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Lortab is a medication that relieves moderate to intense pain. The 2 ingredients in Lortab are Acetaminophen and Hydrocodone. Acetaminophen, better known by the brand name Tylenol, is a common medication for alleviating mild pain and reducing fevers. Hydrocodone is also used for pain relief, but unlike Acetaminophen, Hydrocodone is an Opioid — so it is therefore the more powerful ingredient in Lortab and has the potential to cause overdose and addiction. The Acetaminophen in Lortab merely enhances the pain relieving effects of the Hydrocodone. The composition of Lortab is similar to that of Vicodin, another Hydrocodone-based Painkiller.
Lortab functions like most other Opioid-based medications. When someone takes a Lortab pill, the Hydrocodone binds to Opioid receptors in the brain and nervous system. This stimulates the release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters which blunt sensations of pain and cause euphoria. When it is used properly, Lortab is useful for treating pain. However, it also poses risks for abuse. People can develop dependence on the effects of Lortab if they misuse it. For this reason, Lortab is a Schedule III controlled substance in the United States, and it is illegal to use or possess it without a prescription.
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Lortab is not notorious for being addictive, but Lortab addiction is possible. About 5% of people who receive a prescription for Lortab or another Opioid-based medication will abuse it and risk developing an addiction. A person who receives a prescription for Lortab can avoid addiction by using the medication exactly as the prescription directs.
When a person takes Lortab beyond the limits of a prescription and becomes tolerant to its effects, they can develop Lortab dependence. Once this happens, a person may take even more Lortab to continue to feel sedated and euphoric. Someone who becomes tolerant to the effects of Lortab might also experiment with other Opioids, either prescribed or Synthetic, and may start to depend on Opioids to feel normal and stable. Opioid dependence can escalate into Opioid addiction. A person who is addicted to Lortab or any other Opioid will exhibit chronic Opioid abuse despite significant physical and psychological consequences. Furthermore, they will compulsively use Opioids to avoid withdrawal.
Opioid withdrawal can be a painful experience. Hydrocodone withdrawal occurs when someone who is accustomed to using Lortab or another Hydrocodone-based medication suddenly stops taking it or reduces their dose. Withdrawal often prevents people from recovering from Opioid addiction. The symptoms of Hydrocodone withdrawal include:
Although the symptoms of withdrawal are painful and distressing, they usually begin to improve within 72 hours. The symptoms of Hydrocodone withdrawal typically subside within a week.
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A person doesn’t have to have an addiction to Lortab to experience its side effects. In most cases, the side effects of Lortab are not serious and subside within a few days. The most common Lortab side effects are:
Since Lortab contains Acetaminophen, the drug can cause liver damage if someone misuses it by taking it too often. A person who abuses Hydrocodone-based medications or takes them together with Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants such as alcohol or Benzodiazepines can also suffer an overdose, a life-threatening emergency. An overdose on Hydrocodone may cause respiratory depression, a partial or total cessation of breathing. This is a form of suffocation that requires immediate medical attention. A Lortab overdose can be fatal. Fortunately, the medication Naloxone can reverse the effects of an overdose if quickly administered.
If you recognize that you or someone else is suffering an overdose on Hydrocodone, get help immediately. The most common symptoms of a Hydrocodone overdose are:
In life-threatening cases, a Hydrocodone overdose may provoke coma in addition to respiratory depression. Additionally, it is also possible for the Acetaminophen in Lortab to cause or aggravate an overdose. The most obvious symptom of an Acetaminophen overdose is jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) as a result of liver failure.
Lortab can be helpful for managing pain, but the drug may also be a gateway to Opioid addiction if it is abused. If you or someone you know is dependent on Lortab or struggling to overcome addiction to Opioids, please get help. Contact a treatment provider today to learn about options for treatment.
Nathan Yerby is a writer and researcher. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.
Reviewed by Certified Addiction Professional
Theresa Parisi is a Certified Addiction Professional (CAP), Certified Behavioral Health Case Manager (CBHCM), and International Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ICADC) with over 12 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.
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