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There are many reasons why a doctor may prescribe hydrocodone or another opioid to a patient. It’s common for hydrocodone to be prescribed after an injury or oral surgery, for example. The patient can treat their pain as they heal, and the idea is that they’ll stop taking hydrocodone once they’ve fully recovered. It’s also common for the dosage to be slowly reduced until the patient no longer needs any hydrocodone at all.
However, all drugs, including hydrocodone and opioids, have dangerous side effects if taken incorrectly. When hydrocodone is used to feed an addiction rather than to treat the pain it was initially prescribed for, the resulting side effects can be scary. While hydrocodone use may start being a doctor prescribed it for pain, it can quickly turn into an addiction with time. Some people abuse hydrocodone for the short-term, while others have a long-term hydrocodone addiction.
To help someone who has a hydrocodone addiction, it’s essential to know the side effects of the drug, as well as the symptoms of withdrawal. That way, you can recognize the problem and decide how you’re going to help your loved one. There are many treatment options for someone struggling with hydrocodone addiction. Here’s what you need to know about hydrocodone, its side effects, and addiction.
What is Hydrocodone?
Hydrocodone is derived from codeine. It’s a semi-synthetic opiate that’s used to treat pain, and it’s often found in pain relievers like Vicodin. It’s sometimes combined with acetaminophen. There are also extended-release versions of hydrocodone made by pharmaceutical companies. Hysingla ER is an example of extended-release hydrocodone.
The way hydrocodone works is by binding to the central nervous system’s pain receptors. This blocks pain signals from reaching the brain. In addition to keeping pain at bay, some people say that hydrocodone gives them a sort of euphoric feeling. When someone is struggling with pain following surgery or an injury, those side effects can provide welcome relief. However, that euphoric, pain-free feeling can quickly become addictive, pushing some people to seek it out even when their body is no longer in pain.
The half-life of hydrocodone is approximately four hours for every 10 milligrams. That half-life is comparable to other types of semi-synthetic drugs. That means that it takes about four hours for the body to get rid of hydrocodone compounds and to stop feeling the positive effects of the drug. However, it’s possible that hydrocodone can still be present in the saliva for up to 36 hours. It remains present in urine for up to four days, too, and it’ll be present in hair for up to 90 days.
Common Side Effects of Hydrocodone
There are many side effects to watch out for when taking hydrocodone, even if the individual is only making it for pain treatment right now. Common hydrocodone side effects include:
- Common cold symptoms
- Dry mouth
While not as common as the side effects listed above, it’s also possible that people who take hydrocodone will experience one or more of these symptoms:
- Back pain
- Muscle pain
- Stomach pain
- Swelling of the extremities
Allergic Reactions to Hydrocodone
While all of the above side effects can be considered normal, some people have an adverse reaction to hydrocodone because of an allergy. If you have any of these hydrocodone side effects, get medical help immediately, because they could point to a life-threatening allergy:
- Burning during urination
- Difficulty breathing
- Severe drowsiness
- Swelling of the face
- Swelling of the lips, throat or tongue
It’s essential to know the many side effects of hydrocodone so you can determine if the individual is experiencing a natural side effect, a rare side effect, a life-threatening side effect, or a symptom of either addiction or withdrawal.
Abuse and Addiction to Hydrocodone
While doctors typically prescribe hydrocodone for short-term treatment of pain, some people abuse the drug. Instead of taking a regular dose of hydrocodone, they may crush the pills to snort the powder. Or, the crushed powder can be diluted and injected. Once an addict runs out of the medicines that were prescribed to them, they’ll likely find another way to get more hydrocodone.
This type of hydrocodone abuse has immediate side effects that the user seeks out, including:
- Decreased anxiety
When abused for an extended period, the brain will not be able to function with hydrocodone properly. Abuse of hydrocodone causes the chemicals to more permanently interfere with the brain’s pain receptors. Since hydrocodone abusers become dependent on the drug, they’ll go through withdrawal if they stop using it. Like with all withdrawal, symptoms can be extremely comfortable for a limited amount of time before the user starts feeling normal again without the drug. Common symptoms of withdrawal from hydrocodone include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Muscle aches
Getting professional help means that withdrawal symptoms can be managed and eased so that the phase passes as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Signs of Hydrocodone Addiction
Many of the signs of hydrocodone addiction are related to the drug’s common side effects. Pay attention to any of these symptoms if you think someone you know is addicted to hydrocodone:
- Blurred vision
- Cold or clammy skin
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Feelings of fear
- Muscle weakness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Ringing in the ears
- Slowed breathing
- Slowed down heartbeat
Preventing Hydrocodone Addiction
If you’re worried that someone you know is on the road to being addicted to hydrocodone, there are a few steps that can be taken to prevent the problem from worsening. First, make sure the individual takes the hydrocodone precisely the way the doctor prescribed. That means that they take the correct dosage at the specific intervals suggested by the doctor or pharmacist.
Second, they can keep a pain diary to track how much pain they were in when they took the hydrocodone. Over time, the pain should improve; if healing isn’t progressing, visit the doctor for advice or a different treatment plan. If the pain does improve, the doctor should start reducing the hydrocodone dosage until none is needed.
Being able to recognize that addiction is on the horizon is the most crucial step toward preventing it. If the individual takes more hydrocodone than suggested, takes it more frequently than recommended, or continues to use it after they’ve healed or should be pain-free, those are strong signs that an addiction is developing.
Getting Treatment for Hydrocodone Addiction
There are many different ways to treat hydrocodone addiction, and the one that the individual goes with coincide with the nature of their addiction. There’s therapy for the individual, groups or families, inpatient and outpatient treatments, and other holistic treatments like acupuncture and massage therapy. Your loved one doesn’t have to live with hydrocodone addiction. If you’ve noticed any of the side effects listed above, encourage them to get the help they need so they can start living a healthier life.