If you have undergone surgery or sustained a moderate to severe injury, having access to a prescription-strength pain reliever can help you manage pain as your body heals. Severe pain can be debilitating, so a drug such as hydrocodone serves a legitimate function in medicine.
As with all opioids, hydrocodone, a Schedule II Controlled Substance, presents a high risk of dependency, as well as abuse and addiction. Hydrocodone dependence often occurs as a result of long-term pain management treatments, potentially leading to associated dangers. Continue reading to learn more about the risks involved in hydrocodone use.
What is hydrocodone?
Hydrocodone is the most common synthetic opioid prescribed in the U.S. Some of the brands of hydrocodone are Norco, Vicodin, and Lortab. These drugs feature hydrocodone, plus another analgesic, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. It’s quite rare for a doctor to prescribe pure hydrocodone.
Hydrocodone masks pain by blocking the pain signals through the nervous system to the brain. This causes the patient to not experience the sensation of pain, even though they are injured. In addition to the analgesic effect, hydrocodone also causes feelings of euphoria and relaxation.
Dangers of hydrocodone
As the brain registers the pleasurable effects of hydrocodone, the reward system records the experience as one to be repeated in the future. With continued use of the drug, the body will begin to require higher doses to achieve the desired effect. This is called increased tolerance.
If the individual begins to experience withdrawal symptoms when hydrocodone wears off, that is a sign of dependence. This means that they are now trapped in a cycle: seeking the hydrocodone, enjoying its effects, experiencing adverse withdrawal symptoms, and then seeking the drug again to stop feeling ill. Extensive abuse of hydrocodone can result in opioid addiction. Some of the dangers of hydrocodone addiction include:
- Slowed respiratory rate
- Impaired cognitive and motor function
- Mood swings
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
Signs of hydrocodone use disorder
Here are the signs of when someone has been misusing hydrocodone:
- Avoids social interactions
- Becomes obsessed with obtaining the drug
- Doctor shopping for additional refills
- Turning to illicit sources for the drug
- Lies about drug use
- Neglects responsibilities
- Tries to cut back on hydrocodone but can’t
- Nodding in and out of consciousness
- Slurred speech
- Pinpoint pupils
- Continues using hydrocodone despite mounting consequences
- Experiences withdrawal symptoms when the effects wear off
Start treatment with a medical detox
When seeking help for a hydrocodone use disorder, the recovery process will begin with withdrawal management. Under a physician’s direction, the individual will be provided with a tapering schedule. This means that the patient will slowly discontinue their drug use over a period of a week or two before beginning treatment.
Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Muscle aches and pain
- Increased pain sensitivity
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Excessive yawning
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sleep disturbances
- Drug cravings
As the individual experiences symptoms of withdrawal, they will receive medical treatments and psychological support to help minimize discomfort.
Once the detox has been completed, the individual is stable and ready to begin the treatment phase of recovery. Through a multi-modal set of therapies and complementary activities, they will learn new coping skills to help them sustain sobriety and succeed in recovery.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. Our programs are accredited by The Joint Commission, and result in frequent publications of ongoing research into effective treatment methodologies. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.