Vicodin is a brand name for a prescription painkiller that contains acetaminophen and hydrocodone. Acetaminophen is used to relieve pain and fever. It’s the main ingredient in Tylenol.
Hydrocodone is a narcotic analgesic. It relieves pain by acting on the central nervous system. Hydrocodone is also the most widely prescribed narcotic analgesic in the United States, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.
It’s the hydrocodone, not the acetaminophen, that makes Vicodin addictive. Hydrocodone is an opioid, which means it affects and central and peripheral nervous systems. While it can minimize your reaction to pain, it can also produce feelings of lightheadedness and euphoria. The drug can also make you feel tired and relaxed.
Like many drugs, the longer you take Vicodin, the more you’ll need to take in order to produce the same effect. In addition to making you addicted, long-term Vicodin use can also lead to other unpleasant consequences, such as constipation. To help ease that problem, patients taking Vicodin sometimes also use a laxative or increase fiber and fluid intake.
But other complications can develop when a person starts abusing Vicodin. Your mental outlook may also be affected. People who abuse Vicodin can become anxious and confused. Seizures and convulsions can occur. A slowed heartbeat can develop, too. Serious Vicodin abuse can even result in a coma or death.
Vicodin addiction often starts innocently enough. A person may be injured or may be dealing with chronic pain. A doctor writes them a prescription for Vicodin. But after awhile, the prescribed amount isn’t enough.
People who become addicted may try to get prescriptions from multiple doctors. They may even resort to extreme, even criminal means to obtain it.
While Vicodin can be very helpful in treating pain, it can become habit forming. Quitting can be physically and psychologically difficult for those who become addicted.
Possible initial withdrawal symptoms include:
- anxiety and agitation
- runny nose
- muscle aches
More serious symptoms are:
Withdrawal complications aren’t usually life threatening, but they can be troubling. The time it takes for withdrawal symptoms to start differs from person to person. The extent of the complications and the time it takes for a person to become dependent on Vicodin is also impossible to predict.
If you’re given Vicodin in the hospital following surgery, for example, you may use it for a short time and still experience symptoms such as nausea, a runny nose, aching muscles, and fever. You may think you have the flu, not realizing it’s your body responding to your short-term Vicodin use.
Talk with your doctor if you feel Vicodin is becoming habit forming, or if you think that you may already be addicted and wish to stop. They may advise you to gradually lower your dosage. This can help reduce withdrawal symptoms. If you stop taking Vicodin suddenly, you might experience withdrawal symptoms that prompt you to start taking the drug again.
There are many programs that can help you recover from Vicodin addiction. They can help you recover in a way that reduces some of the unpleasantness of withdrawal. Safe and effective treatment of Vicodin withdrawal may include the use of drugs.
Certain drugs are aimed at lessening the dramatic shock to the body caused by stopping Vicodin use. Medication therapy may involve a drug called buprenorphine (Subutex). Methadone may also be used at first and then gradually tapered off over a period of weeks or months. These drugs are used to help ease withdrawal symptoms.
Some programs can help you quit without the use of other drugs.
Despite the risks of addiction, Vicodin is still prescribed routinely. If you’re prescribed Vicodin and you don’t feel it’s working, talk to your doctor. And don’t take more than you are prescribed before discussing it with your doctor. Let your doctor adjust the dose or prescribe an alternative painkiller.
Tell your doctor if you’re pregnant, or think you may be pregnant, and you’re prescribed Vicodin. Taking this drug while you’re expecting could result in your baby experiencing neonatal abstinence syndrome. Soon after birth, when the baby is no longer receiving the drug, withdrawal syndromes may begin.
Signs of withdrawal in infants may be similar to the withdrawal signs experienced by adults quitting the drug. These include nausea, vomiting, sleep problems, runny nose, and anxiety or irritability.
Vicodin can be used safely for short-term pain relief. If you have been prescribed Vicodin and are concerned about addiction risks or other side effects, share your questions or thoughts with your doctor. You may be prescribed a different medication instead.
If you’re already taking Vicodin, pay attention to side effects and be aware of any indications that it may be becoming habit forming. Never hesitate to talk with your doctor if you have questions or concerns about any medication.
Withdrawal from any addictive drug can sometimes be difficult, but the short-term challenges far outweigh the long-term consequences of drug abuse.