocodone combined with 325 mg of acetaminophen.
  • Lortab– To add to the pain-relieving effects of the drug, it is also mixed with acetaminophen. This increases the risk of hydrocodone dependency.
  • Zohydro– This drug is a powerful painkiller with reduced risk of liver damage as compared to other brands.

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Addressing Hydrocodone Addiction

Once you can come to terms and accept that you have developed an addiction to hydrocodone, you can begin to take the next steps toward bettering your life. This may be hard to come to terms with because there is a social stigma with drug addicts that they are bad or weak. You should not think this about yourself! By addressing and acknowledging your addiction and taking the steps to improve your life, you demonstrate that you are a strong person.

The process of going through drug treatment and rehab can be emotionally difficult. You will discover things about yourself that you did not know and learn what made you become addicted in the first place. The journey of recovery is a challenge, but the reward of a new chance at life is priceless.

Helping a Friend or Family Member Address Their Hydrocodone Addiction

If you are here for a loved one, then we hope you found this information to be helpful. Addiction is an unfortunate situation that can happen to anybody. You should not feel like this is your fault! You can do some things to help your loved one address their problem.


  • Let them know you are aware of their problem
  • Let them know that you care and want to help
  • Tell them that there are treatment options for them
  • Tell them that you love them and will be there


  • Bring this up when they are under the influence
  • Make them feel like they are failures
  • Let them convince you they don’t need treatments
  • Bring up too many hurtful reminders of their addiction at once

Get Sober Today

Hydrocodone rehab is effective addiction treatment. Understanding hydrocodone addiction and hydrocodone dependency can avoid dangerous effects and prevent the worst scenarios. You should also know the things needed before making a decision to go to a rehabilitation center.

Rehabilitation services are open 24 hours a day, and you can even access treatment centers online. If you have questions about treatment, you can also inquire by contacting a treatment center and setting up an appointment.

Medical detox and drug addiction treatment can make it easier to recover from addiction. The beginning of recovery is stepping into rehab and accepting the situation. There will be different steps, but it will be worth it in the end. Treatment should not be done alone, there are services that are willing to help and assist patients toward sobriety.

If you or your loved ones are suffering from any kind of drug addiction, seeking help and deciding on a treatment service as early as possible is important to avoid worsening of the condition.

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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