What is hydrocodone?
Hydrocodone is an opioid in a class of drugs known as narcotic analgesics. These drugs connect to proteins in the brain and spinal cord called opioid receptors.
Opioids interfere with pain signals heading to the brain to change your perception of pain as well as your emotional reaction to it. When used correctly and for only a short period, hydrocodone is usually safe and effective.
Some people who start out taking hydrocodone as treatment for pain take it to get a euphoric feeling instead. As a result, they use it for longer than recommended, or use more than their doctor prescribed.
Taking hydrocodone for a long time can build a tolerance to the drug. This means your body needs more of the drug to feel the same effects.
Symptoms of hydrocodone addiction may vary from person to person. Common symptoms can include:
- slower heartbeat
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- nausea and vomiting
- fear and depression
- ringing in the ears
- blurred vision
- slowed breathing
- cold, clammy skin
- muscle weakness
Preventing hydrocodone addiction
The best way to prevent hydrocodone addiction is to take the drug exactly as your doctor prescribes. It’s also important to record your pain in a diary while you take it. Review your pain diary from time to time to see how you’re progressing.
If you realize your pain is decreasing, let your doctor know, even if your prescription hasn’t run out. Your doctor may want to reduce your dosage gradually and have you stop taking it sooner than expected.
If you feel you’re starting to crave the drug even at times when you feel little or no pain, talk with your doctor immediately. They can work with you to avoid developing a hydrocodone addiction.
Treating hydrocodone addiction
If you find yourself taking hydrocodone for longer than prescribed or taking it in larger doses despite any negative consequences, you may have an addiction. Tell your doctor immediately. Your doctor may have you reduce your use slowly rather than stopping it suddenly.
Stopping use suddenly can lead to withdrawal symptoms, such as:
- trouble sleeping
- unusual sweating
- muscle aches
If you think you can’t quit on your own, there are many programs available to help you. Some of these programs use medications to help ease withdrawal, while others don’t. The best approach for you will depend greatly on the nature of your addiction.
A long-term addiction that involves high doses of hydrocodone may involve a longer recovery period than addiction from short-term use.
A mental health evaluation should be part of your recovery. People with substance use disorders should be screened for depression and other mental health issues. Also consider support groups during and after recovery.
Organizations such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous may help you avoid relapse with hydrocodone or another drug.
Talk to your doctor
Hydrocodone can be a safe and effective way to treat severe pain, but it can be addictive. Addiction can cause a range of issues. It can affect relationships, employment, your health, and other parts of your life.
If your doctor has prescribed this drug and you’re worried about addiction, talk about your concerns. If you have a personal or family history of substance use disorders, an alternative pain reliever may be a better option for you.
The more you know about hydrocodone, the better your chances are of avoiding addiction
Drug interactions. Hydrocodone and acetaminophen are broken down by your liver. If you take these drugs with another drug that can affect your liver, hydrocodone and acetaminophen could build up in your body and cause more breathing problems and other side effects. Your doctor may need to change or stop this medication or your other medications.
Hydrocodone, the active ingredient in pain relievers such as Vicodin®, Anexsia®, Lorcet® and Norco®, is one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs among teens and is especially dangerous when mixed with other substances. Hydrocodone depresses the central nervous system and slows breathing. Mixing hydrocodone with other substances that also depress the central nervous system—such as alcohol, antihistamines, barbiturates, or benzodiazepines—could lead to life-threatening respiratory problems.
Hydrocodone may make you drowsy, less alert, or unable to function well physically, so it’s necessary to avoid using other medicines that also make you sleepy (such as cold medicines, other pain medications, muscle relaxants, and medicines for seizures, depression, or anxiety). The interaction between two medications could result in extreme drowsiness or coma, making it particularly dangerous to drive a car, operate machinery, or perform other activities