The opioid crisis continues to engulf this nation, and hydrocodone, the most commonly prescribed painkiller in the United States, is at the center of it. The semi-synthetic opioid is prescribed to individuals with severe pain from surgery, injury, or terminal conditions such as cancer. Hydrocodone is more potent than codeine and is often prescribed in combination with acetaminophen. In addition to altering your perception of pain, hydrocodone produces euphoric effects. This is why users are compelled to abuse it. The misuse of this powerful narcotic can have devastating, life-altering consequences.
Because hydrocodone is prescribed by doctors, there is a common misconception that the drug is safe. However, even in small doses, the drug can become addictive. Users tend to develop a dependency on pain pills and experience acute withdrawal symptoms once they stop taking them. What’s more, people who develop hydrocodone tolerance will take larger doses to experience the same effect. They may also consume it with alcohol, which can worsen the consequences. Another outcome users grapple with is cost. Once they become addicted to hydrocodone, they may switch to heroin because the illegal drug is cheaper to obtain.
The federal government has enacted policies that make it more difficult to obtain opioids like hydrocodone. But the cost of this addiction is certain: If not death, it could mean a long battle with an addiction that will not end unless professional help is immediately sought.
How Does Hydrocodone Work?
Opioids like hydrocodone bind to receptors located in the brain and spinal cord areas to mitigate pain signals. They also affect areas of the brain that govern emotion, further diminishing pain perception. Opioids also act on the brain’s reward center, inducing feelings of euphoria by releasing the dopamine hormone. This state is achieved when users exceed their prescribed opioid dosage or use it in other ways like snorting it.
In addition to those functions, opioids can also produce drowsiness, mental confusion, respiratory depression, constipation, and nausea.
What Are the Signs of Hydrocodone Addiction?
It is difficult to detect whether a hydrocodone user is in the throes of addiction, particularly in the early stages. Someone taking the medication may exhibit signs of dependency, but that could be misconstrued as a mere side effect. They can also become addicted to hydrocodone without showing any outward signs of dependency.
That is why it is critical to familiarize yourself with the side effects and the addictive signs and symptoms. Opioid addictions should be treated with the same vigilance as a life-threatening disease where early detection is critical. If you suspect that you or a loved one has an hydrocodone addiction, it is crucial to know the difference between the signs and side effects.
Side Effects That Could Serve as Evidence of a Growing Hydrocodone Addiction Include:
- Rashes and itching
- Constant drowsiness
- Chronic constipation
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Mood swings
- Difficulty urinating
- Pinpoint pupils
Like other kinds of substance abuse, hydrocodone dependency is apparent when a user displays compulsive behaviors around the drug. Obtaining and using hydrocodone becomes their primary objective. They will prioritize the pill over family and friends. They will forgo work and/or school obligations. They will even sacrifice their health and personal appearance for it. Once they have crossed this threshold, they have spiraled out of control.
Thus, It is Important to Know the Signs of Extreme Behavior Associated with Hydrocodone Abuse. These Signs Include:
- Consuming hydrocodone without a prescription or in larger-than-prescribed doses
- Forging prescriptions to obtain the drug
- Doctor shopping for greater access to hydrocodone
- Suffering withdrawals without hydrocodone
- Taking larger doses of the drug due to increased tolerance
- Taking or missing money and/or valuables to get more hydrocodone
- Seeking isolation from the world
- Neglecting personal hygiene
- Lying about hydrocodone use
- Displaying an inability to function without hydrocodone
- Unable to quit using it despite many attempts to quit
If you observe any of these behaviors in you or a loved one, then the advised next step is treatment. With professional help you or that person can escape the clutches of addiction and experience a better way of life.
What is Involved in Hydrocodone Addiction Treatment?
Once you have made the important decision of acknowledging your addiction, your journey toward recovery will begin with medical detoxification. A detox will rid the body of any toxins or residue left over from hydrocodone. The detox usually lasts between five to seven days with 24-hour supervision. While hydrocodone withdrawal is not life-threatening, it can be a painful and traumatic experience. A licensed, experienced, and reputable medical staff can provide you the medicine necessary to mitigate any withdrawal symptoms you may have.
The next recommended step is residential treatment. You will live at the facility while you recover from your addiction. You will also participate in therapy and counseling for most of the day, every day. It is recommended that patients opt for 90 days of residential treatment as that program yields the most positive outcomes. Plus, you will gain vital coping mechanisms and strategies to help you combat your addiction and avoid relapse. Dropping out of treatment or opting for a shorter stay magnifies the probability of relapse.
Depending on the severity of the addiction, you might require intensive outpatient care (IOP), which provides part-time intensive therapy for multiple hours a week for several hours at a time. These programs last six to eight weeks, but they would allow patients clinical intervention, therapy, and medication management (if necessary).
The final step on the continuum of care would be the outpatient program (OP) phase. At this point, clients would receive basic clinical support an hour a week. Outpatient programs typically last several months, providing the crucial help you need as you transition back into the world newly sober. IOP and outpatient care are available at these South Florida locations: Ocean Breeze Recovery (OBR), Palm Beach Institute (PBI), Pathway to Hope (PTH), and New Perspectives (NP). Both treatment options are also located at our Serenity at Summit (Serenity) facilities in the northeastern region of the U.S.
How Dangerous is Hydrocodone?
Hydrocodone addiction can occur when it is misused or taken as prescribed. Users could develop a tolerance to the drug and fall into the grips of dependence. Hydrocodone can also be a gateway to illicit drugs like heroin.
Opioids like hydrocodone are even more dangerous when they are consumed with alcohol or other drugs. Mixing oxycodone and alcohol can increase your risk of overdose and damage your kidneys and liver. If you witness someone exhibiting signs of overdose, call 911 immediately.
Hydrocodone Overdose Signs Include:
- Clammy skin
- Shallow breathing
- Falling in and out of consciousness
- Blue skin around nails and lips
- Low blood pressure
Hydrocodone Abuse Statistics
- Of the 63,600-plus drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2016, 42,249 were attributed to an opioid.
- According to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 6.9 million people misused hydrocodone products, including include Vicodin®, Lortab®, Norco®, Zohydro® ER, and generic hydrocodone, in 2016.
In 2013, there were 29,391 total exposures and 36 deaths associated with hydrocodone in the U.S.