Understanding Hydrocodone Addiction
Hydrocodone is a narcotic drug similar to morphine and codeine. It is one of the most prescribed pain relievers. This drug helps relieve moderate and severe pain. This drug can be habit-forming, so people need doctors’ prescriptions to use this medication. It is a semisynthetic opioid, which means it has been chemically altered and manipulated. Researchers developed hydrocodone in the 1920s as pain and cough medicine.
It alters the way the brain reacts to pain by blocking pain signals. Aside from pain relief, hydrocodone is also an antitussive, which means it is a substance used to suppress coughing. It is combined with other drugs to create a cough-relieving effect while blocking the pain caused by this condition and others.
This drug may help relieve pain, but prolonged use and misuse can lead to life-threatening conditions and addiction. Hydrocodone is a controlled drug with a schedule II classification from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). According to the DEA, this means it has “a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.”
To obtain and take hydrocodone, it is important to have a doctor’s prescription. This restriction aims to prevent abuse and addiction to the drug. Users should take the drug strictly as prescribed. If you have a prescription but are still unsure on how to take it, ask a physician or a pharmacist for assistance.
Users should take hydrocodone orally (by mouth) with a great deal of water. They should swallow the drug immediately to avoid soaking the drug or breaking down its coating or encapsulation.
It is available in different forms such as capsule, tablets, and syrups. Hydrocodone is also combined with acetaminophen to help with moderate pain. A combination with antihistamines and anticholinergics is also available and used for cough relief. Anticholinergics are substances that block neurotransmitters.
Doctors prescribe hydrocodone to individuals suffering with pain caused by surgeries, long-term diseases, and injuries. Hydrocodone is also available in an extended-release preparation. This formulation releases hydrocodone into the blood and circulatory system in a slow and steady manner and can last for a long period of time. Users take the extended-release form every twelve hours for chronic and severe pain problems.
Before taking hydrocodone, your doctor will assess your condition to identify if it is the right medication for you. If you have a pre-existing condition such as a lung problem, head injury, or brain condition, inform your physician immediately. Using hydrocodone may also cause drug interactions, so if you are using other medications, mention them to your physician and pharmacist.
Hydrocodone Brand Names
Hydrocodone is the generic name for the drug. Manufacturers combine hydrocodone with other drugs, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and market it under a variety of brand names to treat pain and fight respiratory problems.
Brand names for hydrocodone and acetaminophen combinations include:
- Dolorex Forte
- Lorcet, Lorcet HD, and Lorcet Plus
Brand names for hydrocodone and ibuprofen combinations include:
Regardless of the name and how it is combined with other substances, hydrocodone is a powerful prescription drug. Although it may be effective in treating different conditions, people should use it carefully.
Hydrocodone Effects and Abuse
Hydrocodone is a controlled substance. Doctors and pharmacists place restrictions on the drug to prevent life-threatening effects. Since it is one of the most prescribed pain medications, hydrocodone is also a frequently abused substance.
People who are abusing the drug often hide their use because they feel ashamed about their condition. They pretend they are not addicted, since they want to continue using the drug.
Using hydrocodone affects people physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally. Physically, if people are in pain, taking this drug may bring relief. Hydrocodone attaches to opioid receptors in the brain, central nervous system (CNS), and other parts of the body. This attachment may create euphoric feelings of being high.
This drug also affects the brain’s reward system, so people may feel rewarded by using it. This feeling may lead to abuse, addiction, and overdoses. Common signs of hydrocodone overdoses include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Cold and clammy skin
By following doctors’ prescriptions and informing them of any history of drug addiction, people may prevent such overdoses. Physicians may recommend different medications or other types of treatment if clients have a high risk of addiction to the drug.
Signs of Hydrocodone Abuse
If you observe behavioral or physical changes and suspect that someone is taking hydrocodone, it is important to consult medical professionals. Some signs of hydrocodone abuse may include:
- Having hydrocodone in one’s possession all of the time
- Hiding the medication in homes, cars, and other places
- Lying about the use of the drug
- Pretending to be injured or in pain
- Visiting different doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions
- Selling or stealing to obtain money for the drug
- Exhibiting mood swings and outbursts
- Experiencing financial problems
Some psychological effects caused by hydrocodone addiction may include:
- Anxiety and depression
- Mood changes
- Loss of interest in regular activities
- Focus and concentration problems
Finding effective addiction treatment may help alleviate these effects and help people return to their normal lives.
Dangers of Hydrocodone
Medications and drugs pose different degrees of danger, especially if people take them without doctors’ recommendations or prescriptions. Some people may experience allergic reactions or anaphylactic shock to hydrocodone. Such reactions, if not treated, may lead to death.
Danger signs of using hydrocodone include:
Confusion. If people take hydrocodone and experience confusion, this may mean that the medication has affected their brain functions. They should seek medical assistance immediately. To determine if people are confused, ask them the time, date, place, or their names. An unimpaired person should be able to answer such questions correctly.
Low blood pressure. Sudden decreases in blood pressure are unsafe since they may lead to fainting and diminished blood supply to the brain and other parts of the body. Prompt medical assistance should be given if people experience low blood pressure after using the medication.
- Respiratory depression. If using hydrocodone compromises one’s breathing, it is best to call 911 immediately for assistance. There are many reasons why people may experience breathing problems after using hydrocodone. They may be experiencing an allergic reaction to the drug that causes airway obstruction, for example.
Immediate Side Effects of Hydrocodone Abuse
Immediate effects of hydrocodone include pain relief and a feeling of euphoria. Within a few minutes of intake, people using hydrocodone may experience reductions in their levels of pain and discomfort. They may also perform better, feel happier, and experience a sense of well-being.
The pain-blocking effect of hydrocodone is due to the modification of pain signals in the brain and central nervous system. The medication does not actually address the source of the pain. It works by altering the brain’s perceptions of pain sensations. Hydrocodone may be beneficial to people who experience prolonged, severe pain.
Other short-term effects of hydrocodone use may include:
- Feelings of well-being
- Stress relief
Because the drug may create desirable effects, it is easy to become addicted to it. Drugs such as hydrocodone affect the brain’s reward system, even in situations where users take it correctly with physicians’ prescriptions. This is why follow-up checkups are necessary for people using the medication. Such checkups allow physicians to monitor any signs of addiction.
Long-Term Side Effects of Hydrocodone Abuse
Addiction may be a life-threatening, long-term effect of hydrocodone. Since it is an opioid/opiate, hydrocodone may create risks for people who abuse it and take it beyond the prescribed dosage.
Using hydrocone frequently may lead to tolerance. Because their bodies no longer react to the drug and they experience diminished effects with the same doses that were once effective, people may use hydrocodone more frequently or use larger doses.
Tolerance may lead to addiction, a compulsive use of the drug. Addiction may impact the lives of users in many ways. Users may know that the drug may cause severe problems but continue to take the drugs. They may attempt to stop but not know how to end their withdrawal symptoms, so their attempts to quit are unsuccessful.
In terms of health, the long-term effect of hydrocodone addiction varies from person to person. Some may be able to restore their health, while others may experience damage to their livers and other organs. Other long-term effects of hydrocodone addiction include problems with relationships, decreased self-confidence, difficulties in finding and keeping jobs, financial issues, and mental health problems.
Addiction to Hydrocodone
To avoid the debilitating long-term effects of drug abuse, seeking help early is advised. The road to recovery may be a long journey and require a great deal of patience, but it is possible.
Addiction may lead to dependence, making it difficult for affected people to function normally without their drugs of choice. Some signs of drug dependence and addiction include:
- Hiding the drug or taking it more than prescribed
- Taking the drug despite orders by physicians to discontinue its use
- Experimenting with the drug, such as mixing it with other drugs or alcohol
- Pretending to be in pain to obtain the drug
- Obtaining and using the drug without doctors’ orders or prescriptions
People may notice that their friends and relatives are acting differently. If they display different behaviors, they could be struggling with hydrocodone addiction and need assistance.
Hydrocodone and Other Drugs
Hydrocodone may interact with other substances or medications. This is why it is important to inform your doctor about any drugs, vitamins, and herbal supplements you are using. Some substances may increase the effects of the drug, while others may cause a diminished effect.
Some of the medications that interact with hydrocodone are:
- Other narcotics
- Allergy drugs
- Antipsychotic drugs used to manage bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia
- Benzodiazepines (benzos), a type of anti-anxiety drug
Using hydrocodone with other opioid drugs such as heroin, fentanyl, codeine, and morphine is particularly dangerous. That is because taking one opioid can depress the system. Taking more than one at the same time may double the effect, leading to respiratory problems, overdoses, and death. Similarly, using alcohol while using fentanyl may also severely depress the system and lead to danger.
Hydrocodone Abuse Statistics
In the United States, hydrocodone is one of the most prescribed pain relievers. In 2013, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported the doctors issued “more than 136 million prescriptions for hydrocodone-containing products.”
Other sources discuss hydrocodone addiction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that prescription painrelievers contributed to seven out of ten prescription drug-related deaths for women.
According to some statistics, United States residents consume 99 percent of the worldwide supply of hydrocodone. The opiate crisis in the country is a battle. It is a serious problem that puts many people at risk.
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Recognizing a Hydrocodone Addiction
One of the first steps in treating any form of addiction is recognizing that there is an addiction. This is a difficult step for some people, and it may take months or years for them to realize that they cannot break free from the drug. Once they accept that they need help, people can seek the assistance of professionals and therapists who have expert knowledge of addiction.
The support system of a person with an addiction problem plays an important role in recovery. This support system may include parents, significant others, friends, and relatives. Drug users may feel ashamed of their situations, but for people to successfully fight addiction, they need appropriate medical attention, love, and care.
Staging an intervention is one of the ways that loved ones may show support. An intervention has been described as a civil confrontation. Interventions allow concerned people to discuss the treatment of their loved ones who are struggling with addiction.
People staging interventions are assisted by interventionists who are trained in the field of addiction. This assistance helps ensure that the process is effective and stays positive. The addicted individuals should not feel threatened or judged. People conduct interventions to convince their loved ones that they are safe, supported, and able to fight their addictions.
If you have loved ones who are abusing hydrocodone, do not wait for the condition to worsen. Seek treatment as early as possible. This assistance may increase the chance of recovery and lessen the long-term effects of the addiction.
Treating a Hydrocodone Addiction
Professionals assess clients before they undergo treatment at rehab facilities. This helps identify clients’ conditions and helps them develop the most appropriate treatments. They ask questions related to their clients’ drug use.
Detox (detoxification) occurs before treatment processes. Detox removes drugs from people’s bodies in safer ways. Removing drugs and alcohol may create severe, even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. This is why it is important to provide proper care and monitoring.
Different treatment options include:
Inpatient treatment. This type of treatment program involves around-the-clock monitoring and supervision. It provides a structured facility with daily activities and programs. An advantage of inpatient treatment is that it removes people from their environments so they may focus on their recoveries.
Outpatient treatment. This type of treatment program allows clients to undergo treatment without leaving their homes. They may continue to work or attend school. This treatment may require daily therapy sessions and other treatments. Some individuals finish their inpatient programs, then enroll in outpatient treatment. This ensures continuity of care and monitoring.
Treating hydrocodone addiction takes time. But with the proper treatment program, rehab facility, and support system, chances of recovery are high.