If you’ve ever had surgery or have broken a bone, chances are that you may have been prescribed Vicodin. Vicodin is the brand name of the generic drug, hydrocodone. It is a prescription opioid medication that doctors prescribe to patients to treat pain, but it has addictive properties and can be habit-forming. It can also have fatal consequences if a person overdoses.
Also sold under brand names such as Lortab and Norco, Vicodin (i.e., hydrocodone) combines a semi-synthetic opioid with a non-narcotic pain medication (e.g., acetaminophen) to reduce fever and pain. Typically, Vicodin is prescribed after a surgery or an injury, but it is also used as an antitussive, which helps to suppress a person’s cough.
How does Vicodin work?
Vicodin acts on the central nervous system (CNS) to reduce pain by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and throughout the body. Opioid prescription medications such as Vicodin dampen the pain signals sent throughout the nervous system to reduce the perception of and emotional response to pain.
The ability of Vicodin to affect the brain’s reward system is one of the primary reasons why people repeatedly take the drug. The brain’s reward system also plays a major role in opioid addiction, including addiction to Vicodin, by increasing the release of a brain chemical called dopamine, which causes users to feel euphoric and pleasurable effects.
Vicodin abuse: Side effects
The most common side effects of Vicodin include dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, sedation, and constipation. Although these side effects may be unpleasant, they are rarely dangerous. Vicodin can also dangerously slow a person’s breathing. At high enough doses, Vicodin can lead to seizures, overdoses, respiratory failure, and even death.
Following are some of the other short-term effects of Vicodin abuse.
- Mental clouding
- Mood changes
- Muscle spasms, pain or stiffness
- Joint and abdominal pain
- Slowed respiration
- Urinary retention
- Ringing in ears
- Problems with sleep
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Kidney or adrenal gland problems
- Acute liver failure
- Rapid heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Rash or hives