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Hydrocodone Addiction and Abuse

7.18.2017 | Nathan Becker
Hydrocodone Addiction and Abuse

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People who use hydrocodone over a long period of time or in larger doses may start showing symptoms of hydrocodone addiction.

Prescription opioids such as hydrocodone are the fourth most common addiction in the U.S., accounting for approximay 1.8 million addicts. 20% abused prescriptions.

The Food and Drug Administration has also approved a pure hydrocodone product known as Zohydro. Hydrocodone is combined with acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) or ibuprofen in brand names such as Vicodin, Norco and Lortab.

About 20% of those abusing opioids like hydrocodone received the drug with a prescription. 2 million first-timers.

Those abusing hydrocodone may crush up their pills and snort or inject the contents. In 2014, lawmakers recognized the increasing dangers of abuse and addiction of hydrocodone combination products such as Vicodin and changed them from a Schedule III to Schedule II controlled substance.

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Hydrocodone abuse can be difficult to recognize. Someone who has a legitimate hydrocodone prescription, but uses it outside of a doctor’s recommendation, is abusing it.

Prior to the FDA requiring lower levels of acetaminophen in hydrocodone medications, Norco had the least amount of acetaminophen in it. Some addicts chose Norco in an effort to avoid the increased risks of consuming too much acetaminophen. Currently, it has the highest amount of acetaminophen allowed.

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

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Hydrcodone relieves pain by binding pain receptors (opioid receptors) in the central nervous system. This weakens the signal for pain in the brain and can produce feelings of elation.

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

Taking more than the prescribed dose of Lortab increases the risk of dependency. Even those with a legitimate prescription may be abusing Lortab by taking more than recommended.

It is often administered orally to treat short-term dental and injury-related pain. Hydrocodone is the powerful main ingredient in narcotic painkillers for moderate to severe pain.

The highest percentage of non-medical Lortab use are 18-25 year olds.

Norco is most often prescribed in two strengths: either 7.5 mg or 10 mg of hydrocodone combined with 325 mg of acetaminophen.

Previous formulations included 500 to 750 mg of acetaminophen. High doses of acetaminophen have been known to cause liver damage. Vicodin once had a high amount of acetaminophen in its pills, but an FDA change in 2011 required all prescription painkillers to reduce their acetaminophen content.

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There are several versions of hydrocodone marketed in the United States. Those with an addiction to hydrocodone likely have a specific brand they prefer. This could be based on many reasons that are both practical and psychological.

In some cases, combined hydrocodone and alcohol abuse can lead to respiratory failure. Abusing hydrocodone alongside other drugs can increase the likelihood of negative effects or overdose. Mixing hydrocodone with alcohol can be especially dangerous, as both substances are central nervous system depressants.

46% medical emergencies. In 2012, almost 2 million people tried opioids recreationally for the first time.

Some of the immediate effects of hydrocodone abuse include:

The first purely hydrocodone product approved by the FDA, Zohydro is only prescribed for severe pain. Because hydrocodone can be addictive, use of Zohydro is carefully monitored and regulated.

Lortab is a prescription drug that combines hydrocodone with acetaminophen. The addition of acetaminophen increases the pain relieving effects of the drug.

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Abuse can be taking more pills than prescribed, continuing to take them beyond their prescribed timeframe or taking them in a way other than how they were intended (such as snorting or injecting them). Many people abuse hydrocodone products for the “high” that comes from them.

High doses of hydrocodone can create these effects more quickly. However, they can also lead to overdose.

Because it has no acetaminophen, addicted people could turn to this powerful painkiller to reduce the risk of liver damage. When Zohydro was approved, there was some backlash over its abuse potential.

New users, whether medical or recreational, can easily become addicted to this pure substance.

As their tolerance builds, people addicted to hydrocodone need higher doses to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay.

Prescription opioids are the most common substance involved in drug-related medical emergencies. In 2013, 46% of drug-related medical emergencies involved opioids.

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Get help for a hydrocodone addiction now.

Hydrocodone interferes with the brain’s pain receptors and the brain’s limbic system, collectively known as the brain reward system. Frequent hydrocodone abuse not only reprograms the brain for addiction but also causes a physical dependence on the substance.

Addiction is diagnosed on a spectrum from mild to severe. Some signs of hydrocodone addiction include taking more than intending to and prioritizing drug use over personal or professional responsibilities. Addictions to hydrocodone, Vicodin, Norco and Lortab can spiral out of control quickly.

All too often, people who have developed a dependence on hydrocodone while prescribed to it turn to heroin as a substitute afterward. Hydrocodone’s painkilling properties make it similar to heroin, which is often cheaper and more accessible.

In 2012, almost 2 million people tried opioids like Norco recreationally for the first time.