With the opioid epidemic making headlines across the country, many specific opioids have been singled out as major problems within the epidemic. Hydrocodone is one of the most frequently abused drugs in the US, along with morphine, fentanyl, and of course heroin. Many prescription opioids can tend to sound similar, such as oxycodone and codeine, however their potency and effects can differ greatly.
Understanding the the differences between the prescriptions you are taking and others that may sound similar or appear on the news is very important, as each drug can have its own list of potential side effects and risks.
What Is Hydrocodone?
Also known as dihydrocodeinone, hydrocodone is a type of analgesic opioid commonly prescribed to treat chronic or severe pain. Hydrocodone can also be prescribed as an antitussive, or a cough suppressant, in individuals suffering from severe coughing fits. As an opioid, hydrocodone is classified as a narcotic which means it is a drug that can be taken recreationally to affect mood and behavior.
The following drugs contain hydrocodone:
- Vicodin ES
Hydrocodone is technically a semi-synthetic opioid, which means that it is derived both from naturally occurring opiates found in the opium poppy as well as lab created opioid alkaloids. The differences in synthetic versus naturally occurring opiates lies mostly in their methods of creation. Although some completely synthetic opioids, such as Fentanyl, can be vastly more potent than natural opiates like morphine, they are not necessarily more or less addictive than their natural counterparts.
The History Of Hydrocodone
First derived in 1920 by German scientists Carl Mannich and Helene Löwenheim in an attempt to create another analgesic, or painkiller. It was not approved in the united states until 1943, more than 20 years after its initial creation. Many other countries followed suit after the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug, including Canada’s equivalent Health Canada.
Hydrocodone was first marketed under the brand name Dicodid. If this sounds familiar today, you are likely thinking of the very similar drug Dilaudid that is still on the market. Many drugs released in that time era were marketed under similar sounding names, indicating that they were of similar chemical structure and generally served the same purpose.
The United Kingdom was the first country to come out publicly expressing concerns over the dangers of hydrocodone. In 1971, the UK classified hydrocodone as a Class A drug in the Misuse Of Drugs Act 1971. This classification is the most dangerous classification a drug can receive in the United Kingdom, causing strict regulations to be put in place surrounding the prescription and sale of hydrocodone.
The United States has been the world’s number one consumer of hydrocodone for decades, leading even its country of origin which discontinued the manufacturing of the drug. After seeing an alarming rise in emergency room visits related to hydrocodone abuse from 2004 to 2011, the United States moved hydrocodone from a schedule III narcotic to a schedule II, calling for stricter regulations on the drug. There are many groups today fighting to make hydrocodone and other opioids a schedule I drug, putting it on the same level as heroin and marijuana.
Why Have Opioids Been In The Spotlight?
Opioid addiction has been no stranger if you have been paying attention to news broadcasts and breaking stories across the United States in the past few years. Why has opioid addiction gotten so much more press than other addictions, such as cocaine and methamphetamine dependency?
One of the main reasons opioid addiction has been such a shock to our country is how the drug is accessed. For an overwhelming percentage of prescription opioid abusers and heroin users today, their first interaction with opioids was through a legal prescription. Many individuals who currently suffer from opioid addiction had no previous intention of using illicit drugs, but rather found themselves unexpectedly addicted after taking a medication that their own doctor had prescribed for them.
During the 1960’s, over 80% of clients admitted to addiction treatment facilities for opioid addiction stated that their first encounter with opioids was heroin (which was still illegal in the 1960s). When the same study was performed in the early 2000s, these statistics shifted dramatically with more than 75% of all clients stating that their first opioid was actually a prescription drug.
With this trend continuing, much of the public is calling for stricter regulations and even the discontinuation of some prescription opioids. Some groups, such as Advocates for the Reform of Prescription Opioids or ARPO, have dedicated their time and resources to advocating for stricter regulations on prescribing opioids, eliminating unethical marketing of prescription opioids, and improving treatment options for victims of opioid abuse and addiction.
How To Spot Hydrocodone Abuse
Do you suspect a loved one of abusing hydrocodone? Hydrocodone abuse is possible in anyone, no matter what their history is. While it is possible for hydrocodone use to go unnoticed, there are some telltale signs that could point to drug abuse in your loved one. Some common signs include:
- Running out of a prescription before a refill is ready
- Having a prescription that belongs to someone else
- Taking more than the prescribed dose because one dose ‘just doesn’t do it’
- Withdrawal symptoms after a prescription runs out including:
- Agitation, irritation
- Night sweats, insomnia
- Nausea and vomiting
- The shakes, uncontrollable shaking of hands and fingers
- Depression, anxiety
- Headaches and dizziness
- Consistently low on cash despite having a steady job
- Guilt towards their prescription drug use, attempts to hide when taking medication
- Frequent visits to doctors, especially new doctors
- Distancing themselves from friends or family
If you have a loved one that you suspect is abusing a prescription opioid and demonstrates some of the behaviors listed above, then it may be time to confront them about their abuse. There are many methods to doing this, and our hotline can help provide you with guidance if you are unsure of where to start.
It is important to remember that if your loved one is abusing hydrocodone, they never intended for it to be like this. Opioids like hydrocodone are highly addictive, and it is possible for anyone to become dependent on the drug. Even when taken as prescribed, prescription opioids like hydrocodone still carry a high risk for addiction. It is important you approach your loved one with an open heart that is without judgement, otherwise they may not choose to trust you with what is really going on in their lives.
Long-Term Effects Of Hydrocodone Use And Abuse
One key long-term effect of hydrocodone use and abuse is the building of a tolerance to the drug. When someone builds a tolerance to any drug, it means that their body has become used to the drug being in their system and starts to adjust to the levels of that drug. This will require a larger dose the next time the drug is taken to achieve the effect felt on the first dose.
Tolerance is a very common long-term effect when it comes to opioid abuse. It can be extremely dangerous as it can cause an individual to unknowingly overdose until it’s too late. When someone has built a tolerance to hydrocodone, they are able to take a larger dose and still have the same effects they felt with their first, smaller dose. Because these effects feel so similar, it is much more difficult to detect when you have reached a level that could cause you to stop breathing.
Using hydrocodone over long periods of time can also cause permanent damage to the kidneys, lungs, heart, and brain. Hydrocodone, and opioids in general, can cause your heart to slow to a dangerous rate, and can sometimes reduce breathing rates to a lethal level. Other long-term effects of hydrocodone use include:
- Severe depression
- Newfound anxiety or panic attacks
- Other mental health issues
- Respiratory depression (slow breathing)
- Difficulty recalling memories, memory issues
- Slowed brain activity, difficulty focusing and thinking
- Hallucinations, delirium
Treatment For Hydrocodone Addiction
Hydrocodone addiction can be life-threatening. Opioid addiction in general can be very difficult to combat on your own. Fortunately, there are addiction treatment facilities across the country that specialize in the treatment of hydrocodone dependency.
Many facilities also offer medical detox as a first step to hydrocodone addiction treatment. Medical detox is often a clinically supervised facility that helps clients to detox from drugs with life-threatening withdrawal symptoms like hydrocodone. These facilities have 24 hour clinical supervision along with medication-assisted detox to ensure safety and make clients as comfortable as possible as they complete their detox.
Following medical detox, it is recommended that clients transition to a residential inpatient rehab facility. During inpatient rehab, clients will be exposed to modalities and approaches that focus on both the physical dependency as well as the mental and emotional aspects of drug addiction. When clients are exposed to therapies that treat all components of addiction they are less likely to struggle with a relapse in the future.
There are many options for hydrocodone addiction treatment following inpatient rehab. From outpatient rehab to partial hospitalization programs to aftercare services, clients are able to choose a program that fits with their lifestyle and where they are in their journey to recovery.
Some outpatient programs are less intensive than partial hospitalization programs, allowing clients to get back to their normal lives while still receiving the support they need for their addiction. Other programs, like partial hospitalization, still allow clients to return home in the evenings but have group therapy sessions and other workshops during the day. These types of programs are generally more intensive than traditional outpatient rehab and are intended for clients that need extra support while returning to the cravings and temptations of their previous lives.
Treatment Options For Your Loved One
Do you believe your loved one could benefit from one of the programs described above? Or could you yourself benefit from a rehabilitation program? Our addiction treatment specialists are experts in the field of drug rehabilitation and they are standing by to answer any questions you may have on your loved one’s addiction or possible treatment options. We take each call in complete confidentiality and are available to talk any hour of the day. Get your loved one started on the path to recovery today, give us a call!
For More Information Related to “Hydrocodone Addiction and Treatment Options” Be Sure To Check Out These Additional Resources From DrugRehab.org:
- The Dangers Of Mixing Alcohol With Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
- Tylenol 4 (with Codeine) Withdrawal Symptoms
- The Dangers of Snorting Oxycontin (Oxycodone)
- The Dangers of Mixing Xanax and Oxycodone
- Signs and Symptoms of Fentanyl Abuse
Advocates for the Reform of Prescription Opioids –
National Institute on Drug Abuse –