Hydrocodone

Modified: 22nd Jul 2019

Last updated on July 22nd, 2019 at 12:45 pm

There is a huge problem with painkiller abuse in the United States. In fact, 2 million Americans were struggling with a painkiller addiction in 2015 alone.

Although hydrocodone has a great potential for abuse and addiction, it is an effective treatment for acute pain. When used as prescribed, it can help patients overcome short-term pain at their convenience.

With long-term pain, however, its use becomes obscured. Pain is hard to objectively measure, and patients can easily exceed the amount they need.

If you or a loved one is struggling with hydrocodone use, consider the guide below before seeking help.

What Is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is an opioid, most commonly known under the brand name Vicodin. This semisynthetic drug is derived from the poppy plant, likely indigenous to the Eastern Mediterranean region.

Definition

Hydrocodone is classified as an opioid, which means that it binds to the opioid receptors in the body. Once they bind, they send opioid messages to the brain, which causes calming and euphoric effects.

These opioid effects are also created naturally in the body and are used in its system of pain control. Opioid drugs, however, create more intense effects than the body naturally produces.

Drugs like hydrocodone are helpful for treating severe pain, but their potential for abuse is problematic.

How Is It Taken?

Hydrocodone is only available in oral forms. It is commonly combined with other pain-relieving drugs, like paracetamol, aspirin, and ibuprofen. There are both immediate release and controlled release forms available.

A hydrocodone prescription should be followed diligently. This usually means taking it at the same time of day. The pills or tablets should be taken whole – never crushed, chewed, divided, or dissolved.

Unfortunately, hydrocodone use can easily turn into hydrocodone addiction. For long-term pain treatment, discuss alternative pain treatment methods with your physician to avoid chemical dependency.

Taking hydrocodone by any other method— whether nasally or intravenously— is a dangerous misuse of the drug. This is a red flag for hydrocodone abuse and the user should seek help immediately

Who Takes It?

Opioid drugs like hydrocodone are typically prescribed for pain relief. The pain can be mild to severe, and it is up to the patient to determine what level is needed to address their pain. This is why it easily leads to drug abuse.

Of course, patients allergic to hydrocodone will need to find another method of pain relief. Those with breathing problems, like asthma and other conditions, should also avoid hydrocodone as it can cause respiratory depression.

Other medical issues that can contraindicate with hydrocodone include:

  • seizures
  • liver disease
  • head injuries
  • brain tumors
  • mental illness
  • drug addiction
  • kidney disease
  • urination issues
  • alcohol addiction
  • thyroid problems
  • long QT syndrome
  • pancreatic problems
  • gallbladder problems
  • stomach or intestinal blockage

Remember to consult your primary care physician before determining that hydrocodone is the best method of pain management for you.

Is Your Loved One Addicted?

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A Brief History of Hydrocodone

Hydrocodone has a long history of use. Developed in the 1920s by a German pharmaceutical company, it was first used as a less toxic method of pain relief. Compared to other methods at the time, hydrocodone had a slower buildup of tolerance.

Ironically, the United States government hoped that hydrocodone would be a less addictive alternative to the painkillers already on the market. Early animal testing showed the euphoric effects of the drug and warned of its potency.

The original company that created it also created its combination with acetaminophen – this was originally sold as the brand Vicodin. This led to a huge boom in popularity.

As scientists initially predicted, this drug is not only effective but addictive. In fact, it is the most prescribed painkiller on the market. This drug quickly became one of the most abused legal drugs available.

Consequences of Hydrocodone Abuse

The immediate effects of hydrocodone are the pain relief and euphoria caused by binding to the body’s opioid receptors. When taken appropriately, the effects are manageable. When abused, they can become dangerous.

Short-Term Health Effects

Whether taken appropriately or abused, hydrocodone can cause short-term side effects. These short-term effects include:

  • nausea
  • anxiety
  • lethargy
  • itchiness
  • headache
  • sleepiness
  • numbness
  • relaxation
  • constipation
  • slurred speech
  • muscle weakness

Even when used appropriately, more serious side effects can occur. These include:

  • vomiting
  • a slowed heartbeat
  • problems urinating
  • an irregular heartbeat
  • obstruction of the bowels
  • problems with breathing
  • allergic reactions like hives or a rash

If you or a loved one experiences any of these side effects, contact emergency medical services immediately.

Long-Term Health Effects

Even the most diligent patients can become addicted to hydrocodone. It has a long list of long-term effects, and most of them are not positive.

One of the worst long-term effects of hydrocodone use is addiction. This is not the patient’s fault, as long-term use leads to tolerance – even when used as directed.

Other long-term effects of hydrocodone include:

  • damage to the brain
  • damage to opioid receptors
  • damage to the endocrine system
  • damage to the respiratory system
  • damage to the gastrointestinal system

Hydrocodone is a powerful drug that should be used sparingly. Talk to your primary care physician about alternative treatment methods to supplement prescription use.

Questions About Treatment?

If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, you probably have many questions regarding your options for treatment. Our admissions counselors are standing by to answer your questions!

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Using Hydrocodone With Other Drugs

Because hydrocodone is so powerful, it interacts poorly with many other substances. This means that hydrocodone does not mix well with other types of drugs.

Which Drugs Are Commonly Used With Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is commonly used as a pain reliever. For this reason, it is often paired with other pain-relieving drugs.

When taking hydrocodone mixed with aspirin, ibuprofen, or paracetamol, remember the appropriate dosages for the common pain relievers. Do not exceed that dosage.

Additionally, an allergy to opioids absolutely contraindicates with its usage. Always consult your physician about your current medical condition before beginning a new treatment method.

Treating Hydrocodone Addiction

Hydrocodone addiction comes with a lot of shame. Addicts are afraid of how family and friends will judge their condition. The truth is that this condition is a common one in the United States.

Overcoming hydrocodone addiction is not easy, and there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. Contact Us to find out how we can help you through this tough time.

Article Reviewed by Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPA

Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPADr. Keerthy Sunder, MD is an accomplished and internationally recognized expert in the field of addiction. He has earned diplomates from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, the American Board of Addiction Medicine, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.