How Addictive Is Hydrocodone?

HydrocodoneHydrocodone is an opiate drug sold under a variety of brand names including Vicodin and Lortab. It contains both an opiate and acetaminophen. Hydrocodone changes the way the body perceives pain, and acetaminophen increases the effectiveness of the hydrocodone. The drug is typically prescribed to relieve moderate to severe pain after surgery, injury or as part of a treatment plan for managing chronic pain. It is also available in liquid form to relieve severe coughs.1 Hydrocodone is highly addictive and currently one of the most widely-prescribed pain relievers in the United States.

But just because the drug is so often prescribed doesn’t make it safe. Consider Erin J.’s Heroes in Recovery Story:

I’m 39 years old and live in an apartment in New York State. I grew up in a small country setting and started using opiates after an oral surgery. Shortly after I started using opiates, I fell and hurt my hip and got another prescription for hydrocodone. When my prescription was finished, I kept going back for refills. I was 36 years old at that time, and had never had a problem with drugs or alcohol before that. I realized that I had a problem as soon as I tried to stop taking the pain medication. By that time, I had been using opioids for about two years, either by using a prescription or by buying them on the street.

When it comes to hydrocodone, what starts as a short-term answer to pain can quickly become a full-blown addiction.

Addictive Properties of Hydrocodone

Opioid drugs affect the brain in very specific ways. The human brain is made up of cells called neurons.2 Some of these neurons have elements called opioid receptors. 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.

  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Decrease in respiration

In addition to these physical side effects, opiates impact the area of the brain responsible for feelings of pleasure. These euphoric sensations lead individuals to use the drug recreationally which increases the risk of addiction.2

Hydrocodone Addiction Symptoms

One of the most obvious symptoms of hydrocodone addiction is the appearance of withdrawal symptoms when the drug is stopped. Withdrawal symptoms often appear as flu-like symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, chills and muscle aches.

The road to addiction also involves drug tolerance, where the person needs more of the substance to produce the same results. This can quickly lead to overuse of the drug. If you or a loved one uses hydrocodone to control pain and you think dependence on the drug is developing, look for these symptoms of drug overuse:

  • Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Fear and depression
  • Confusion
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears3

Along with symptoms of overuse and the appearance of withdrawal symptoms when the drug is stopped, other signs of addiction to hydrocodone include:

  • Needing more of the drug before the next does is due
  • Becoming preoccupied with getting and using the drug
  • Needing a supply of the drug on hand at all times
  • Engaging in dangerous behaviors, like driving, while under the influence of hydrocodone
  • Participating in illegal activities, like stealing, to get more of the drug
  • Becoming more involved in the drug culture
  • Turning to cheaper forms of the drug, like heroin, to maintain the addiction

If you notice any of these symptoms in a loved one or are struggling with hydrocodone abuse, it’s time to get help.

Finding Effective Treatment for Hydrocodone Addiction

One 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 an individual’s needs. Many residential treatment facilities include homelike amenities, social time and holistic treatment options to help with healing.

The Oaks at La Paloma offers residential programs to meet your unique needs. Call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day to speak to an admissions coordinator about available programs. You are not alone. Call us now.

1Hydrocodone And Acetaminophen (Oral Route) Description and Brand Names.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 1 March 2017. Accessed 15 December 2017.

2Which classes of prescription drugs are commonly misused?National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA, August 2016. Accessed 15 December 2017.

3Hydrocodone Addiction: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 12 December 2016. Accessed 15 December 2017.