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Vicodin Addiction | Abuse Potential, Side Effects, Withdrawal Symptoms, & Overdose

Published on November 9, 2020
vicodin pills

Vicodin is a prescription drug that treats moderate to severe pain. Some people abuse it (take it in a manner not prescribed) to feel euphoric or “high.” 

Over time, Vicodin abuse can lead to addiction. If you or a loved one struggles with Vicodin use, it’s important to seek help at a substance abuse treatment center.

What Is Vicodin?

Vicodin is the brand name for a combination pain medication that consists of acetaminophen and hydrocodone. 

Acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol) is a pain reliever (analgesic) and fever reducer (antipyretic). It cools the body and alters the way it reacts to pain.

Hydrocodone is a type of opioid called an analgesic. It binds to opioid receptors in the spinal cord and brain. Like acetaminophen, it provides pain relief by altering how the body responds to pain. 

Because both acetaminophen and hydrocodone are pain relievers, Vicodin can work well for temporary and chronic pain. 

Side Effects Of Vicodin

Like all prescription painkillers, Vicodin may cause side effects. The most common side effects include:

  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • dry mouth
  • headache
  • constipation
  • trouble urinating
  • narrowed pupils
  • anxiety
  • mood changes

Vicodin can also more serious side effects, such as:

  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • changes in sexual desire or ability
  • irregular menstruation
  • weakness
  • tight chest
  • trouble breathing
  • fast heart rate
  • confusion
  • hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there)
  • loss of coordination

Contact your doctor if you experience these or other unusual side effects.

Vicodin Abuse & Addiction

To achieve a sense of euphoria, some people abuse Vicodin by: 

  • taking it at higher doses than prescribed
  • taking it more often than prescribed
  • taking it a manner not prescribed (such as snorting or injecting it)
  • mixing it with alcohol or other drugs
  • taking it without a prescription

If you abuse Vicodin, you may develop an addiction. Addiction is a disease that makes quitting a substance extremely difficult. You can also become addicted to Vicodin if your doctor prescribes it for long-term use. 

Side Effects Of Vicodin Addiction

People who are addicted to Vicodin often:

  • experience mood swings and intense cravings for Vicodin
  • withdraw from friends and family members
  • fall behind at work or school
  • visit multiple doctors to get multiple prescriptions of Vicodin, also known as “doctor shopping”
  • develop a tolerance, which means they need increasingly higher doses of the drug to achieve the desired effects
  • develop a physical dependence, which means they experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit the drug

In addition, since high amounts of acetaminophen can damage your liver, Vicodin abuse and addiction increases one’s risk of liver damage, including liver failure. 

Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms

When you’re physically dependent on Vicodin, your body requires the drug to function normally. 

If you try to stop using it, you may experience unpleasant mental and physical symptoms such as:

  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • restlessness
  • muscle aches
  • back pain
  • stomach cramps
  • runny nose
  • watery eyes
  • weakness
  • trouble sleeping
  • faster breathing and/or heartbeat 

To avoid or reduce withdrawal symptoms, talk to a doctor before you try to stop using Vicodin. Most doctors will gradually lower your dosage of Vicodin, which is called “tapering.” This strategy helps your body slowly and safely adjust to the lack of Vicodin. 

Learn more about Vicodin Withdrawal

Vicodin Overdose

If you abuse or are addicted to Vicodin, you face the risk of overdose. Overdose occurs when you take too much Vicodin. 

Signs of opioid overdose include:

  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • trouble breathing
  • weak pulse
  • low blood pressure
  • cold, clammy skin
  • bluish lips and/or nails
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • confusion
  • seizures
  • coma

A Vicodin overdose can be life-threatening; call 911 immediately if you or someone you know experiences these symptoms.

The person who overdosed may be given naloxone. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that can rapidly reverse an overdose that involves hydrocodone or other opioids. 

Learn more about Vicodin Overdose Symptoms

Vicodin Addiction Treatment Options

Whether you have a Vicodin prescription or not, you may need professional help for opioid addiction. Most recovery plans begin with medical detox or medication-assisted treatment. Patients may then enter an inpatient or outpatient recovery program.

Medical Detox

During medical detox, a team of medical professionals will gradually lower your dosage until you’re not taking any Vicodin at all. They’ll closely watch for any withdrawal symptoms and may prescribe medications to increase your comfort and reduce side effects.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

If you have a severe addiction to opioids, you may have access to a medication-assisted treatment program. These programs use behavioral therapy and other treatment services along with medications like:

  • naltrexone, which can reduce the risk of relapse
  • buprenorphine, which can help you detox more quickly
  • methadone, which can decrease withdrawal symptoms

Inpatient Or Outpatient Care

Most drug addiction treatment facilities offer both inpatient and outpatient recovery programs. Your health care provider will help you decide which option is best for you. 

Either choice will connect you with resources like support groups, stress management classes, addiction education, therapy, and counseling. 

Counseling and therapy can decrease your chance of relapse by addressing any mental health concerns (such as anxiety or depression) that might contribute to your drug use.

To learn more about treatment options for Vicodin addiction, please reach out to an Ark Behavioral Health specialist today. 

Vicodin FAQ

What Is The Difference Between Vicodin & Percocet?

Vicodin and Percocet both contain acetaminophen, which is a non-opioid pain reliever. However, while Vicodin consists of acetaminophen and hydrocodone, Percocet consists of acetaminophen and oxycodone. Both hydrocodone and oxycodone are opioid pain relievers.

Read Vicodin Vs. Percocet to learn more

How Long Does Vicodin Stay in Your System?

Vicodin stays in your system for about 20 hours on average. Its two main ingredients, hydrocodone and acetaminophen, break down at different rates. Hydrocodone stays in your system for about 20 hours, while acetaminophen stays in your system between 6 to 15 hours.

Learn more about How Long Vicodin Stays In Your System

Can You Snort Or Smoke Vicodin?

By modifying Vicodin pills, you can snort or smoke the medication instead of taking it orally. This bypasses the time-release design of the medication and provides a more intense high for a shorter period of time.

However, snorting or smoking Vicodin also increases the risk for addiction and other serious negative health effects.

Learn more about Snorting & Smoking Vicodin

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Acetaminophen
U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Hydrocodone
U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Hydrocodone and acetaminophen overdose
U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Opiate and opioid withdrawal
U.S. National Library of Medicine: StatPearls - Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen

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