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  • Hydrocodone is a prescription opioid painkiller. A popular brand name for hydrocodone, which also contains acetaminophen, is Vicodin. 

    Though it can be an effective pain reliever, hydrocodone can also lead to addiction. 

    What Is Hydrocodone?

    Hydrocodone belongs to a class of opioids known as narcotic analgesics. They attach themselves to opioid receptors in the spinal cord and brain.

    By doing so, hydrocodone interferes with the pain signals that travel to the brain. This changes both the individual’s emotional reaction to pain and their perception of it.

    Brand name prescription drugs that contain hydrocodone include:

    When it is taken as prescribed by a medical professional and for a short amount of time, hydrocodone is usually safe. However, some people continue taking these drugs long after their pain subsides because of the euphoric feeling that it brings on. 

    Prescribing Prescription Opioids For Pain Management

    Many people have the perception that a medication that is legally prescribed by their healthcare provider is safe and not addicting. 

    While this is often true, using prescription opioids safely is determined by how the patient uses the medication: 

    • The medication must be used exactly as the physician intended including the amounts and types prescribed. 
    • As the pain subsides, the medication needs to be tapered off. 
    • If the medication is not effective at managing the pain, a different approach could be needed. 
    • An individual shouldn’t attempt to take more pain medication in an effort to address their pain without their doctor’s guidance. 

    Side Effects Of Hydrocodone Addiction

    Because every person is different, the signs of hydrocodone addiction can vary.

    However, there are some common side effects that may be more likely if someone takes more hydrocodone than directed: 

    • seizures
    • depression
    • blurred vision
    • fear
    • slower heartbeat
    • confusion
    • ringing in the ears
    • vomiting
    • headaches
    • nausea
    • lightheadedness
    • muscle weakness
    • dizziness
    • slowed breathing
    • sleepiness

    Hydrocodone Overdose Signs

    A hydrocodone overdose can be a life-threatening emergency. If a person displays labored breathing, blue lips, or is unresponsive, then they need emergency care. 

    If administered in time, an overdose could be reversed using a drug called naloxone or Narcan. In many parts of the United States, this medication is widely available for use by the general public and is carried by first responders and law enforcement. 

    Learn more about Hydrocodone Overdose

    Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms & Detox

    Sometimes a person takes more hydrocodone because they like the euphoric feelings it brings or in an effort to more effectively manage their pain. In other cases, an addiction to this drug could happen so gradually that the individual doesn’t realize what is happening.

    Suddenly stopping hydrocodone use can lead to the following withdrawal symptoms: 

    • muscle aches
    • irritability
    • anxiety
    • unusual sweating
    • insomnia

    Medically supervised detox is a safe and effective way to allow hydrocodone to leave an individual’s body. In some cases, there are also medications that could make the person more comfortable during the withdrawal process.

    Hydrocodone Addiction Treatment Options

    For the greatest chance of recovery, it’s best to seek out rehab and treatment options that specifically address an opioid addiction, including hydrocodone. 

    It’s important to remember that every person’s recovery will be different. If an individual has been using hydrocodone in high doses and/or over a long period of time, their recovery time will be longer than someone who has not. 

    There are a number of different types of hydrocodone addiction treatments that can help:

    Support Groups

    A support group can provide resources, tips, and support that can assist in the long-term recovery of someone with opioid use disorder. One popular support group for opioid addiction is the 12-step program Narcotics Anonymous.

    Medication-Assisted Treatment

    In many cases, an individual struggling with hydrocodone addiction finds themselves relapsing because the side effects of not having access to opioids are simply unbearable. 

    Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) provides FDA-approved medicines that are tapered off gradually as part of their treatment, which also includes therapy and counseling. 

    Group Therapy

    There is an almost universal feeling among those with addiction that they are alone. Taking part in group therapy connects you with those going through similar challenges. It helps reinforce coping mechanisms and build relationships for lasting recovery.

    Learn more about recovery with Ark Behavioral Health by contacting us today. 

    Hydrocodone FAQ

    What Is Hydrocodone Cold Water Extraction (CWE)?

    Cold water extraction (CWE) is a method of separating hydrocodone from other ingredients in various tablets. CWE allows people to take high doses of hydrocodone while avoiding doses of acetaminophen or aspirin. However, CWE is a form of drug tampering, and can be dangerous.

    Learn more about Hydrocodone Cold Water Extraction (CWE)

    How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay In Your System?

    Hydrocodone stays in your system from anywhere between 20 to 40 hours. Fast-acting hydrocodone will not stay as long as extended-release hydrocodone. Drug tests can detect hydrocodone traces long after the last dose.

    Learn more about Hydrocodone Detection Times

    Can You Snort Hydrocodone?

    Hydrocodone prescriptions can be crushed and snorted. Extended-release hydrocodone products provide the most intense highs when snorted. However, snorting hydrocodone can have severe negative effects on your health, including nasal problems and overdose.

    Learn more about Snorting Hydrocodone

    Can You Inject Hydrocodone?

    Some people may inject hydrocodone by crushing tablets and adding water to create an injectable solution. However, injecting hydrocodone can be dangerous and pose many serious health effects, including overdose and diseases like HIV.

    Learn more about Injecting Hydrocodone

    Can You Spot Fake Hydrocodone?

    It can be very difficult to spot fake hydrocodone. Counterfeit pills are made to look like legitimate prescription drugs. 

    Here are a few tips to help you identify fake hydrocodone pills:

    • they taste or feel wrong 
    • they’re more or less crumbly than they should be
    • the imprinted letters or numbers are different than the ones from a registered pharmacy
    • the letter or number stamps are off-centered, deeper, or more shallow than on real pills
    • the edge is sharper or smoother
    • they’re not quite the right color
    • the packaging looks different or doesn’t have the right information on it

    Learn more about Fake Hydrocodone

    Does Hydrocodone Expire?

    Although drugs such as hydrocodone have shown to maintain potency for years, the FDA recommends discarding medication after the label’s expiration date has passed. Hydrocodone may not lose its potency or effectives, but it’s still advised to discard unused medication.

    Learn more about Expired Hydrocodone

    What Does Hydrocodone Look Like?

    What hydrocodone looks like depends on the manufacturer, formulation, and dosage. Hydrocodone pills and capsules can be white, yellow, orange, multi-colored, and oval-shaped. Even pills with the same color and shape can differ based on the imprint on each pill.

    Learn more about What Hydrocodone Looks Like

    Is Hydrocodone an Opioid?

    Hydrocodone is an opioid that treats mild to severe pain. It is not naturally occurring, which makes it an opioid and not an opiate. Some organizations may also refer to hydrocodone as a narcotic.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    MedlinePlus - Hydrocodone
    National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) - Opioids

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
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