Hydrocodone is an opioid medication often prescribed to treat chronic pain. As an opiate, it’s also a popular street drug. Prolonged use, whether as directed by a health care provider or illicitly, can be habit forming and requires professional treatment to reduce the effects of hydrocodone withdrawal.
Pronounced “high-droe-KOE-dohn,” this drug is a powerful semisynthetic narcotic analgesic first developed from poppy seed resin in the 1920s. Six times more powerful than codeine, hydrocodone is frequently prescribed to provide pain relief for both short- and long-term conditions, usually as a result of an injury, after surgery, or before other methods of treating chronic pain are integrated into a treatment plan. University of Michigan Health also indicates that a medication including both hydrocodone and acetaminophen could be prescribed as another form of pain management.
Often prescribed as an extended-release medication, hydrocodone and combination products are typically capsules and tablets. Dosage may vary depending on the level of pain severity and a patient’s weight.
How It Changes a Person
As an opioid, hydrocodone changes how the brain and nervous system respond to pain and also impacts a person’s perception of pain. Europe has much greater restrictions on this drug than the U.S.; as a result, statistics indicate a high rate of misuse in this country. In 2014, hydrocodone was the foremost pain medication prescribed in Georgia, according to the Atlanta Journal- Constitution. Since then, the state’s opioid epidemic has exploded, and many initiatives are now in place to prevent further opioid misuse and harm.
Also in 2014, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reclassified hydrocodone combination products as Schedule II, the same as the singular hydrocodone, oxycodone, or cocaine. This means these substances are “defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous.”
Brand names for hydrocodone and its combinations include:
- Hydrocodone in extended release form, such as Hysingla ER and Zohydro ER
- Hydrocodone/acetaminophen, such as Co-Gesic, Dorolex Forte, Hycet, Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Vicodin and Vicodin HP, Xodol, and Zydone
Treatment with hydrocodone could also be combined with antihistamines or antitussives in a cough syrup to alleviate pain from coughing and help reduce the cough reflex. Brand names include Atuss HD, Histinex, and Tussionex.
Side Effects of Use
People taking hydrocodone under the close supervision of a health care provider are advised to slowly decrease the medication’s dosage over a period of time to avoid troubling side effects. Individuals with hydrocodone addiction frequently suffer terrible side effects, including but not limited to:
- Agitation and irritability
- Ankle, foot, or leg swelling
- Back pain
- Blurred vision
- Breathing difficulties or problems swallowing, especially for people with asthma or other lung conditions
- Chest pain, rapid heartbeat, or changes in heartbeat
- Cognitive issues, including confusion and disorientation
- Decreased sexual desire
- Digestive troubles, including constipation, diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, and vomiting
- Dry mouth
- Erectile dysfunction
- Fever, sweating, or clammy skin
- Headaches and ringing in the ears
- Lethargy, trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Loss of coordination and uncontrollable body shakes
- Menstruation difficulties
- Muscle pain, stiffness, tightening, or twitching
- Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, throat, or tongue
- Urination difficulties
Some of these side effects may come on suddenly as indication of a possible overdose. An individual then requires immediate medical attention.
Because hydrocodone is a sedative narcotic that alters brain function, some people experience deep relaxation or euphoria, sensations that often lead to addiction. Symptoms of addiction might include the side effects above, along with:
Additionally, mixing opioids and alcohol or excessive use of hydrocodone with acetaminophen present even greater health risks, including blackouts, kidney and liver disease, respiratory depression, hypoxia, coma, and death.
Treating Hydrocodone Addiction
A comprehensive continuum of care plan developed at an inpatient rehabilitation facility should include a thorough emotional, mental, and physical intake exam to understand not only the symptoms of hydrocodone addiction but also the underlying causes for it. Only through a whole-person evaluation by a board certified team of professionals can an individual hope for not only addiction recovery but also treatment for the true nature of the disorder.
At Willingway, we understand the two-fold aspect of hydrocodone addiction: some people may be dependent on opioids because they can’t seem to find effective care for their chronic pain. It’s essential to long-term wellness to incorporate more holistic recovery options to provide relief, support, and promise for the future. Ask one of our admissions specialists for more details about how this approach might be the answer you or a loved one needs.