Hydrocodone is one of many opioid painkillers available in the United States. Although it is considered to have a lower potential for dependence than Oxycodone and similar narcotic painkillers, it is still estimated to account for 60 percent of drug addictions in the US. While Hydrocodone is only available by prescription, it is very commonly prescribed and considered to be one of the easiest narcotic painkillers to obtain. In turn, this makes it highly available on the street.
Some people actively seek out the drug for recreational purposes while others become dependent on it while using it legitimately. Regardless, Hydrocodone addiction can develop quickly and may have dire consequences.
People who abuse Hydrocodone long-term are at serious risk of liver damage; however, this is not caused by the Hydrocodone itself. This effect is due to the large quantities of acetaminophen (paracetamol) that the pills typically contain. Acetaminophen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that acts synergistically with the opioid to further control pain. When taken short-term and in doctor-recommended dosages, acetaminophen does not normally cause problems. However, when Hydrocodone is often taken chronically and in increasingly large dosages, then the acetaminophen often leads to liver damage. Indeed, the NSAID is the primary factor in the majority of Hydrocodone-related fatalities rather than opioid overdose.
When taken habitually, Hydrocodone can adversely affect cognitive function. Hydrocodone addiction can have a negative impact on a person’s performance on the job, at school or in daily life. Confusion caused by the drug can make it difficult or impossible to make sense of instructions, perform calculations or read. In very high doses, it can result in stupor. Drowsiness is another common side effect that can cause the user to have trouble operating motor vehicles or heavy machinery, sometimes resulting in disastrous consequences. In large doses, the user may “nod out”, or fall asleep against their will, potentially causing harm to himself/herself and others. When this happens, the person is very near the overdose point. Furthermore, dependence on Hydrocodone typically causes a person to feel apathy, which can lead to poor performance or complete abandonment of responsibilities and hobbies.
The physical effects of Hydrocodone addiction can sometimes be as disabling as the cognitive effects. Common physical side effects include nausea, vomiting, narrowed pupils, itching, constipation, low blood pressure and reduced respiration. Naturally, these can interfere with the course of daily life, and in very large doses, some may even become life-threatening. However, these are just the effects of actively taking Hydrocodone. Withdrawal from the drug can also become a serious issue.
Withdrawal from Hydrocodone Addiction
In people who take Hydrocodone for a short-term and in normal doses, withdrawal typically ranges between nonexistent and mild. Unfortunately, this is not the case for people who have a Hydrocodone addiction. Depending on their level of dependence on the prescription drug, withdrawal may occur within a few hours after taking a dose. As a result, some people take dozens of doses per day, more than the prescription calls for. The physical and psychological effects of withdrawal are often intensely unpleasant for an addicted person. Here is a breakdown of the effects:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Uncontrollable diarrhea
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Acid reflux
- Hallucinations (extreme cases)
- Runny nose
- Aches and pains
- Physical weakness
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Pupil dilation
- High blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
Hydrocodone addiction is a serious condition that is affecting Americans at an increasing rate. Although the addiction itself can be damaging, the withdrawal can be so severe that even people who want to quit, continue using Hydrocodone simply to avoid withdrawal symptoms. For this reason, if you or someone you love is a Hydrocodone addiction, it is strongly advised to seek professional rehab services and contact our addiction hotline today to end this harmful cycle.