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. A Schedule II substance, hydrocodone comes in tablets, capsules, injections and syrups, and is sold under various brand names, such as Lortab, Vicodin and Norco. A narcotic and a semi-synthetic medication, some of the effects of hydrocodone include feelings of euphoria, relaxation and reduced anxiety.
In 2016, the most commonly misused subtype of prescription pain relievers consisted of hydrocodone products including Norco, Vicodin, Zohydro ER, Lortab and generic hydrocodone. According to latest statistics, an estimated 6.9 million American people (aged 12 or older) or 2.6 percent of the population had misused these products in the past year.
Typically, hydrocodone is prescribed to patients who have broken an arm or leg or post-surgery. However, 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 a physical dependence on it. Used for treating moderate-to-severe pain as well as suppressing cough, when taken in larger quantities, hydrocodone can lead to overuse, abuse and eventually physical and psychological addiction. Hydrocodone abuse and addiction can have serious health risks, including coma and even death.
How does hydrocodone work?
Narcotic 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, nervous system, and the gastrointestinal tract 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. The drug can also induce euphoria by acting on the brain’s reward system.