Hydrocodone Abuse, Side Effects, Withdrawal & Treatment

An effective painkiller, hydrocodone is commonly prescribed for legitimate medical reasons. However, as an opioid, it has a high potential for abuse and addiction. This article will discuss the uses, side effects, and risks of this medication and how to great treatment if you’ve developed a problem with the drug.

What Is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone pills

Hydrocodone is a prescription opioid pain medication used to treat moderate to severe pain. This prescription painkiller can either be prescribed alone or in combination with other medications like acetaminophen. Some well-known brand names for hydrocodone-based medications include:

  • Anexsia.
  • Zohydro ER.
  • Vicodin (discontinued).
  • Norco (discontinued).
  • Lortab (discontinued).

Hydrocodone is very effective at treating pain, which means it is widely prescribed after surgery or major physical injury. It is not often prescribed for long-term use, and people who use hydrocodone for a long period of time are more likely to develop an addiction to this medication.

Hydrocodone Side Effects

The side effects of hydrocodone include the following:

  • Dry mouth.
  • Constipation.
  • Insomnia.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Slowed breathing.

Side effects may worsen when the drug is taken in higher doses than prescribed. For example, slowed breathing is more likely with higher doses. In overdose, the slowed breathing caused by hydrocodone can become severe enough to be fatal.

How Does Hydrocodone Addiction Start?

The euphoric pain relief induced by hydrocodone can be very habit-forming. It is difficult to tell who will become addicted to hydrocodone, so it is important for doctors to carefully monitor patients after they have been prescribed hydrocodone-based medications to ensure they are not misusing it. Misuse/abuse of hydrocodone may mean:

  • Taking more than prescribed.
  • Taking hydrocodone not prescribed to you.
  • Using it in ways that are not directed, e.g., crushing it and snorting or injecting it.

Due to hydrocodone’s potential for abuse and dependence, the Drug Enforcement Administration changed hydrocodone medications from Schedule III to Schedule II. Without continued abuse, addiction becomes a greater and greater danger.

Individuals who struggle with hydrocodone addiction may begin doctor shopping, meaning they turn to multiple doctors for multiple prescriptions. They may fake pain in emergency rooms to receive another prescription, or they may steal medication from a friend or family member who has a legitimate hydrocodone prescription.

What Are the Signs of Hydrocodone Addiction?

Man with bag of pills

Symptoms of hydrocodone abuse include:

  • Drowsiness and lack of energy.
  • Lack of motivation.
  • Inability to concentrate.
  • Small pupils.
  • Slurring of speech.
  • Nodding off frequently.

When abuse turns into opioid addiction, the individual will display an inability to stop using the medication despite the harm it does to them. This will be shown in signs such as:

  • Making unsuccessful attempts at cutting back.
  • Consistently using more hydrocodone than intended.
  • Spending a lot of time in finding, using, or recovering from hydrocodone.
  • Craving hydrocodone.
  • Not fulfilling professional, academic or domestic obligations due to one’s hydrocodone use.
  • Using hydrocodone despite it causing or worsening problems in relationships.
  • Giving up hobbies or enjoyable activities in favor of using hydrocodone.
  • Using the medication when doing so can be physically hazardous.
  • Continuing to use hydrocodone knowing that it has caused or worsened mental and/or physical health problems.
  • Needing to keep taking more hydrocodone to feel the same effects.
  • Needing to use hydrocodone to avoid withdrawal.

What Are the Signs of Hydrocodone Overdose?

Symptoms of hydrocodone overdose include:

  • Weak pulse and low blood pressure.
  • Extreme drowsiness.
  • Pinpoint pupils.
  • Unconsciousness.
  • Bluish lips, fingernails, or fingertips.
  • Cold or clammy skin.
  • Breathing trouble, including shallow, slow, or stopped respiration.
  • Coma.

It is important that individuals struggling with hydrocodone abuse or addiction get help before they suffer an overdose. Proper addiction treatment can help these individuals overcome their addiction with medical detox and therapeutic support.

Getting Treatment for Hydrocodone Addiction

Treatment for hydrocodone addiction often has more than one phase. The first phase of opioid addiction treatment is often medical detox, which often takes place in an inpatient setting but may also be performed on an outpatient basis. Detox helps to manage opioid withdrawal.

What Are the Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms?

Medical professionals can monitor clients during detox, and they may use medications to ease withdrawal symptoms, which may include:

  • Restlessness.
  • Yawning.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Teary eyes.
  • Runny nose.
  • Sweating and chills.
  • Insomnia.
  • Anxiety.
  • Muscle and joint pain.
  • Back pain.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Increased blood pressure, breathing, or heart rate.

How to Treat Hydrocodone Addiction

New Habits

Beginning in detox and continuing through rehab, therapists will help clients discover the underlying causes of their addiction. Addressing the issues that contribute to and perpetuate your opioid use is crucial to your ability to sustain recovery from opioids.

You can do this in an inpatient rehabilitation center where you have 24-7 support and a sober environment or in an outpatient environment where you have freedom to live at home and work on your new skills outside of treatment. Which environment is better for your will depend on factors such as the severity of your addiction, whether you struggle with co-occurring mental health disorders, and how much support you have at home. If you’re unsure about the appropriate treatment option, a doctor or addiction treatment professional can assess you and help you determine an appropriate treatment course.

You may also be limited to a certain type of treatment by your insurance. Your insurance will cover the types of treatment they deem “medically necessary,” so if they believe you can recover in outpatient treatment, they may provide coverage for that level of care only. If you’re unsure of your benefits, you can check them here.

 

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