Health Effects

Health Effects Addiction Treatment

DepressionAs the Mayo Clinic explains, hydrocodone is a narcotic analgesic (pain reliever) that belongs to the opioid group. Opioids include both opiates (substances naturally derived from the poopy plant) and synthetic formulations that replicate opium. Hydrocodone’s chemical structure endows it with the ability to stimulate pleasurable, euphoric effects in its users. Hydrocodone use can cause physical dependence, and it does not have to lead to addiction, especially if users comply with a subscribing medical professional’s care plan. However, addiction can form even under medical guidance.

On the one hand, Americans are being prescribed hydrocodone and other opioids for pain management, and on the other hand, they are learning the potentially severe dangers of opioid addiction. The seemingly conflicting messages owe to the unique status of prescription painkillers; these drugs are lawfully manufactured and prescribed, but they can be misused and have become a commodity in the illegal drug market. Hydrocodone is sold on the street and given slang names including Vikes, Hydro, Viko and Norco. On the legal market, hydrocodone is sold under different brand names:

  • Vicodin (combined with acetaminophen)
  • Robidone
  • Zohydro ER
  • Hycodan

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As America is increasingly being categorized as a “pill culture,” it should come as no surprise that prescription painkiller abuse has trickled down to the youth and young adult population. According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), prescription painkillers are the second most commonly abused drugs among youths aged 12 to 17 (the number one most popular is marijuana). The NSDUH defines prescription drug misuse as taking a psychotherapeutic drug that was not prescribed for you or using it only to experience its pleasurable effect.

The study also revealed that 4.8 percent of Americans aged 18 to 25 abuse prescription-type drugs for nonmedical purposes. Despite growing advocacy and education in prescription painkiller addiction, these drugs continue to recruit new abusers. In 2013, there were 1.5 million Americans aged 12 and older who abused a painkiller for the first time. Although the 2013 NSDUH does not usually focus on specific type of drugs in the painkiller class, the study did note that 492,000 (0.2 percent) of Americans aged 12 and older currently took OxyContin.

Dependence and Addiction

According to Healthline, hydrocodone is the number one most abused opioid in the US. Hydrocodone is also well known for being an analgesic agent in Vicodin. Hydrocodone (and other pain relievers) bond with opioid receptors located on the spinal cord and in the brain. Hydrocodone disrupts the body’s pain messages and replaces pain with a euphoric feeling and creates drowsiness. This opioid also acts on the part of the brain responsible for coughing, and for this reason, it is also used as an antitussive (cough-suppressant) and found in cough medications.

Beyond the physical dependence that can occur with hydrocodone, users may become addicted. Specific health effects of hydrocodone addiction include:

  • Dizziness, nausea or seizures
  • Depression, fear or confusion
  • Headaches, blurred vision or ear ringing
  • Slowed heartbeat, chest tightness or breathing problems

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Behaviorally, the hallmarks of addiction include the addicted individual focusing a disproportionate amount of time, energy and resources on both seeking out and using hydrocodone. Addiction also usually results in a failure to meet important family, work and personal commitments.

In individuals with a lawful prescription, a sign of addiction includes taking the medication more regularly than prescribed (including getting pills from an additional doctor, or from friends, family or colleagues). Ceasing to use hydrocodone or reducing the amount of intake will likely result in withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Sleep problem
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Muscle aches
  • Irritability

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) discusses, prescription painkiller overdose is a public health epidemic. In 2009, almost 500,000 Americans visited emergency rooms as a result of painkiller abuse. Each year, nearly 15,000 Americans die from an overdose related to prescription painkiller misuse (that’s more than heroin and cocaine deaths combined). More men than women overdose on prescription painkillers, and compared to the population as a whole, middle-aged Americans have the highest rate of overdose.

To help curb this epidemic, the CDC is encouraging health insurance providers and medical professionals to implement various safeguards against prescription painkiller abuse, such as coverage of, and doctor referrals to, physical therapy treatment and other alternatives to narcotic medication when possible. But Americans are best advised to be vigilant themselves. As the statistics on the negative health effects and overdose rates suggest, even though hydrocodone has made its entrance into American medicine cabinets through legitimate manufacturers and doctors’ offices, the drug can be as dangerous as street drugs that are unlawfully manufactured.

However long hydrocodone abuse may have been occurring for you or your loved one, one thing is certain – treatment can help you start a new life now. At Rehab International, our admissions coordinators are ready to provide you with information on treatment facilities that can meet your needs and provide you with specialized services to find lasting recovery.

You're not alone. We're here to help, 24/7. Please call: 877-345-3281