Hydrocodone Addiction, Effects and Treatment

Hydrocodone is a prescription opioid painkiller that has a high potential for abuse. Read on to learn more about how hydrocodone works, what addiction looks like, and treatment options for opioid use disorder.

What Is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is an opioid medication used to relieve moderate to severe pain and to suppress cough.1

Hydrocodone relieves pain by activating opioid receptors throughout the central nervous system and altering the perception of pain signals sent to the brain. It suppresses cough by decreasing activity in the part of the brain associated with coughing.2,3

Although prescription opioids are generally safe when taken as prescribed by a doctor and only used for a short period of time, pain relievers that contain hydrocodone are Schedule II controlled substances, as designated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).3 This is because hydrocodone:4

  • Has a high potential for abuse.
  • Could lead to severe psychological and physical dependence.

Aside from relieving pain, prescription opioids like hydrocodone can also make people feel relaxed and/or high. They are considered dangerous because opioids are highly addictive, and their misuse can lead to overdose and death.3

Effects and Risks of Hydrocodone Misuse

Taking prescription opioids even as prescribed can still yield side effects. The most commonly reported side effects of hydrocodone include:2

  • Light-headedness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Sedation.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Constipation.

Long-term misuse of prescription opioids like hydrocodone can increase the risk of addiction and overdose, which may lead to dangerously slowed breathing and heart rate, low blood pressure, seizures, and death.2,5

Signs of Hydrocodone Misuse

An opioid use disorder (OUD) can only be diagnosed by a medical or clinical professional. However, there are some things you can look out for if you believe someone you know might be misusing a prescription opioid like hydrocodone. These signs include:6

  • Frequently reporting lost or stolen medication.
  • Trying to get medication refilled early.
  • Attempting to obtain a prescription from a difference source.
  • Experiencing noticeable withdrawal symptoms.
  • Repeatedly requesting increasing doses of opioids from the prescriber.
  • Reporting an increase in pain despite a lack of disease progression.

When a person meets with a healthcare professional to discuss potentially problematic opioid use, the doctor or clinician will likely use a set of criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Edition) to diagnose an opioid use disorder. An OUD may be diagnosed if the person exhibits two or more symptoms from the criteria list.7

Misuse of hydrocodone or other prescription opioids does not necessarily mean a person is addicted to the substance, however. Using hydrocodone as prescribed can lead some individuals to develop a tolerance to the drug. This may be more likely if it’s used long-term.3

If someone continues to misuse a substance like hydrocodone, they also increase their likelihood of developing physiological opioid dependence. People who develop significant opioid dependence may be at risk of withdrawal symptoms if continued use of the drug slows or stops.3

Acute opioid withdrawal can be extremely unpleasant, making quitting even more difficult. For these reasons, many people benefit from medical support after deciding to stop taking the substance.3

Hydrocodone Overdose Symptoms

Just like other prescription opioids, it’s possible to overdose on hydrocodone. An overdose occurs when a person takes enough of a substance to produce life-threatening symptoms or death.3

Signs of a hydrocodone overdose include:8

  • Pinpoint pupils, or eyes that look small and constricted.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Slow, shallow, or altogether stopped breathing.
  • Choking sounds.
  • Limp body.
  • Pale and/or cold skin.

When a person’s breathing slows or stops, the amount of oxygen going to their brain drops. This can result in permanent brain damage, coma, or death.3

Using prescription opioids like hydrocodone in combination with alcohol or other CNS depressants such as benzodiazepines can increase the risk of fatal overdose.2,5

Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms can occur when someone with opioid dependence suddenly stops taking an opioid like hydrocodone. Symptoms of hydrocodone withdrawal may include:2,3,9

  • Muscle aches and pain.
  • Insomnia.
  • Diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Runny nose and watery eyes.
  • Sweating.
  • Goose bumps and chills.
  • Restlessness.
  • Uncontrollable leg movements.
  • Severe drug cravings.

Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable but are generally not life-threatening.7

How Long Does Hydrocodone Withdrawal Last?

Withdrawal symptoms commonly start within 6–12 hours after the last use of a relatively short-acting opioid like hydrocodone. These symptoms typically peak in severity within 1–3 days and gradually resolve within 5–7 days. Less acute symptoms may persist for weeks to months.7

Hydrocodone Detox and Treatment

To manage withdrawal symptoms and avoid relapsing during the detox process, many people benefit from medically assisted detox programs at addiction treatment facilities. This creates a safe, comfortable place for the person to rid their body of any substances they are on, while their health is monitored by medical professionals.

In some instances, medication may be administered for opioid withdrawal symptoms, such as methadone or buprenorphine.9

Once a person has completed detox, there are several different types of rehab for OUD. These include:

  • Inpatient rehab.
  • Residential treatment.
  • Partial hospitalization programs.
  • Outpatient rehab.

Within treatment programs, patients can expect daily therapy in group or one-on-one settings, medical and mental healthcare services, as well as recreational and holistic therapies.

Hydrocodone Addiction Treatment Near Tampa

If you or a loved one is struggling with an opioid addiction, our inpatient rehab near Tampa can help.

At River Oaks, we offer evidence-based care and personalized treatment plans designed to meet the individual needs of each patient. Our admissions navigators are available around the clock to answer your questions about paying for rehab, using insurance to pay for rehab, and more.

Call to start the admissions process and begin the path to recovery today.

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