Hydrocodone is commonly prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. However, this prescription painkiller carries a real risk of addiction. Abuse of hydrocodone can affect nearly every aspect of a person’s life, but it’s important to remember that there’s always hope for recovery using an evidence-based treatment program.
Hydrocodone is an opioid analgesic. Like all opioids, hydrocodone is a derivative of the poppy plant. However, it’s a semi synthetic opioid that is created by chemically modifying the opium derivative codeine—which is a naturally occurring opium derivative.
Hydrocodone is sold as a generic drug, as well as under various brand names—including Vicodin, Lortab, and Norco. It is sold as tablets, capsules, or syrups. When the drug is being abused, the tablets are sometimes crushed and snorted to obtain a rapid high.
As defined by the United States Controlled Substances Act, hydrocodone is a Schedule II drug. Schedule II drugs, substances, or chemicals have an accepted medical use but also carry a high potential for abuse—with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. Other examples of drugs in the same class as hydrocodone include oxycodone and morphine.
Signs of a Hydrocodone Addiction
It is important to remember that addiction doesn’t discriminate. Anyone—regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status—can develop an opioid use disorder. In fact, many people struggling with an addiction to hydrocodone began taking the drug for a legitimate medical purpose and found that their addiction developed over time because they didn’t fully understand the risks associated with opioid painkiller use. They become part of the opioid epidemic because they wrongly assumed that anything prescribed by a doctor would be safe.
Some common signs that suggest your loved one might have a hydrocodone addiction include:
- Being preoccupied with obtaining a steady supply of hydrocodone
- Visiting multiple doctors or pharmacies
- Purchasing the drug on the black market
- Mood swings
- Chronic drowsiness
- Abandoning hobbies and special interests
- Socially isolating from family and friends
- Problems performing at work or school
- Financial troubles related to the amount of money spent on substance abuse
- Combining hydrocodone with other drugs to intensify the high
- Believing substance abuse is necessary to feel normal or function effectively
- Being unable to regulate hydrocodone usage despite a desire to do so
- Becoming angry or defensive when others suggest that hydrocodone use is a problem
- Complaints of dizziness, nausea, and/or constipation with no other identifiable cause
Long-Term Risks of Addiction
Some of the long-term risks associated with hydrocodone addiction include:
- Cognitive impairment
- Worsening of depression
- Difficulty sleeping
- Sensorineural hearing loss
- Liver failure due to the acetaminophen and ibuprofen in many hydrocodone-containing drugs
- Impaired pulmonary function and an increased risk of pneumonia
There is also the very real risk of a potentially fatal overdose. People who abuse opioids like hydrocodone will develop a tolerance over time, which means they’ll need to take higher doses to obtain the same effects. They may also start to combine hydrocodone with stronger opioids—possibly even heroin purchased on the street. Both of these practices can lead to an overdose.
Someone who is experiencing a hydrocodone overdose may have symptoms that include dizziness, low blood pressure, vomiting, and abdominal pain. They are likely to have pale skin that is cold to the touch and a bluish tint to the lips and nails. An overdose often leads to severe breathing difficulties, seizures, and unconsciousness.
A suspected hydrocodone overdose is a medical emergency. Call 911 for assistance if you think a friend or family member has overdosed.
Recovery from any opioid addiction begins with a detox to rid the body of the abused substance. A medically supervised detox provides 24/7 care from skilled doctors and nurses who can keep the individual safe and comfortable throughout the withdrawal process.
Once detox is completed, inpatient residential treatment is the next step. Residential treatment focuses on developing a wellness-focused lifestyle. This includes regular exercise, good nutrition, sufficient sleep, and natural ways to deal with any chronic pain so that opioids like hydrocodone are no longer necessary. Individual, group, and family therapy, combined with 12-Step support, helps individuals learn to cope with cravings, manage their emotions, process past trauma, and build connections to a sober support network. In some cases, medication-assisted treatment may also be recommended.
At Waypoint Recovery Center‘s South Carolina drug and alcohol addiction treatment program, we provide care that is personalized to fit individual needs. No matter what challenges your loved one has faced in the past, our goal is to help them take the first steps toward a future free from the burden of addiction.