Hydrocodone is an active ingredient in many popular prescription pain relief medications, including but not limited to Vicodin that is widely available. Today, products containing this chemical are widely prescribed in the United States.
However, it is important to note that this drug comes with a high potential for abuse and diversion, as well as a liability for addiction. This is why it is classified as a schedule II drug by the DEA - the Drug Enforcement Administration - under the Controlled Substances Act passed by the federal government.
Hydrocodone is defined as a semi-synthetic opioid drug that is a derivative of codeine. Doctors typically prescribe it for the relief of moderate to very severe pain because it works as an analgesic.
The substance also works fast and effectively to numb sensory reactions and any pain that you might be feeling. As mentioned above, it is a schedule II drug, meaning that you can only get it legally as a prescription written by a doctor to help you manage the symptoms of pain.
The drug was only made for use in the short term. This is because your body can develop tolerance to its effects. If this were to happen, there is a high risk that you may end up abusing it by taking it for a non-medical purpose.
Some of the drugs that contain hydrocodone include but are not limited to Anexsia, Co-Gesic, Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Tussigon, Vanacet, and Vicodin. The chemical can also be prescribed for suppressing a cough.
Essentially, it is comprised of thebaine, codeine, and opiate. In the United States, current regulations do not permit the basic consumption of pure concentrates containing just opioids.
For this reason, hydrocodone is only processed in small amounts and mixed with other medications to produce cough medications and pain relief drugs that are less effective than they would have been if they contained pure hydrocodone.
Today, it is possible to come across thousands of prescription medications that contain the compounds described above. However, this drug is typically processed alongside acetaminophen to produce drugs like Lortab and Vicodin. It can also be combined with aspirin to produce antihistamines and painkillers.
The drug is derived from morphine, a chemical found in the poppy plant. As such, it typically produces such effects as euphoria, depressed heart rate and respiration, as well as drowsiness.
NIDA - the National Institute on Drug Abuse - reports that more than 20 million Americans abuse or are addicted to opiates such as hydrocodone among other drugs like codeine, morphine, and oxycodone.
Since it is a prescription opioid drug, hydrocodone is similar in chemical structure to the endorphins that occur naturally in the brain. The brain produces these chemicals to relieve any pain that you might be feeling.
Although this compound has some medical benefits, it can lead to substance abuse and addiction if you start abusing it. This is because using it will cause your body and brain to become dependent on its effects.
Once you have developed dependence, you will have to take the drug more regularly than you used to when you first started. If you do not do this, you may experience some withdrawal symptoms, including but not limited to depression and feeling sick.
The attraction with the drug is that it causes sensations of sedation and euphoria. When you start using it in higher doses, without a valid prescription, or more often than your doctor recommended, you will only be increasing your risk of becoming addicted to it.
Hydrocodone is an opioid. As a result, it comes with a high risk of substance abuse and eventual addiction. The drug works by attaching itself to the opioid receptors that are located in the CNS - the central nervous system. By so doing, it produces sensations of pleasurable euphoria. Due to these sensations, there is a high risk that you might eventually start abusing the drug.
On the other hand, there is a lower chance that you will develop dependence to the drug if you use it exactly as your doctor prescribed. However, this might happen if you take the drug in higher doses or more often than your doctor recommended or if you use it without a valid prescription.
If you abuse the medication, there is a possibility that it will start causing other problems in your life. Dependence, tolerance, and addiction are just some of the serious concerns that you should keep in mind with respect to hydrocodone. This is due to the fact that the drug is an opiate, meaning that it will cause your brain to produce dopamine in larger than normal amounts.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for causing you to feel good - such as when you have a stimulating conversation, enjoy a nice meal, engage in sexual activity, read an invigorating book, or watch an interesting movie. Dopamine is also associated with the memory and pleasure centers of your brain.
When you continue abusing this drug, your brain will make strong associations between it and the pleasure that you derive when you take it. In the process, the functioning of certain chemicals of your brain will also become altered.
As a result, you might start compulsively seeking out the chemical even though it might already have started causing various problems in your day to day life. In case you reach this point, there is a high probability that you have already developed a substance use disorder or an addiction.
The other thing to keep in mind is that hydrocodone is an opiate - a class of drugs that is known to lead to tolerance relatively fast. Once you become tolerant to its effects, you will have to take the drug in increasingly larger volumes or more often than you used to. If you do not do so, you may not experience the pleasure and euphoria that your brain has come to associate with it.
Tolerance develops because the functioning of certain brain chemicals would have changed in response to the natural reaction of the brain to compensate for the increasing presence and influence of this drug.
At one point or the other, the functioning of your brain may change completely. This means that it will be working normally only when you have the drug in your system - rather than when you do not have it. This would mean that you would already have develop physical dependence.
After becoming physically dependent on hydrocodone, failure to take in at a certain regularity or in a given volume will lead to the development of withdrawal symptoms. these symptoms would be a reaction of your body to the mental anguish that is occurring due to the absence of the drug in your system.
The development of tolerance and dependence will all lead to the strengthening of your substance use disorder or hydrocodone addiction, which could be accompanied by the following negative effects:
It is essential that you learn how to spot as well as acknowledge that you have developed this type of opioid use disorder. Unless you do so, you might not be able to seek out the addiction treatment services that could get you started on the recovery process.
Apart from dependence, tolerance, and addiction, hydrocodone is like any other opiate drug in the sense that it comes with a high risk of drug overdose. The drug works by depressing the functioning of the respiratory system as well as the heart. As a result, it can easily lead to an overdose by causing your heartbeat and breathing to stop.
The ASAM - the American Society of Addiction Medicine - reported in 2014 that a total of 18,893 Americans lost their life as a result of overdosing on prescription opiate pain relief medications like hydrocodone.
Due to the rising number of accidental drug overdose deaths, the FDA - the Food and Drug Administration - has approved prescription medications to help with an overdose involving opiates. Evzio is a treatment that is comprised of an auto-injector containing naloxone hydrochloride.
It can reverse the effects of an opiate overdose as well as restore heart and respiratory function. By so doing, it will buy you more time before you can seek medical attention. The device is available as a prescription, and it is typically issued to people who abuse opiate drugs, their loved ones, as well as those who have a risk of suffering an opiate overdose.
Apart from a drug overdose, hydrocodone can also lead to addiction. Once this condition develops, you might not be able to stop abusing the drug unless you seek professional help from a drug and alcohol rehab center.
The other additional dangers of abusing this drug include but are not limited to:
The other concern about abusing hydrocodone and developing addiction to it arises when you mix it with other intoxicating substances, such as alcohol. Taken together, these substances can cause you to feel extremely sleepy, unusually dizzy, and unresponsive. All these symptoms might turn out to be life-threatening. They may also persist if you mix the drug with any other prescription medication, such as Percocet or OxyContin.
That said, the dangers of abusing this drug and becoming addicted to it is that you may end up suffering some long term issues with your health - including but not limited to a drug overdose, death, and addiction. However, it is also difficult to stop taking it abruptly, because doing so will only lead to the debilitating and uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal.
Among the biggest risks linked to hydrocodone use and abuse is an overdose. This will typically occur when you take the drug in a high dose than your body can process in a given amount of time.
A hydrocodone overdose will typically lead to respiratory arrest (when the breathing has stopped altogether) or respiratory depression (when you are not breathing sufficiently). These two symptoms could cause permanent brain damage or death.
Some of the other additional signs and symptoms of such an overdose include but are not limited to:
In case you notice any of these signs and symptoms of an overdose, it is recommended that you call 911 or your local poisons control center as soon as possible. This is because a hydrocodone overdose can potentially lead to long term negative health effects or even cause death.
When you first decide to give up hydrocodone, you may experience some negative symptoms of withdrawal - which could make it difficult for you to completely stop abusing the drug. Some of the typical withdrawal symptoms associated with the drug include:
A medically supervised detox regimen could help manage and eventually get rid of most of these withdrawal symptoms, manage any drug cravings that you may be experiencing, as well as help you overcome your physical dependence on the drug.
After the detox process, you will still need rehabilitation services, including a combination of intensive therapy and medication management. Through professional help, you will get the help that you need to overcome your emotional, psychological, and behavioral dependence on hydrocodone as well as manage your opioid use disorder.