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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.

Hydrocodone abuse: Side effects

Highly addictive in nature, hydrocodone abuse symptoms differ from individual to individual. Highly addictive in nature, regular usage of hydrocodone may develop into drug tolerance, drug dependence and eventually lead to a drug addiction.

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 down a person’s breathing. High doses of hydrocodone can cause a person to cease breathing, lead to seizures and even be fatal.

Following are some of the side effects of hydrocodone abuse.

  • 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: Long-term effects

When abused over a long period of time, hydrocodone abuse can lead to irreversible health damage. 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. Following are some of the long-term effects of abusive hydrocodone use:

  • Restlessness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Liver damage
  • Mood swings
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • 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

Hydrocodone addiction: Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of hydrocodone abuse and addiction vary according to the amount, frequency and duration of the drug taken. Following are some of the common signs and symptoms of hydrocodone addiction.

  • Blurred vision
  • Seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion and fear
  • Depression
  • Shallow breathing

Additionally, people who abuse hydrocodone may also experience the following symptoms:

  • 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 devote 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 abuse: Withdrawal symptoms

In the United States, people frequently take hydrocodone without a prescription or for other nonmedical reasons, such as to feel a “high.” Taking hydrocodone in doses other than prescribed or for longer periods than intended can quickly lead to drug tolerance causing one to take higher doses of the drug to feel its complete effects. Additionally, taking hydrocodone for long periods of time can contribute to physical dependence and result in dangerous withdrawal symptoms making it difficult for people to stop taking the drug on their own.

When stopped abruptly after being consumed for a long period of time, hydrocodone abuse can produce unpleasant withdrawal symptoms in its users. Following are some withdrawal symptoms of hydrocodone abuse:

  • 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

A medically supervised hydrocodone detox treatment at certified hydrocodone detox centers can help ease the withdrawal symptoms and minimize the likelihood of a relapse.

Hydrocodone addiction treatment

A comprehensive treatment program for hydrocodone addiction consists of a medically-supervised detox program and therapy sessions. The first step in addiction treatment, detoxification focuses on decreasing drug dependency by gradually flushing out the addicted substance from the body and help ease the withdrawal symptoms.

Post a successful detoxification treatment, a patient undergoes therapy and counseling sessions to help identify the underlying causes of addiction and help maintain sobriety post the treatment completion.

 Why choose Sovereign Health?

As a dual licensed facility, 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.

Knowing that no one treatment works for all, treatment team at Sovereign Health provides each of its patients with individualized, personalized addiction treatment programs basis their needs and symptoms to help in their treatment and ease the recovery process.

In addition to providing our patients with clinically proven treatment methods, Sovereign Health of Arizona offers all women patients with hydrocodone addiction with 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.

For further information about the top-notch hydrocodone abuse treatment programs offered at Sovereign Health of Arizona’s Chandler facility or to locate our state-of-the-art treatment facilities, please call our 24/7 helpline to speak with a member of our admissions team. You can even chat online with our representative for any further assistance.

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