April 5, 2024

Hydrocodone: Side Effects, Addiction Risk, & FAQs

image representing hydrocodone

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid painkiller that’s commonly prescribed to manage moderate to severe pain. Despite its therapeutic properties, hydrocodone has a high potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction, even when used as prescribed. Read on to learn more about the effects of hydrocodone abuse and discover how to connect with compassionate care

What Is Hydrocodone?

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Hydrocodone is a narcotic analgesic that’s present in more than 200 commercial medications. Although mainly used to treat moderate to severe pain short-term, hydrocodone may be indicated as a cough suppressant.

Like all Schedule II controlled substances, hydrocodone has the potential for abuse, physical dependence, and addiction (opioid use disorder).

Still available in generic form, many branded versions of hydrocodone like Vicodin, Norco, and Lortab have been discontinued after being heavily implicated in the early stages of the U.S. opioid epidemic.

man resting head on chin representing what is hydrocodone

Side Effects of Hydrocodone

Common side effects of hydrocodone include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Euphoria
  • Blurry vision
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Slurred speech
  • Itchy skin
  • Lightheadedness
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Slow breathing
  • Warm, flushed skin
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Nodding in and out of consciousness
  • Pinpoint pupils

Long-term hydrocodone effects may include insomnia, depression, anxiety, liver damage, kidney damage, and changes to brain structure and function. While conditions like depression or insomnia can be managed with therapy and medications, the organ damage inflicted by opioid abuse can be challenging to mitigate and potentially irreversible.

An overdose of hydrocodone results from the body’s inability to metabolize an excessive amount of opioids, dramatically depressing heart rate and breathing rate. This may cause breathing to stop completely, triggering hypoxia, a condition that can be fatal within minutes as the brain is starved of oxygen.

An overdose of hydrocodone, resulting from the body’s inability to metabolize an excessive amount of opioids, can dramatically reduce breathing and heart rates. This can quickly lead to cessation of breathing, causing oxygen deprivation to the brain (hypoxia), a condition that can be fatal within minutes.

Hydrocodone Addiction Risk

Addiction is a common hydrocodone side effect, even in those using the medication exactly as prescribed by a healthcare professional. Like all opioids, hydrocodone has a powerful effect on the reward system in the brain, causing the development of tolerance, dependence, and ultimately, addiction.

Over time, the body becomes accustomed to the presence of hydrocodone, meaning that higher doses are required achieve the same level of pain relief or euphoria. Tolerance can develop rapidly, causing people to increase consumption.

Dependence on hydrocodone can emerge as the body starts to rely on the drug to function normally. When dependence has formed, stopping the medication can lead to uncomfortable and aggravating withdrawal symptoms, making it challenging to quit without medical help.

Addiction – clinically described as opioid use disorder – is characterized by a compulsive desire to use hydrocodone despite adverse outcomes in all areas of life. Addiction represents a psychological shift where seeking and using the drug becomes an all-consuming concern.

Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms

When someone who is dependent on hydrocodone discontinues use, they may exhibit any of the following signs of withdrawal:

  • Anxiety
  • Muscle pains
  • Agitation
  • Runny nose
  • Tearing
  • Sleeplessness
  • Frequent yawning
  • Perspiration

In the more advanced stages of withdrawal, symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Pupil dilation
  • Fever

Due to the discomfort and potential health risks associated with hydrocodone withdrawal, it’s advisable to engage in a supervised medical detox to kickstart the recovery process – more on this directly below.

Treatment for Hydrocodone Addiction

Treating hydrocodone addiction requires a comprehensive approach that addresses both physical dependence on the medication and the psychological aspects of addiction.

Medical detoxification

The first step in treating hydrocodone addiction is often a medically supervised detox, which helps manage withdrawal symptoms in a safe and controlled environment. Medical professionals may use medications to ease symptoms and monitor the person’s health throughout the detox process, minimizing the risk of complications or relapse disrupting early recovery.

Addressing co-occurring disorders

Many individuals with hydrocodone addiction also have co-occurring mental health disorders like depression or anxiety. Effective treatment plans will address these concurrent issues simultaneously to enhance recovery outcomes.

Psychotherapies (talk therapies)

Following detox, various forms of therapy are beneficial for helping people address the underlying reasons for their addictions. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) helps people recognize and change maladaptive thought patterns and behaviors related to drug use. DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) can also be effective, especially for managing emotions and reducing self-harm behaviors.

MAT (medication-assisted treatment)

MAT involves the use of medications like buprenorphine or methadone to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Medication-assisted treatment is most effective when combined with counseling and behavioral interventions. MAT can improve survival rates, increase retention in treatment, and decrease illicit opioid use.

Peer support groups

Participation in support groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) or other community support groups can provide ongoing encouragement and a sense of community in ongoing recovery.

Aftercare planning and relapse prevention

A comprehensive aftercare plan helps people maintain sobriety after completing a treatment program. This may include ongoing therapy, support group meetings, and lifestyle changes to support a drug-free life.

Treatment for hydrocodone addiction is most effective when tailored to individual needs, accounting for the severity of the addiction, any co-occurring disorders, and the person’s overall health and lifestyle. Here’s how you can get help right away.

Hydrocodone FAQs

Does hydrocodone make you sleepy?

Yes, hydrocodone can cause drowsiness as a side effect. This is a common reaction due to the opioid properties of the medication which impact the central nervous system.

Is hydrocodone addictive?

Hydrocodone is highly addictive due to its opioid nature. Its potential for dependence and abuse is significant, especially with prolonged use or misuse.

Is it safe to go through hydrocodone withdrawal at home?

Undergoing hydrocodone withdrawal at home can be challenging and risky without medical supervision. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe, but these can be mitigated with medical detox.

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Call Addiction Hotline for Hydrocodone Addiction Treatment

Hydrocodone addiction is a progressive condition that typically gets worse unless treated. If you need help connecting with evidence-based opioid addiction treatment, call Addiction Hotline any time of day or night.

Experienced and compassionate staff can answer your queries on all aspects of addiction and recovery.

You can also obtain referrals to medical detox centers, addiction support groups, outpatient treatment facilities, and residential rehabs throughout the state of California.

Call 855-701-0479 and start living unconstrained by opioid addiction.

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