Hydrocodone is a narcotic (opioid) painkiller found in many prescription medications. As an analgesic, hydrocodone is indicated to treat moderate to severe pain, but it is also regularly used to suppress a cough as an antitussive.
Hydrocodone is the generic name for the active ingredient found in several brand-name medications, including Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, and Vicodin. Because Hydrocodone is an opiate derived from codeine, a naturally occurring opiate, it has a high potential for addiction.
Hydrocodone addiction can be particularly devastating, so being able to recognize symptoms and signs of hydrocodone addiction can help save the life of someone you know.
Hydrocodone is an opioid, and for this reason, those under the influence of hydrocodone risk becoming deceived by the drug. Indeed, this “deceiving” effect is one of the most challenging aspects of hydrocodone addiction. A hydrocodone addict prioritizes obtaining and using the substance above all else and reducing the avoidance of addiction’s adverse consequences to a lesser priority.
Symptoms and Signs of Hydrocodone Addiction
The abuse of hydrocodone constitutes a substance use disorder (SUD) according to the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). A SUD is diagnosed by a clinician using 11 criteria, comprised of physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms, ranging in intensity from moderate to severe. For a SUD diagnosis to be considered, a person must meet a minimum of two of these criteria within the same one-year period.
The following describes the 11 criteria of a SUD as applied to hydrocodone:
- Hydrocodone is taken at higher doses or over a longer period than prescribed.
- The individual has a desire to cut back or cease hydrocodone use but is consistently unable to do so.
- Significant amounts of time are invested in obtaining hydrocodone and then using it to alleviate withdrawal side effects.
- The individual suffers recurrent, intense urges and cravings to use hydrocodone.
- The individual consistently fails to manage other responsibilities due to prioritizing hydrocodone use.
- Despite causing or exacerbating tension and problems in relationships, the individual continues using hydrocodone.
- The individual neglects other vital spheres, such as work, school, family, or social life to prioritize hydrocodone use.
- The individual engages in risky behaviors, such as impaired driving or unprotected sex, after using hydrocodone.
- The individual continues using hydrocodone despite it causing or aggravating a physical or psychological ailment.
- The individual develops a tolerance to hydrocodone, requiring increasingly higher doses to maintain the desired effect.
- The individual develops a chemical dependence such that withdrawal symptoms ensue when they cease hydrocodone use or reduce dosage.
The most common symptoms of hydrocodone use are the following:
- Reduced heart rate
- Weight gain or loss
- Nasal congestion
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest tightness
Common symptoms of repeated hydrocodone abuse include the following:
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
- Irrational fear
Signs of Hydrocodone Overdose
An overdose of hydrocodone can occur with or without the presence of other substances and can be fatal without immediate medical intervention. As an opioid, hydrocodone has depressant effects in attention to painkilling properties, so an overdose of hydrocodone itself is usually due to life-threatening central nervous system depression.
Many hydrocodone overdose signs are more pronounced or extreme versions of common side effects associated with hydrocodone use.
Signs of hydrocodone overdose may include the following:
- Excessive sweating
- Pinpoint pupils
- Extreme physical weakness
- Severe drowsiness
- Unconsciousness or unresponsiveness
- Labored, slow, or shallow breathing
- Respiratory arrest that can cause brain damage or death
Many medications combine hydrocodone with acetaminophen (Tylenol, which also has its own risk for overdose.) Likewise, consuming hydrocodone with alcohol is known to dramatically reduce the threshold for acetaminophen toxicity, skyrocketing the risk for acetaminophen overdose. Symptoms associated with an overdose of acetaminophen may not appear until 12 hours after the last dose and include the following:
- Appetite loss
- Pain in the abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting
- Jaundice, or yellowing of eyes and skin
- Severe liver damage or failure
Treatment for Hydrocodone Addiction
Hydrocodone addiction is a potentially devastating disease that affects not only the person suffering but also those closest to him or her. Fortunately, it can be effectively treated using a comprehensive, evidence-based approach that includes behavioral therapy, individual and group counseling, and group support.
Our professional medical and mental health providers specialize in addiction and provide clients with the knowledge and tools they need to achieve sobriety and enjoy a long-lasting recovery. After treatment, clients can take advantage of our aftercare planning services and alumni activities that foster continuing treatment and peer support, respectively.
You can regain the life you once had – the one which you deserve – and we can help! If you or a loved one are addicted to drugs or alcohol, please contact us immediately.