Hydrocodone, otherwise known by its brand name of Vicodin, has been on the market since the 1920s. It was invented in Germany, and quickly became a prescription painkiller of choice in the United States. To this day, it’s one of the most popular painkillers available, and is extremely effective against pain and anxiety when dosage instructions are strictly followed.
Addiction to this powerful drug is a growing problem for a number of reasons. First, doctors prescribe it frequently to address moderate to severe pain. Whether that pain is from a sports injury, accident or surgery matters little. Vicodin works so well at masking pain that the urge to take it outside of a doctor’s orders can be very strong.
Another reason Vicodin is addictive is because it’s an opioid narcotic. Even if it’s taken strictly according to a doctor’s prescription, users are still in danger of becoming dependent on it. It works by binding to receptors in the brain that send pain signals, blocking them. At the same time, it causes a rush of dopamine, which makes the user feel relaxed, even euphoric. When people don’t feel pain and also feel happy, they naturally want to keep that high going. That’s how addiction begins. In a way, Vicodin rewires the brain to need more of it.
A third reason for the growing problem is that Vicodin is deeply embedded in popular culture. You can probably name any number of famous people addicted to this drug, from music superstars to radio personalities. It’s so widely presented in movies and television that it almost seems safer to use than other substances, though it really isn’t.
Prescription Drug Abuse Is on the Rise
Addiction to Vicodin is part of a bigger problem: Americans are becoming increasingly reliant on pain medication. Harvard University reports that painkiller addiction more than tripled in the U.S. population between 1992 and 2002. In 2009, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that more than two million adults reported abuse of opioid narcotics like Vicodin.
Prescription drug addiction is also growing among teenagers, with 50 percent of teens surveyed saying they believe painkillers are “safer” than street drugs and therefore fine to take. In fact, teenagers are more likely to experiment with painkillers in their parents’ medicine cabinets because they’re “free” and easy to get.
Prescription painkillers can cause both physical and psychological dependency. In a short time, the body begins to build tolerance to these drugs, and the user will need or want a higher dose to get the same relief. As toxins build up, physical and mental health deteriorate. It’s a vicious cycle that leads to addiction. Most doctors won’t prescribe Vicodin to patients who have a history of mental health or addiction problems. That doesn’t mean it never happens, though.
Another factor that makes Vicodin so dangerous is that it also contains acetaminophen, which causes liver damage in high doses. As dependence on Vicodin increases, so do the levels of acetaminophen, which can cause liver failure and even death.
Addiction to Vicodin in the United States Compared to Other Areas of the World
The United States has only 4.6 percent of the world’s population, but consumes 80 percent of the world’s supply of painkillers. Worldwide, it’s estimated that there are 15 million painkiller addicts. Of that number, 12 million are Americans.
Part of the reason the United States leads the world in Vicodin addiction is that the population is beginning to skew older. With age come more conditions and diseases that require pain medication, and Vicodin works well against pain.
Another reason is that U.S. laws governing prescription drugs previously allowed patients to get refills of Vicodin at drugstores and pharmacies. Though that law was changed and other laws are being put forward that would ban the use of Vicodin in the United States, the drug is still widely available.
It’s important to remember that there’s no painkiller on the market in the United States or elsewhere that actually cures the cause of pain. All pain medications do is mask symptoms. The U.S. healthcare system is beginning to shift from treating symptoms with painkillers to prevention-based, wellness strategies. It’s hoped that in time, fewer painkillers will be prescribed by U.S. doctors.
Help for Addiction to Vicodin
Though Vicodin addiction may continue to spike in the coming years, you don’t have to be one of its statistics. Help is available through detox and rehabilitation programs on an inpatient basis. In a rehab program, you’ll find compassion and support that’ll help you begin healing the damage of addiction to Vicodin. Once you complete a program like this, you’ll have a set of tools and strategies for avoiding triggers of addictive behavior, preventing relapse and maintaining sobriety. Upon returning home, you can receive guidance on where to get continuing help and support within your community.
Addiction to Vicodin is a serious issue, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the road. You can make a fresh start on a new path. If you’re suffering from this debilitating problem, you’re not alone. Call our hotline at 800-447-9081, and we’ll help you begin the process of recovery.