Hydrocodone is a type of opioid, or narcotic, painkiller medication. It contains a semi-synthetic opioid similar to codeine and is combined with acetaminophen, a non-narcotic pain medication. Hydrocodone comes in tablets, capsules, injections and syrups, and is sold under various brand names, such as Lortab, Vicodin and Norco.
Typically, hydrocodone is prescribed to patients who have broken an arm or leg or to patients after surgery. Hydrocodone can also be used to suppress a person’s cough. While opioid pain medications are widely prescribed for reducing acute pain, people who take hydrocodone over long periods of time are likely to develop physical dependence on the drug. Hydrocodone abuse and addiction can have serious risks, including death.
How Does Hydrocodone Work?
Narcotics analgesics, such as hydrocodone, change the way a person’s central nervous system (CNS) responds to pain. Hydrocodone works by binding to opioid receptors located in the brain, organs such as the gastrointestinal tract and nervous system to reduce the perception of pain. Used also as an antitussive drug, hydrocodone can directly suppress the medulla oblongata, which is the brain area that controls coughing. It can also induce euphoria by acting on the brain’s reward system.