Hydrocodone is used medically as a painkiller and a cough suppressant. It is a semi-synthetic opioid that is synthesized from one of the opioid alkaloids in the opium poppy called codeine. It is a prescription medication and has the common brand names of Vicodin, Norco and Lortab. Like other opioids and opiates, hydrocodone has the potential to be addictive.
What Is Hydrocodone and How Does It Become Addictive?
Doctors prescribe hydrocodone primarily for pain relief, such as after surgery, but it is also sometimes prescribed as a cough suppressant. When the drug is taken for an extensive time, or in doses larger than prescribed, patients have a strong possibility of developing a tolerance and eventually an addiction. Along with pain relief qualities, hydrocodone provides euphoric feelings that patients may get attached to. Because of the larger awareness of pain relief drugs causing addiction, patients may wonder if they should take commonly prescribed drugs like Vicodin after surgery.
Not treating pain has its own risks, including the development of chronic pain due to permanent pain paths in the brain. One thing to understand is that dependence and tolerance are different from addiction. When a person becomes tolerant to a drug, they may need more to continue relieving pain. Tolerance or dependence can occur between a few days or a few weeks of taking the drug, which is a likely scenario considering how long surgery pain can last. This is where it’s extremely important to follow medical instructions when taking painkillers.
Doctors are typically well aware of the addictive properties of these types of drugs and may even screen patients for a history of addiction. Often a plan to slowly wean patients off the painkiller will be developed when they’re ready. However, some patients may start using the painkillers in ways different than prescribed. They may take it in a stressful situation, or they may take larger doses, or crush time-release pills in an attempt to get more of the drug into their system. This type of use dramatically raises the risk of addiction.
Addiction usually starts with tolerance and the patient then begins using more of the drug to achieve previous desirable effects.
Hydrocodone Short and Long-Term Effects
Most hydrocodone medications like Vicodin are formulated using other substances, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Currently, Vicodin and similar drugs are the most prescribed painkillers in the country. The only pure formulation is Zohydro ER, which is a recent market addition. Patients may wonder what it is about hydrocodone that makes it potentially addictive. The following characteristics of the drug are usually considered desirable by users:
- Euphoric feelings
- Increased sensation of well-being
- Sleepy and lethargic feelings (desirable to those with insomnia issues)
- Reduction of anxiety, worry, and stress.
When patients start to enjoy these feelings and desire stronger effects, they may begin taking more of the drug to achieve it. This particular drug has a slow progress of tolerance versus other opiates.
Short-term effects of this drug include the modification of pain signals from the central nervous system. It doesn’t actually decrease the pain source, but instead, changes the patient’s perception of the pain. This feeling can be incredibly relieving to those dealing with chronic or intense pain.
The most serious long-term effect of this drug is obviously addiction. Tolerance and dependence on drugs of this sort can come on anywhere from a few days to a few weeks from taking the first dose. While tolerance is not an addiction, it can very easily lead to addiction. Patients may initially start taking doses earlier than prescribed or modifying pill use, such as taking more or crushing pills. This usually then leads to drug-seeking behaviors, where the patient has to get new prescriptions in order to keep up with the amount they’re taking to achieve the effect they desire.
Like other opiates, hydrocodone changes brain chemistry and patients may have an increasingly difficult time controlling their use. Opiate addiction is a serious disease that requires professional treatment.
Withdrawal Symptoms and Signs of Addiction
The other aspect of getting addicted to hydrocodone is the threat of withdrawal symptoms upon trying to quit. As every instance of addiction is different, withdrawal symptoms also tend to vary depending on the person, length of use and amount of the drug taken. They can be fairly mild or they can be quite severe, but in general, they are at least uncomfortable enough to make quitting the drug difficult in most cases. Many patients addicted to opiates cite withdrawal symptoms as reasons for continuing the drug and not wanting to pursue rehab.
Some common withdrawal symptoms from hydrocodone include the following:
- Chills and shivering
- Sleeping difficulties
- Intense body aches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat
If you suspect addiction in someone you know that is taking an opiate pain medication, there are other signs to look out for as well. Patients may start spending a lot of time going to pick up prescriptions, or going to different doctors for prescriptions. They may even travel long distances for both. You may notice significant mood changes and a tendency towards social isolation. Patients may start having financial difficulties as they put more and more of their money towards obtaining drugs. They may also start neglecting responsibilities, such as school or work.
Signs of withdrawal symptoms accompanied by the drug-seeking behaviors outlined here are strong clues that the person is addicted to an opiate painkiller. Fortunately, opiate addictions can be treated with professional help.
Treating Hydrocodone Addiction
The preferred treatment for opiate addiction is an inpatient rehab program. Reasons for addiction can be staggeringly complex and varied. A one-size-fits-all treatment approach tends to be unreasonable because of how personal every addiction case is. At Healing Springs Ranch in Tioga, Texas, a firm emphasis is placed on personalized treatment for every patient. A variety of treatment programs are available, including holistic and 12 step principles, but these are combined into the Healing Springs Ranch very own “Integrated Addiction Model”, or I.AM.
You will find the following treatment programs at Healing Springs:
Every patient goes through an exhaustive intake process in order to properly determine the “why” of their addiction. The goal of addiction therapy and a lasting recovery is always to determine the “why” and then use educational and experiential therapy towards recovery. Healing Springs Ranch employs trauma experts and dual diagnosis experts who seek the root cause of addiction.
See the difference an individual treatment approach has on addiction recovery. Healing Springs Ranch offers both a men’s women’s addiction rehab program and completely personalized plans. Give us a call today at 866-656-8384 to find out how to overcome addiction and stop it from controlling your life.