Vicodin Defined

Vicodin is a prescription painkiller 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 neurotransmitters 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 as one tablet taken every 4 to 6 hours, though addicts may take much higher doses.

Vicodin Abuse

Vicodin is currently labeled 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 includes any type of use without a prescription or use 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 that all manufacturers have ceased marketing products with more than 325 mg of acetaminophen. Previous formulations included 500 to 750 mg of acetaminophen.

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:

  • Liver diseases
  • Heart disease
  • Weakened immune system
  • Digestive conditions
  • High blood pressure
  • Multiple forms of cancer
  • Depressive disorders
  • Heart attack and stroke
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Seizures

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 fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) outlines certain symptoms of those with an addiction. According to the DSM-5, in order to be diagnosed with substance use disorder (SUD), you must meet two or more of the corresponding criteria within a 12-month period. If you meet 2 or 3 of the criteria, you may have a mild SUD. Four to five is considered moderate; if you meet 6 or more criteria, you could have a severe SUD. The diagnostic criteria include the following:

  • 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.
  • 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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Vicodin Statistics



A reported 5.3% of 12th graders abused Vicodin in 2013.


to 2010

The production of prescription painkillers increased substantially from 2000 to 2010.



Up to 131 million Americans were, oftentimes unnecessarily, prescribed Vicodin in 2011.


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 alcohol use disorder (AUD), 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 painkillers. You aren’t alone in your journey to recovery. Contact a treatment provider to learn more about recovery options.