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.

Side Effects Of Hydrocodone Abuse

Hydrocodone abuse side effects such as nausea and constipation are unpleasant but rarely dangerous. On the other hand, opioid drugs such as hydrocodone can have serious effects as they can depress the CNS and dangerously slow a person’s breathing. High doses of hydrocodone can cause a person to cease breathing, lead to seizures and cause death.

Some side effects of hydrocodone abuse include:

  • Euphoria
  • Relaxation
  • Nervousness
  • Feeling unwell
  • Mood changes
  • Muscle spasms or pain
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Joint pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Faintness
  • Slowed respiration
  • Urinary retention
  • Itching
  • Sweating
  • Confusion
  • Ringing in ears
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Urinary tract infections (UTI)
  • Kidneys or adrenal gland problems
  • Acute liver failure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Rash or hives
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations

Hydrocodone Abuse And Withdrawal Symptoms

In the United States, people frequently take hydrocodone without a prescription or for other nonmedical reasons, such as to feel “high.” Taking hydrocodone in higher doses than prescribed, or for longer periods than intended, can quickly lead to tolerance, which means that the person has to take a higher dose of the drug to feel its effects.

Taking hydrocodone for long periods of time can contribute to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms, which can make it difficult for people to stop taking the drug on their own. Hydrocodone abuse can produce unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when a person stops taking the drug, such as:

  • Restlessness
  • Muscle pain
  • Bone pain
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chills and hot flashes
  • Goose bumps
  • Muscle cramps
  • Involuntary leg movements
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Panic
  • Sweating

Long-term Effects

Used for long periods of time, hydrocodone can affect the body’s ability to naturally reduce pain and can cause nerve cell death with continued abuse. Other long-term effects of abusive hydrocodone use include:

  • Restlessness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Loss of coordination
  • Attention problems
  • Judgment lapses
  • Low testosterone levels
  • Hyperalgesia ( increased sensitivity to pain)
  • Collapsed veins
  • Coma
  • Physical dependence
  • Addiction
  • Compromised immune system
  • Death
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Hydrocodone Addiction

People who develop physical dependence may not use hydrocodone in a harmful way, but they experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop taking it. People with hydrocodone addiction may exhibit the following signs:

  • Compulsive drug use
  • Drug-seeking behavior
  • Physical dependence
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Behavioral changes
  • Taking the drug despite negative consequences in school, relationships, home or work

Hydrocodone addiction signs may be more noticeable as the disease progresses. Many people who develop hydrocodone addiction will allot a substantial amount of time and energy to obtain and use the drug. Individuals who develop a substance use disorder due to hydrocodone may also show signs of denial and attempt to convince family and friends that they do not have a problem.

Hydrocodone Addiction Treatment

Sovereign Health of Arizona’s female trauma facility in Chandler, Arizona, provides comprehensive treatment programs to women with opioid use disorders, including hydrocodone drug abuse, providing specialized treatments for women with a history of trauma.

At Sovereign Health of Arizona, we offer  evidence-based and complementary treatment options, including individual counseling, group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), art and music therapy, eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, equine therapy and neurofeedback training, to treat women with hydrocodone addiction. Our treatment programs are individualized to meet each patient’s specific needs.

For further information about the treatment of hydrocodone abuse and addiction at Sovereign Health of Arizona’s Chandler facility, please call our 24/7 helpline to speak with a member of our admissions team.

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