Vicodin is a prescription pain reliever developed for the relief of moderate to severe pain. It is a prescription tablet of hydrocodone and acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol). The hydrocodone in Vicodin is a synthetic opioid, which activates the same neuroreceptors as opiate drugs such as heroin.
Each Vicodin tablet has 300 mg of acetaminophen and comes in three different dosage levels of hydrocodone—5 mg, 7.5 mg and 10 mg. Each Vicodin tablet may have 300mg to 325mg of acetaminophen. It is generally prescribed for one tablet taken every 4 to 6 hours, though addicts may take much higher doses.
Vicodin is currently labelled as a Schedule II controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency after being changed from Schedule III in October of 2014. Because the abuse potential of Vicodin and other hydrocodone combination drugs is so high, the DEA voted to tighten restrictions in order to prevent fraud and protect citizens who are using Vicodin from abuse or misuse. Abuse of Vicodin is constituted by any type of use without a prescription or other than directed by a doctor.
One of the negative complications of Vicodin abuse is liver damage or failure caused by the acetaminophen in the drug. Typical cases of liver damage involve doses of 4,000 mg or more a day of acetaminophen.
For this reason, in March 2014, the FDA announced all manufacturers cease marketing products with more than 325 mg of acetaminophen. Previous formulations included 500 to 750 mg of acetaminophen.
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Effects of Vicodin Abuse
Every substance has negative health consequences and Vicodin is no exception. The obvious negative effects are the potential for addiction and liver damage. Some of the other common Vicodin abuse and addiction effects, both mild and serious, include:
- Relaxed and calm feeling
- Depressed heart rate
- Depressed breathing rate
- Aches and cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle pain
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Symptoms of Vicodin Addiction
It can be hard to recognize a true addiction to Vicodin. Some people develop a dependence (having withdrawals and tolerance to Vicodin) to their prescription and don’t realize it until they stop taking it. Dependence can lead to addiction, which is marked by the compulsive urge to use despite negative consequences.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V(DSM-V) outlines certain symptoms of those with an addiction. According to the DSM-V, in order to be diagnosed with a substance use disorder, you must meet two or more of the 11 criteria within a 12-month period. If you meet two or three of the criteria, you may have a mild substance use disorder. Four to five is considered moderate, and if you meet six or more criteria, you could have a severe substance use disorder. The following are the criteria.
- Taking Vicodin in larger amounts or for longer than you’re meant to
- Wanting to cut down or stop using Vicodin but not managing to
- Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of Vicodin
- Cravings and urges to use Vicodin
- Not managing to do what you should at work, home, or school because of Vicodin use
- Continuing to use Vicodin, even when it causes problems in relationships
- Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of Vicodin use
- Using Vicodin again and again, even when it puts you in danger
- Continuing to use Vicodin, even when you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by Vicodin
- Needing more Vicodin to get the effect you want (tolerance)
- Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more Vicodin
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A reported 5.3 percent of 12th graders abused Vicodin in 2013.
The production of prescription painkillers increased substantially from 2000 to 2010.
Up to 131 million Americans were, oftentimes unnecessarily, prescribed Vicodin in 2011.
Vicodin Addiction Treatment
Once a physical dependence on Vicodin develops, addiction becomes more likely. Vicodin withdrawals can be intense and painful, and many people will continue using Vicodin just to avoid them.
Receiving professional treatment is the most successful way people break their addiction to Vicodin. This type of treatment offers therapy and support in a setting conducive to recovery. It also offers a detox program that helps addicts safely and successfully manage their withdrawal symptoms. These programs also offer medications that ease these symptoms and make recovery more likely. Two of the most common are:
This drug activates the same receptors in the brain as Vicodin, releasing dopamine and relieving withdrawals.
Also used for treating alcoholics, Naltrexone reduces cravings and also blocks the effects of Vicodin in the case of a relapse.
In 2012, nearly 1 million people received treatment for their addiction to prescription pain relievers. You aren’t alone in your journey to recovery. Reach out to a treatment provider to learn more about recovery options.