Vicodin is a powerful opioid medication that is prescribed to treat people who have moderate-to-severe pain. The medication, which has a potency similar to morphine, is also used as a cough suppressant. It is one of several brand names for a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen, a pain reliever that can be bought over-the-counter at a pharmacy. Hydrocodone is also sold under the trade names Norco, Lorcet, and Lortab, among several others.
Vicodin works by binding to pain receptors in the central nervous system. This, in turn, blocks the nerves from sending pain signals to the brain. As a result, users perceive pain differently though the source of the pain has not been reduced or removed. Regular use of Vicodin can be habit-forming. People who use it could find themselves quickly developing a physical dependence on it, even those who take the medication for medical reasons. This often happens without people realizing it.
Some people come to abuse Vicodin for the euphoric effects that opioid medications are known to produce. Abusing the drug includes taking more of it than prescribed and using it in ways that are inconsistent with its purpose. One example of this is when Vicodin tablets are crushed into a powder that can be inhaled through the nose or mixed with water to inject intravenously. Changing the drug’s form in this way ensures a faster, stronger high, but it also paves the way to developing a hard-to-beat addiction. It also raises the possibility of having a fatal overdose. Addiction involves a psychological dependence on a substance that drives one to use no matter the consequences.
What Are The Signs Of Vicodin Addiction?
Addictions can develop before your eyes without you noticing it, but there are many signs “hiding” in plain sight. People who are battling an addiction to Vicodin may exhibit the following:
- Intense cravings for Vicodin
- Persistent thoughts about Vicodin or other hydrocodone medicines
- Feeling unable to stop using the drug after multiple tries
- Feeling like you can’t manage life without using the drug
- Hiding Vicodin use from others
- Taking Vicodin to avoid withdrawal symptoms after chronic use
Physical Symptoms Of Vicodin Addiction Include:
- Slowed breathing, slowed heartbeat
- Blurred vision
- Cold or clammy skin
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Nausea, vomiting
- Muscle weakness
- Blurred vision
Many people stop using a substance abruptly because they’re trying to quit, but this is not the right way to end use, especially if the drug has been used frequently for some time. Vicodin withdrawal symptoms can start within 24-48 hours after the last dose is used.
If you or someone you know is experiencing withdrawal after Vicodin use stops, this likely means addiction is underway. Seek immediate medical help. Relapse, or a return to drug use after a break from using, is a very real risk. It’s dangerous because a person who’s been off it for a while can go back on it and take their usual dose and overdose because the body’s tolerance for the drug is much lower.
Vicodin withdrawal, which includes flu-like symptoms such as nausea, constipation, and insomnia, can be uncomfortable but usually not life-threatening. That does not mean the person won’t need professional help with ending their dependence on it.
What Is Involved In Vicodin Addiction Treatment?
Recovering from Vicodin addiction at a licensed drug rehabilitation facility ensures people get the help they need to end their addiction the right way. The process starts with a 24-hour medically monitored detox to help wean the patient off the drug safely. This may involve gradually reducing the doses of Vicodin a patient is used to taking in a procedure called tapering.
When medical detox ends, choosing a recovery program along the continuum of care is the next step. Residential treatment programs offer an on-site stay at a facility where intensive addiction treatment is administered for 30 days or more in a monitored environment. This includes therapy and counseling and any medications that are needed.
A partial hospitalization program (PHP) offers medical care for people who need intensive treatment for a set number of hours during the week. Outpatient programs allow clients to travel to a facility for treatment and return home. Intensive outpatient programs require nine or more hours of therapy a week, while outpatient programs require fewer than nine hours. All treatment programs can be tailored to an individual’s needs and preferences.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) may be recommended to help end Vicodin dependence. A weaker medication will be used in Vicodin’s place that blocks some of the effects of the medication while treating withdrawal symptoms that also happen when chronic Vicodin use is stopped.
How Dangerous Is Vicodin?
It is not safe to use Vicodin in large amounts. Whether it’s the first time or the 10th time, engaging in unsafe use of this drug can cause major health issues and death. When Vicodin is misused or abused, keep in mind that two drugs are being abused — hydrocodone and acetaminophen. It is possible to overdose on both drugs, and liver damage can result from taking too much acetaminophen.
Vicodin was designed to be taken in a certain amount by mouth. Bypassing the instructions on a prescription can put too much Vicodin in one’s system, which can lead to:
- Loss of consciousness
- Respiratory arrest
- Liver failure