The US is facing an ongoing addiction epidemic, and it continues to destroy lives daily. The biggest misconception is that only the addicts are being affected. Still, in reality, the friends, families, and loved ones of the individuals shackled with addiction are also subject to significant negative effects. Even though people are aware of the drugs that get most of the bad press, like meth, cocaine, and heroin, a flood of legal drugs are misused and subsequently abused.
These drugs are the ones that doctors and other healthcare professionals legitimately prescribe to treat conditions or manage chronic pain. Prescription opioid painkillers are the most commonly abused prescription drugs in the country. While they are abused by those who don’t have legitimate needs or prescriptions for the substances, they are also abused by those who take them for approved and legal reasons. Even when prescribed and administered carefully, those who live with pain can often find themselves taking more than needed, or taking their next dose a little earlier, which can both be seen as signs of misuse and potential addiction.
One of the most commonly recommended prescription painkillers, hydrocodone is a powerful opioid that is highly effective in pain relief. This semi-synthetic opioid is often prescribed to help treat pain in the short term, typically after an injury or dental surgery. Also known as Vicodin, hydrocodone is quite easy for the body to become dependent on. After using it regularly, it’s common to experience withdrawals upon quitting. The fact that dependence and addiction can happen so quickly makes this a very dangerous prescription, and it should be used with caution.
Hydrocodone is a fully synthetic opioid derived from the opium poppy. The sole reason for manufacturing is for it to be used to treat moderate to severe levels of pain throughout the entire body. It works by bonding with the opioid receptors in the brain, weakening or completely blocking the pain signals.
Vicodin is a highly effective way to manage pain, whether it stems from surgery or injury. Because it is given to patients frequently, it’s not surprising that addiction and overdose rates are rising. The most common way people get hooked on it is to begin abusing it while under the supervision of a doctor. They may have been prescribed one pill every 4-6 hours, but on a high pain day, they took an extra one, or they took their next dose at 2 or 3 hours. Another possibility is that they continued taking the medication beyond what their physician recommended.
No matter how one becomes dependent on it, hydrocodone misuse is a serious problem in the United States and can lead to serious side effects. Some of these effects are immediate, and others take longer to see. Some of the immediate side effects include:
When abused in the long term, the effects can be much more serious. At some point, Vicodin begins to impact thought patterns, mood, and the overall function of the brain. Those who abuse hydrocodone frequently experience anxiety and insomnia, while others may deal with kidney or liver disease. Medications and therapy can help anyone dealing with depression or anxiety, but one of the most important steps is to stop taking Vicodin.
Hydrocodone is usually found in immediate-release formulations, meaning they take effect within minutes and often last only 4 to 6 hours on average. This means that withdrawals can occur about 6 to 12 hours after the last dose, with the peak occurring within 72 hours after the last dose.
When the symptoms peak, they will last from 1 to 4 weeks, depending on the abuse profile of the individual. Once the peak has subsided, the symptoms begin to recede and fade away, ushering in the post-acute withdrawal stage. For heavy users, the post-acute stage can last for months or even years.
The symptoms that individuals can expect during the withdrawal process include:
If you have been taking hydrocodone to manage or reduce chronic pain or other conditions, you have possibly wondered what to look for that might signal that dependency and addiction were growing. While hydrocodone is generally prescribed with specific administration directions and guidelines, and refills are often closely monitored and regulated, the drug still has an incredibly high potential for abuse. It can cause dependency to form even in those to closely adhere to the directions given by their physician.
One of the major signs that there may be a hydrocodone addiction is that withdrawal symptoms begin to appear when the dosage is reduced or eliminated. Since hydrocodone is not particularly long-lasting, the withdrawal symptoms will often begin within several hours of a missed dose. If addiction is at hand, the withdrawal symptoms will rapidly fade and abate once more hydrocodone is taken. The formation of withdrawal symptoms in the absence of hydrocodone isn’t the only sign that an individual may be addicted. There are several more.
Additional signs that someone is addicted to hydrocodone are outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM 5, and include:
If you or a loved one may be living with a hydrocodone addiction, one of the most beneficial steps you can take today is to reach out and speak to someone confidentially to help you begin a personal recovery plan. While some individuals attempt to detox from hydrocodone solo, this can be uncomfortable, even painful, and has a very high relapse rate.
Working with experienced local addiction professionals allows you to complete hydrocodone detox and withdrawals in a comfortable, safe, medically supervised environment. Not only is this the safest way to get help, but it also paves the way for a long and successful recovery.
Last medically reviewed August 28, 2022