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For many years, the United States has been struggling with an epidemic affecting the lives and health of millions of its citizens. Each year this epidemic tightens its strangling grip, becoming responsible for destroying the lives of not only the individuals directly affected but their close friends and families as well. This epidemic is the American opioid crisis, and one of the most frequently abused and dangerous opioids is the common prescription painkiller, Norco.

Norco is a brand-name formulation of hydrocodone and acetaminophen and is often prescribed to individuals recovering from serious surgery or who have chronic, severe pain that cannot be easily managed by other means. It is taken in pill form and is considered a synthetic opioid, which means while it mimics natural compounds derived directly from the opium poppy, it is created entirely in a laboratory. Other popular brand names for similar formulations include Vicodin & Lortab.

The opioid component of Norco is hydrocodone, categorized as a Schedule II substance on the scale created by the Drug Enforcement Agency of the US. Schedule II substances are recognized as having legitimate medical use and value while acknowledging that they have an incredibly high potential for dependence and abuse. Yet, despite the level of addictiveness, it remains one of the most popular and widely prescribed by doctors and other health care professionals.

What Are The Side-Effects of Using Norcos?

Since Norco is a legitimately prescribed opioid medication, the side effects are often considered relatively minor or manageable, though there will always be the potential for severe side effects. Some side effects can be uncomfortable and borderline painful, particularly with heavier or higher dosages.

Common Norco Side Effects

One of the most common side effects for those taking Norco in any dosage is nausea. Nausea is often widely experienced by those taking Norco, and it may worsen to include vomiting. Since opioids are a depressant, they slow down or depress many of the body’s systems, including digestion and intestinal movement.

This slower movement of food through the digestive system and Norco’s tendency to increase nonpropulsive contractions, resulting in a common condition of constipation. Another of the Norco side effects experienced frequently is that food stays in the body longer, reducing the chemical signals from the body that lead to the expulsion of waste.

Additional Norco side effects include dry mouth for most users, as well as a sensation of general itchiness. There is a strong possibility that Norco will cause some degree of swelling in the hands or feet, as well as overall muscle pain or achiness. Some users may even experience what would be described as common cold symptoms, such as sore throat, sneezing, and congestion. 

The depressant nature of opioids leads many people who use Norco to feel drowsiness or general fatigue, and in rare cases that drowsiness can be very severe, leading to dangerous or deadly situations. While it is known for causing drowsiness, it is also commonly the cause of insomnia or other difficulty sleeping that occurs in its users.

Many Norco side effects are far less common, including:

  • Experiencing burning sensations or general pain during urination
  • Dangerously severe drowsiness
  • Tremors or uncontrollable shaking
  • Confusion, sometimes becoming severe
  • Intense drowsiness can be possible, creating dangerous situations
  • Sexual dysfunction, including reduced sex drive & impotence
  • Menstrual cycle disruption & potential infertility
  • Lowered cortisol levels may cause their own set of symptoms such as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness

Norco, like all opioids, causes respiratory depression, which can complicate many existing medical conditions or illnesses. The shallow or weak breathing that can result from Norco use can be extremely dangerous, even potentially deadly, for those living with asthma or other respiratory issues. The danger of respiratory depression becomes greater with higher doses.

At high initial doses, a potentially deadly overdose situation can be created. This intense depression of the respiratory system can even result in the user entering a comatose state, eventually leading to the wasting and muscular deterioration of the overdosed individual. This muscular breakdown can even lead to kidney and heart failure, and eventual death.

Short-Term Side Effects

Many of the short-term side effects of Norco are due to how the drug acts on the body, by seeking out and binding to specific opioid receptors in the brain. This is a very potent way to relieve pain since it produces a very strong dopamine response, but it is also abused to feel the effects of intense calm and even euphoria. This also causes some significant withdrawal side effects.

Long-Term Side Effects

The long-term Norco side effects are due to the constant slowing and depression of the respiratory system. Many long-term Norco users find they are more susceptible to pneumonia. There are also potential long-term effects of the intense slowing of intestinal movement, including potentially leading to bowel disorders.

Additional long-term effects include liver damage and failure and severe damage to the renal system. In some cases, this can lead to kidney failure as well. This is due to the addition of acetaminophen in the Norco formula and can result in a lifetime of dialysis treatments.

Norco Withdrawal Side-Effects

The withdrawals from Norco will be very uncomfortable and even painful, but unlike many other drugs and even some other opioids, they will usually not be life-threatening. The physical withdrawal side effects will usually be gone in about 2 weeks. 

The first symptoms felt will often resemble the common cold, such as fever, sweating, chills, runny nose, and congestion. These will advance and intensify, eventually including stomach ache, vomiting, uncontrollable sweating, diarrhea, and tremors.

Most users will experience a surge of psychological symptoms over the first week, often peaking in intensity after 3-5 days and then subsiding. These will usually include feelings of intense anxiety and even panic, confusion, mood swings, and emotional instability that can result in severe irritability or even aggression.

The end of the first week of the detox process should see most of the physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms become greatly reduced or taper off entirely. However, heavy users may experience a period of depression and cravings that lasts for months after the rest of the symptoms vanish. This is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome.

Side-Effects of An Addiction to Norcos: Signs of An Addiction

When someone is potentially living with an addiction to Norco, they will often display a mixture of behavioral, physical, and even psychological changes. Because the drug is so potent, it is relatively rare to find out someone is an addict who can hide dependence symptoms.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders fifth edition outlines the criteria that must be met to be diagnosed as living with substance abuse disorder, but they are also helpful as general guidelines for recognizing Norco addiction in general. Most often, someone can be addicted to Norco if they display two or more of the following criteria:

  • Cravings to use Norco
  • Continuing to use Norco even in light of experiencing negative consequences
  • Using Norco to excess even when it results in damaged relationships
  • Developing chemical dependence, indicated by the presence of withdrawal symptoms when not using
  • Neglecting activities or hobbies due to, or in favor of, Norco use
  • Deteriorating relationships with friends, family, classmates, or coworkers
  • Developing a tolerance to Norco and requiring more to feel the same effect
  • Having the desire to quit but being unable to stop

Physical signs that someone may be experiencing difficulties with Norco will resemble other opioids, and will usually cause the user to appear drowsy, drunk, or otherwise suffering from reduced capacities. In addition, pupils will be heavily constricted and usually not very responsive, and the user will also show a large degree of reduced coordination and physical weakness.

Behavioral signs of addiction are usually centered around taking Norco or trying to obtain more. The preoccupation with obtaining more Norco will often include doctor shopping, asking friends to try to obtain prescriptions, and even stealing the Norco from those close to them who may have legitimate prescriptions. 

While the psychological symptoms may not be as obvious, they can be very revealing. Norco users will often be very calm and euphoric while under the influence, but this will be short-lived. Those using for longer periods may display signs of emotional instability.

How To Get Help if Experiencing The Side-Effects of a Norco Addiction

If you or someone close to you may be experiencing the side effects of a Norco addiction, it is important to work with experienced addiction professionals and behavioral therapy specialists to make the detox process as comfortable and successful as possible. If you are seeking substance use disorder treatment in Connecticut or New York, reach out today to speak confidentially with an addiction specialist and begin planning a future of health and recovery. The road to recovery doesn’t have to be walked alone; help is available.

Was this article helpful? Follow our blog for more information about substance use, addiction, and recovery. Recent posts include topics such as addiction to Alprazolam and how long it takes to detox from alcohol

Sources:

  1. MedlinePlus. Acetaminophen: MedlinePlus Drug Information. Published January 15, 2022. Accessed August 28, 2022. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a681004.html
  2. Fleming ML, Driver L, Sansgiry SS, et al. Drug Enforcement Administration Rescheduling of Hydrocodone Combination Products Is Associated With Changes in Physician Pain Management Prescribing Preferences. J Pain Palliat Care Pharmacother. 2019;33(1-2):22-31. doi:10.1080/15360288.2019.1615027

Medical Content Writer

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. As a person in recovery from disordered eating, she is passionate about seeing people heal and transform. She writes for popular treatment centers such as Ocean Recovery, Epiphany Wellness, The Heights Treatment, Infinite Recovery, New Waters Recovery and adolescent mental health treatment center BasePoint Academy. In her spare time she loves learning about health, nutrition, meditation, spiritual practices, and enjoys being the a mother of a beautiful daughter.

Last medically reviewed August 28, 2022