Vicodin Addiction, Abuse and Treatment

This prescription pain reliever is a combination of hydrocodone and the active ingredient in Tylenol. There is a high risk for addiction, but there are many treatment options.

Vicodin Defined

vicodinVicodin 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. It is generally prescribed for one tablet taken every 4 to 6 hours, though addicts may take much higher doses.

Vicodin Abuse

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. Abuse of Vicodin is constituted by any type of use without a prescription or other than directed by a doctor.

One of the negative side effects 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, Vicodin was recently reformulated after the Food and Drug Administration required prescription painkillers to contain a maximum of 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:

  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Anxiety
  • Depressed heart rate
  • Depressed breathing rate
  • Aches and cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle pain
  • Depression

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 (DSM) outlines certain symptoms of those with an addiction. According to the DSM, if a person has 3 or more of the following symptoms, they have an addiction.

  • A marked need for larger doses over time to get the same effects
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Taking more Vicodin than initially intended
  • Having a constant craving for Vicodin or making unsuccessful attempts to cut down use
  • Spending an unreasonable amount of time using or acquiring Vicodin
  • Ignoring or forgetting about obligations because of Vicodin abuse
  • Continuing to use Vicodin or refusing treatment although you recognize the consequences of abuse

Vicodin Statistics



A reported 5.3 percent 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.

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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:

Buprenorphine—This drug activates the same receptors as Vicodin, releasing dopamine and relieving withdrawals.
Naltrexone—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. Call us now to learn more about your recovery options and breaking the cycle of addiction.

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