How Addictive Is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is an opiate drug that is sold under a variety of brand names including Vicodin and Lortab. Generally, hydrocodone is prescribed in combination with other drugs based upon the needs of the individual. Sometimes, it is used to relieve severe coughs. Other times, it may be prescribed for pain. While it is quite effective for these purposes, hydrocodone is addictive.

There are many ways that an individual might come into contact with hydrocodone. Certainly, one can receive a prescription as a result of an accident that caused injury or some other medical condition. However, because it is available so readily – the Department of Justice indicates it is the most frequently prescribed opioid painkiller in the country – some individuals simply find the medication forgotten in a medicine cabinet and use the drug for recreational purposes.

Addictive Properties of Hydrocodone Are Similar to Heroin

When we think of a prescription medication like hydrocodone, we might believe that it must be safe. After all, doctors prescribe it on a regular basis. If it wasn’t safe, why would they do that?  The truth is that hydrocodone has the same or very similar effects on the human brain as another opiate drugheroin.

Opioid drugs affect the brain in a very specific way. The human brain is made up of cells called neurons. Some of these neurons have an element called an opioid receptor. Opioid receptors are also found in the spinal cord and various organs within the body. When an opioid drug such as hydrocodone is introduced to the body, the chemicals in the drug attach to these receptors. This attachment results in an inability for the brain to process feelings of pain.

Also, the introduction of hydrocodone can result in:

  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Decrease in respiration

In addition to these obvious physical side effects of opioid drugs, there is another response in the brain. Opiates can affect the part of the brain that is responsible for feelings of pleasure. The use of the drug can cause euphoric sensations, which not only leads individuals to use it recreationally, but also increases the addictive potential as individuals seek to recreate the feelings of euphoria.

hydrocodoneWhen an individual takes the drug is prescribed, the experts at the National Institute on Drug Abuse have stated that, over time, he or she may experience dependence. Dependence on a drug such as hydrocodone might lead to withdrawal symptoms if the person is suddenly deprived of the medication, but it does not include the same compulsive behaviors that are associated with addiction. In both cases of dependence and addiction, the process begins with tolerance.

Tolerance is the process that occurs when someone becomes used to having a certain drug in their system. For instance, an individual who has been in a car accident may feel lightheaded or sleepy when they first began taking hydrocodone painkillers in the hospital. However, after a few days they may not experience these effects quite as severely or at all as their body adjusts to those effects. Ultimately, they will continue to reap the benefits of the painkiller without having to experience the downside. This is perfectly normal and does not indicate there is a problem.

When someone is abusing hydrocodone recreationally or irresponsibly, there could be an increase in the levels of tolerance due to higher doses of the drug. Because the euphoric effects will lessen over time, the individual will take more of the drug more frequently in order to experience them. The more of the drug an individual ingests, the more likely their body is to develop a significant dependence to it.

This process can occur rather slowly if the individual does not have the intent to abuse the drug. For example, someone who is recovering from surgery or another type of injury for which they were prescribed hydrocodone might feel there is no harm in taking an extra dose before bed. The problem with self-medicating in this manner is that the individual may be experiencing complications that will go undiagnosed in addition to increasing their tolerance and the risks of addiction. Over time, as dependence to this legally prescribed medication develops, the recovering individual may find that they feel ill when they do not take their prescription. Whether they realize it or not, this illness may be the presentation of withdrawal symptoms. If they are aware, or if they make the connection, that the use of hydrocodone will alleviate the symptoms, they may find that they are visiting their physician complaining of pain and illness associated with their original condition simply to obtain another prescription.

Finding Effective Treatment for Hydrocodone Addiction

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has established that there are several very specific aspects to effective treatment. Finding effective treatment for hydrocodone addiction may seem overwhelming, but it is possible if you follow a few simple guidelines. When you are considering a facility or treatment center to help you or a loved one overcome addiction to prescription pain medications, ask yourself the following questions, which are based on years of scientific research:

  • Does the facility have the expertise to identify and diagnose any co-occurring disorders that may be present, such as depression or anxiety?
  • Will the treatment facility create a treatment plan tailored to your needs or the needs of your family member, taking into consideration vocational, scholastic or legal obligations?
  • Will the treatment plan be flexible enough to change with your needs throughout the treatment process?
  • Does the hydrocodone addiction treatment center use evidence-based therapeutic practices?
  • Does the treatment facility incorporate behavioral therapies in the treatment program?
  • Does the treatment center provide a program that will last a sufficient length of time to meet the needs of your particular disorder or co-occurring conditions?
  • Does the treatment center include appropriate medications and monitoring procedures for the treatment of hydrocodone addiction, if warranted?

Effective treatment for hydrocodone abuse and addiction may be provided in both inpatient and outpatient settings, based upon the needs of the individual and his or her circumstances.

Advantages of Inpatient Treatment for Hydrocodone Addiction

inpatient treatmentOne type of care for hydrocodone addiction is residential inpatient treatment. Residential inpatient treatment involves an individual checking into a treatment center for a period of weeks, depending on their individual needs, so they can recover in a relaxing and professionally staffed environment. Many residential treatment facilities include homelike amenities including comfortable accommodations, social time, and extra amenities that aid in the holistic healing process.

Leaving home to deal with issues that have plagued an individual for quite some time can be a stressful event in anyone’s life. Because of this, some residential treatment facilities offer services that can help an individual learn new and better ways to deal with stress. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, there are many relaxation techniques that can help to alleviate not only stress, but chronic pain – a condition that may be of importance if an individual was using hydrocodone for medical purposes – and other issues that may be involved in the recovery process.

Research has shown that specific relaxation techniques may be effective when included in an evidence-based treatment program. These techniques are safe when used correctly, and during your stay at a residential treatment facility, you will be educated in the proper techniques. Not only can these techniques benefit you during your stay at the facility, they can be applied to your daily life at home helping you to overcome the anxiety that may result from your use and abuse of hydrocodone or other prescription medications.

If you’d like help overcoming hydrocodone addiction, please call us here at The Oaks at La Paloma. We can also answer any questions you may have about hydrocodone’s addictive properties.