Recognizing a Hydrocodone Addiction
Because hydrocodone is so potent, it’s not uncommon for people to develop an addiction to it.
This can start with a prescribed dose that leads to a chemical dependence. Then a compulsive need to get hydrocodone regardless of the consequences.
An addiction to hydrocodone is diagnosed on a use disorder spectrum from mild to severe.
Some of the telltale signs of addiction include spending a lot of time trying to get hydrocodone and needing more to get the desired effects.
Over time, a person addicted to hydrocodone will prioritize use over all else.
Signs of Hydrocodone Abuse
Hydrocodone and its brand names Vicodin, Norco and Lortab are powerfully addictive painkillers. Using them even infrequently can lead to physical dependence or even a full addiction.
There are a few telltale signs to recognizing when someone you care about is abusing hydrocodone products.
Signs of hydrocodone abuse may include:
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Constricted pupils
- Slowed or shallow breathing
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Dangers of Hydrocodone
The effects of hydrocodone are similar to those of morphine and heroin. This is because all three drugs interact with the same parts of the brain.
By attaching to the brain’s opioid receptors, hydrocodone reduces pain and creates a sense of euphoria.
The substance also interacts with the brain reward system, which reinforces continued hydrocodone use.
Continued abuse of hydrocodone can cause short- and long-term damage to the user’s body and mental state. Many people who abuse hydrocodone products like Vicodin or Norco are looking for a euphoric high or a way to numb their physical or psychological pain.
Immediate Side Effects of Hydrocodone Abuse
Someone abusing hydrocodone may experience negative side effects immediately after use. The severity of these effects range from irritating to fatal. Even some people using hydrocodone on their prescribed dose may experience side effects.
Immediate side effects include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty breathing
- Slow heartbeat
- Trouble concentrating
- Feelings of anger
- Dry mouth
- Blurry vision
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Long-term Side Effects of Hydrocodone Abuse
Abusing hydrocodone for an extended period can lead to irreversible consequences. Hydrocodone can interfere with the brain reward system’s normal function, making it difficult to find pleasure in healthy activities after years of hydrocodone abuse.
Many common hydrocodone products contain acetaminophen (more commonly known as Tylenol), which can cause significant liver damage over an extended period of time.
Liver damage is the primary health risk of long-term hydrocodone abuse. For this reason, the Food and Drug Administration now stipulates that no more than 325 mg of acetaminophen can be used in hydrocodone-based drugs. These drugs once contained over double the amount of acetaminophen they currently contain.
Long-term side effects include:
- Liver damage
- Mood swings
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Intervention for a Hydrocodone Problem
If someone you care about is struggling with a hydrocodone addiction, it’s important to say something. Staging an intervention is one of the best ways to broach the subject.
Because hydrocodone products are available by prescription, your loved one might believe they are only following doctor’s orders and that they don’t have a problem.
Denial is one of the hardest things to overcome when helping someone get the treatment they deserve. Before you talk to your loved one, evaluate if there is a possibility that the situation could get dangerous. There are experienced intervention specialists who can help you safely have that conversation.
Hydrocodone Withdrawal, Treatment and Next Steps
The withdrawal symptoms of hydrocodone are essentially the opposite of the effects the drug has. For example, while hydrocodone abuse produces effects of euphoria, withdrawal induces a sad mood.
Hydrocodone withdrawal happens because the brain can no longer function normally without the substance. Addicted people have symptoms such as insomnia and nausea. Detox is the first step to treating hydrocodone addiction.
Opiates are some of the most uncomfortable drugs to detox from, but the side effects of detox are rarely life-threatening.
A medical detox can ease the symptoms of hydrocodone withdrawal and minimize the likelihood of a relapse.
After detox, it is important for a recovering hydrocodone addict to find support through local groups, therapists, family and friends. Inpatient rehab programs can help the former user focus on recovery, establishing new ways to handle pain and stress without using hydrocodone.
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