Hydrocodone is a painkiller that is the key ingredient in the widely prescribed medication Vicodin. It is also sold under the brand names Zohydro ER, Hycodan, and Robidone. While hydrocodone is effective at relieving severe pain, it can also become habit forming.
Hydrocodone is abused more than any other opioid in the U.S. Mental or physical addiction to hydrocodone can lead to health complications. Addiction can also cause personal problems; it can affect relationships, employment, and other parts of your life.
If you’re taking hydrocodone, you can avoid serious complications. Be aware of how hydrocodone becomes addictive. And know the signs of hydrocodone dependence.
Hydrocodone is an opioid. It is part of a class of drugs known as narcotic analgesics. These drugs connect to opioid receptors, which are proteins in the brain and spinal cord. Opioids interfere with pain signals heading to the brain. Hydrocodone instead creates feelings of euphoria and drowsiness.
The drug is also prescribed to help reduce coughing, because it affects the part of the brain responsible for coughing. Hydrocodone can be found in some cough medicines prescribed to people with colds, allergies, or lung infections. Hydrocodone is also prescribed to people recovering from an injury, surgery, or chronic pain caused by some other condition.
Not everyone tolerates hydrocodone well. Some negative side effects include:
- weight gain or loss
- nasal congestion
- chest tightness
- difficulty breathing
Long-term hydrocodone use can often cause constipation. Hydrocodone can also lead to a slower heart rate. However, that is usually just in people who are taking too much of the drug.
When used properly and for short-term purposes, hydrocodone is usually safe and effective. But if you take it for a long time, you can build up a tolerance to the drug. You may want more hydrocodone to achieve the same effect. Many people start out taking hydrocodone as treatment but become hooked and start abusing the drug.
Taking too much hydrocodone can lead to many unpleasant side effects. In addition to a slower heartbeat, signs of hydrocodone abuse include:
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- nausea and vomiting
- fear and depression
- ringing in the ears
- blurred vision
Other signs of hydrocodone addiction have more to do with behavior. If you’re addicted to hydrocodone, obtaining more of the drug becomes a major priority. You may fake medical problems to get a new prescription or find other ways to get the drugs illegally. You may let your job or relationships suffer in order to get more hydrocodone.
Hydrocodone is generally prescribed for a limited time in safe doses. If you find yourself taking it for longer than prescribed or taking it in larger doses, you may be developing an addiction. If you’ve been using hydrocodone for a while, be careful. Stopping the drug suddenly could lead to withdrawal problems.
Withdrawal symptoms may include:
- trouble sleeping
- becoming irritated more quickly than usual
- unusual sweating
- muscle aches
Your doctor may want to taper off your dosage gradually. If you feel you’re addicted and experience unwanted physical or mental complications, talk with your doctor immediately. They can help you get treatment.
There are many programs in communities around the U.S. to help you deal with hydrocodone addiction. Some use medications to help ease the unpleasant effects of withdrawal. Other programs focus on more natural methods of overcoming addiction and withdrawal symptoms.
The best approach for you will depend greatly on the nature of your addiction. A long-term addiction that involves high doses of hydrocodone may take longer to recover from than a short-term addiction.
Regardless of the medications or supplements used, a mental health evaluation and some form of therapy should be part of your recovery. You should be screened for depression and other mental disorders. You can then get treatment to avoid relapsing with hydrocodone or another drug. Organizations such as Narcotics Anonymous may be helpful. Programs involving outpatient counseling may also be very effective in helping you recover.
If you’ve been prescribed hydrocodone and are worried about addiction, talk with your doctor. An alternative painkiller may be a good option for you.
When used properly and safely, hydrocodone can be helpful in dealing with serious pain. But the risk of addiction is a real one for anyone using this medication. The more you know about the drug, the better. Understanding hydrocodone can increase your chances of avoiding addiction and other complications.