Hydrocodone can be an effective medication for the treatment of pain, but it is also one of the most highly abused and diverted prescription drugs on the market. People often abuse hydrocodone in order to experience the euphoric high large doses of the drug can cause. It’s absolutely necessary to seek treatment for hydrocodone abuse and addiction, so call 800-442-6158 Who Answers? now to find the help you need.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, “Hydrocodone is the most frequently prescribed opiate in the United States.” The drug is commonly used as a treatment medication for moderate to severe pain and is often prescribed with other medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Sometimes, it is also paired with other substances and marketed as a cough reliever.
Hydrocodone and its combinations go by many different brand names, including
Unfortunately, because the drug is so widely prescribed, it is also heavily abused and often diverted for illicit use. This can be extremely dangerous, as any medication containing hydrocodone can cause all the same issues that any other opioid drug can when misused and/or taken in high doses. These include but are not limited to dependence, addiction, overdose, and death.
Hydrocodone Side Effects
The side effects caused by hydrocodone use are similar to those associated with other opioid drugs. Most individuals experience drowsiness and dizziness, which is why doctors suggest that patients avoid driving or participating in other activities requiring intense concentration while on the medication. According to the National Library of Medicine, the other common side effects of hydrocodone use include
- Stomach pain
- Dry mouth
- Back pain
- Tightening of the muscles
- Difficult, frequent, or painful urination
- Ringing in the ears
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Foot, leg, or ankle swelling
- Uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
These effects are usually mild and, in most cases, will subside with time. Some effects, like constipation, can be treated with another medication. However, if you experience any of these side effects that do not go away with time or that worsen, you should contact your doctor immediately.
Dangers of Hydrocodone Use
Hydrocodone, like all opioids, has certain dangerous side effects and potential risks associated with its use. One of the most serious is respiratory depression, which can occur in minimal amounts when taken as prescribed. Unfortunately, though, higher doses can lead to extremely slowed or stopped breathing, and the individual can fall into a coma and even die.
In addition, sexual dysfunction, including the inability to get or keep an erection or a decreased sexual drive, is a strong indicator that something is wrong. Irregular menstruation is another dangerous side effect. If you notice these issues, contact your doctor right away.
Other potential dangers of hydrocodone use include
- Tolerance: When “a higher dose is required to achieve the same effect,” this is called tolerance (National Institute on Drug Abuse). A person who takes hydrocodone consistently for a prolonged period of time is likely to experience this, and in some cases, it can lead them to using larger doses to get the effects they desire, which is a form of abuse.
- Hallucinations: In some rare populations, hallucinations can occur as a result of hydrocodone use.
- Brain damage: If a person does overdose on hydrocodone but is revived in time, there is still a potential that they could sustain brain damage from not receiving enough oxygen (NIDA).
- Allergic reaction: Certain individuals can be allergic to opioid drugs, the signs of which are hives, itching, and problems swallowing.
- Confusion: When a person takes an opioid drug, they put themselves at risk of becoming confused because of the effects of the drug. It is important to make sure someone is watching out for you while you are taking hydrocodone, especially if you are still unsure about how the medication will affect you.
- Depression and anxiety: Many opioid users experience worsening issues with anxiety and/or depression or symptoms that they have never experienced before. It is important to tell your doctor about any mood changes you may notice when taking hydrocodone.
Older adults are especially at risk of overdose and other issues when taking opioids because they often have multiple prescriptions to keep track of. Also “the breakdown of drugs slows with age,” according to the NIDA. Those who take hydrocodone while pregnant put themselves and their unborn child at risk. The child could be born with an extremely low birth weight or neonatal abstinence syndrome, or the individual could miscarry.
Hydrocodone Dependence and Withdrawal Symptoms
Hydrocodone can also cause dependence, even when it is not being abused. Those who take it regularly often become dependent on the drug and will need to be slowly weaned off it when they are ready to end their treatment regimen. Otherwise, they will experience intense withdrawal symptoms such as
- Runny nose
- Chills and hot flashes
- Abdominal cramps
- Muscle, bone, and joint pain
Withdrawal from opioid drugs can often feel like a bad case of the flu. While it is not usually life threatening, opioid withdrawal still requires treatment from medical professionals in order to avoid any serious side effects or potential risks. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in some cases, “Medical complications associated with opioid withdrawal can develop and should be quickly identified and treated.”
According to the DEA, hydrocodone is both prescribed and abused more than any other prescription opioid. It is also associated with more misuse than any other opioid, illicit or licit. This widespread abuse makes the drug extremely dangerous, and though doctors attempt to ensure that their patients will not abuse the drug, there are still many circumstances in which hydrocodone is taken recreationally or in higher doses than prescribed.
Those who misuse hydrocodone put themselves at a higher risk of experiencing all the same side effects and dangers associated with other opioid drugs, including tolerance, dependence, withdrawal symptoms, overdose, and addiction. In many cases, those who become addicted to hydrocodone later turn to heroin because the drug is easier to obtain and cheaper. This will only add to the user’s problems, as heroin’s potency is extremely high and it is often mixed with dangerous materials that the individual does not know about.
Hydrocodone abuse can often lead to addiction, for which treatment is necessary. Because the drug can cause extremely intense cravings, as well as a deadly overdose syndrome that is most likely to cause life-threatening effects in those who have just detoxed, professional rehab treatment for hydrocodone addiction is the safest way to recover (NLM).
Hydrocodone Addiction Treatment
Hydrocodone addiction is treated very similarly to heroin addiction. First, patients must be stabilized on a medication in order to reduce their cravings and withdrawal symptoms. In the case of methadone and buprenorphine, the medication may be used to treat one’s addiction as well if the patient chooses to stay on maintenance for a period of time. In addition, behavioral therapies can help change a person’s perspective on their substance abuse as well as teach them better coping skills.
Medications for hydrocodone addiction treatment
- Methadone: a synthetic opioid agonist used to reduce cravings, minimize withdrawal symptoms, and block opioid receptors
- Buprenorphine: a partial opioid agonist that works similarly to methadone but is safer in an abuse situation
- Naltrexone: an opioid antagonist that usually only works on highly motivated patients who want to avoid relapse at all costs
Behavioral therapies for hydrocodone addiction treatment
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy: a program where patients relearn positive beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors to avoid relapse
- Contingency management: a program where patients receive rewards for every drug test they pass
- Group therapy: a program where patients talk to one another about their experiences with substance abuse and build stronger support systems
- Family therapy: a program that allows patients and their family members to learn how to reconnect, avoid enabling behaviors, etc.
- 12-step facilitation therapy: a program where patients learn more about 12-step groups and are encouraged to join one as a part of recovery
Support groups like Narcotics Anonymous and SMART Recovery can also be beneficial for those going through opioid addiction treatment. And many rehab centers offer holistic modalities as a part of care, such as yoga, meditation, art and dance therapy, etc. With the help of a professional treatment program, you can make a real change in your life and put an end to your hydrocodone abuse for good.
Seek Help for Opiate Addiction Now
Because of hydrocodone’s high availability, it is important to seek help if you are struggling with a substance use disorder associated with the drug. We can help you find the best rehab program for your needs, including one that will offer the treatments you require and take your insurance. Call 800-442-6158 Who Answers? now to learn more.