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Hydrocodone Addiction and Abuse

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Misuse of hydrocodone and other prescription pain medicines is widespread in America.1 In the United States in 2020, hydrocodone had the highest rate of misuse out of all the prescription pain medicines, with 4.7 million Americans (1.7%) aged 12 or older having abused hydrocodone within the year before the survey.1 That same year, 2.3 million Americans (0.8%) aged 12 or older had an addiction to prescription painkillers.1

In Nevada between 2018 and 2019, among people aged 12 and older:2

  • 3.87% misused prescription pain medicine.
  • Nearly 0.6% had an addiction to prescription pain medicine.

What Is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is a prescription opioid medicine approved to treat pain and coughs.1,3,4 Hydrocodone is the generic name for the drug. Brand names include Hysingla, Norco, Vicodin, and Zohydro ER.1,3 The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies hydrocodone as a schedule II drug, meaning that though it has legitimate medical uses, it also has high potential for abuse.5

Side Effects of Hydrocodone

Like all opioids, hydrocodone can have negative side effects, even if you take it exactly as your doctor told you.4 These short-term side effects can include:4

  • Stomach issues, such as stomach pain, constipation, nausea, upset stomach, or vomiting.
  • Anxiety.
  • Chills.
  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy.
  • Headaches.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep (insomnia).
  • Slow pulse.
  • Slowed and shallow breathing, which can be life-threatening.
  • Sweating.

Regular hydrocodone use can also lead to:5,6,8,9

  • Tolerance, which means you need higher and higher doses to get the same effect as before.
  • Dependence, which means you will likely have symptoms of withdrawal if you suddenly reduce or stop taking your dose.
  • Addiction, a chronic disease marked by compulsive drug use no matter the harms it causes. The clinical term for hydrocodone addiction is “opioid use disorder,” or OUD.
  • Overdose, where your breathing slows or even stops. Opioid overdose is a serious risk when you take any opioid and is a medical emergency.

Long-Term Effects of Hydrocodone

Other long-term health effects of hydrocodone and other opioids include:6

  • Chronic constipation.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Vision problems.
  • Lung infections, such as tuberculosis.
  • If injected: skin infections, damaged veins, hepatitis C, or HIV.

Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms

As stated, if you are dependent on hydrocodone or other opioids and suddenly reduce or stop taking your dose, you may go through withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms may include:6,7

  • Feeling depressed, irritable, or anxious.
  • Muscle or bone pain.
  • Runny nose.
  • Teary eyes.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Goosebumps, chills, or sweating.
  • Yawning.
  • Insomnia.
  • Fever.
  • Stomach issues, such as diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting.

Hydrocodone Addiction Treatment

For many people, the first step toward hydrocodone addiction recovery is professional medical detox.7 Opioid withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable and often associated with strong cravings that can lead to relapse or a return to opioid use.7,8 Detox can help keep you safe and comfortable during this process, including offering prescription medicines as needed to ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings.7 The most common medicines used during opioid detox are methadone or buprenorphine.7,8

Detox will help you to clear your body of hydrocodone and any other substances you have been using, but it can’t help you change your thoughts and behaviors or learn the skills needed to maintain long-term abstinence (not using drugs of abuse).8 This is why many people attend further treatment after they complete detox. Some common treatment settings and methods include:7–11

  • Inpatient rehab, where you stay at a treatment center 24/7 for the length of treatment. Staff is on-site to give structure and support around-the-clock as you adjust to life without hydrocodone and other substances.
  • Outpatient treatment, where you attend set appointments during the week, but you live at home and can engage in your normal daily activities.
  • Behavioral therapies, which can help you address the underlying causes of addiction and learn how to cope with your triggers (the people, places, and things that make you want to use substances).
  • Medication for addiction treatment (MAT) includes prescription medicines that are FDA-approved for opioid use disorder. These medicines can help reduce cravings, lower the risk of overdose, and prevent relapse. Medicines that are approved to treat addiction to hydrocodone or other opioids include methadone, buprenorphine (Suboxone or Subutex), and naltrexone. These medicines are often used in addition to behavioral therapies in an addiction rehab program but may also be started and maintained in the hospital or by doctors with special certification. MAT may be used on a short-term or long-term basis.
  • Mutual support groups, such as 12-step programs and SMART Recovery. These offer peer support from other people in recovery and can help you strengthen the skills you need to maintain abstinence.

How to Get Help for Hydrocodone Addiction

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of treatment for addiction to hydrocodone and other substances. With a treatment center in Las Vegas, Nevada, as well as others across the United States, American Addiction Centers makes it easier than ever to get effective treatment no matter where you are. At AAC, our caring, knowledgeable staff are available to help you through every step of your recovery journey, from detox to outpatient and aftercare. To learn more about what AAC offers and how we can help you recover from hydrocodone addiction, call our free, confidential helpline at today.

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