What is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is a potent semi-synthetic opioid that people take to help relieve them of pain. Hydrocodone is infamous for being addictive due to its potency and pain-relieving effects. But, how addictive is hydrocodone? Well, if you continue reading, you will soon find out, very addictive.

Oftentimes, people who become addicted to hydrocodone first started taking it as a prescription from their doctors to help treat pain. Over time, many people who start taking hydrocodone as a prescription develop a tolerance to it. As a result, those people start to need more and more hydrocodone to feel its effects.

Once someone has such a tolerance to hydrocodone that they need to take large amounts of it to feel its effects, he or she is dependent on it. A person develops an addiction to hydrocodone once their brain develops biochemical changes that cause that person to need hydrocodone to not feel withdrawals.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Hydrocodone

Hydrocodone produces a high, euphoric sensation in people that take it. As a result, people with a hydrocodone addiction that are experiencing withdrawals from not taking as much of the medication as they normally do, feel down and depressed. Other withdrawal symptoms from opioids, such as hydrocodone include insomnia, excessive vomiting and diarrhea, excessive sweating, irritability, and muscle aches.

What Effects Does Hydrocodone Have on the Body?

Like all opioids, hydrocodone binds to the pain receptors in the brain. Once bound to these receptors, hydrocodone causes the pain signals in the brain to either weaken or die. To reinforce its pain-relieving properties, hydrocodone then releases a euphoric sensation in the brain that actively makes the person taking it to feel happy and care-free. As a result, addiction to hydrocodone causes people to need it to feel happiness at all. Thus, withdrawals from addiction to hydrocodone leads to feelings of depression and anxiety.

Extended abuse of hydrocodone also causes people to lose control of their mood and sense of decision making. This is due to the fact that extended abuse of hydrocodone weakens the frontal cortex. The frontal cortex is the part of the brain that controls our sense of decision making and helps us regulate our moods.

What Are The Different Types of Hydrocodone Medication?

There are several different types of brand name prescription hydrocodone medication that doctors prescribe to patients to help them relieve pain. Some people that suffer from addiction to hydrocodone develop a preference for the kind of hydrocodone that they like to abuse depending on what their doctor originally prescribed them. 

Types of Brand Name Hydrocodone Medication:

  • Vicodin
  • Norco
  • Lortab
  • Zohydro

Signs of Hydrocodone Addiction

According to the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), addiction to opioids, such as hydrocodone, are characterized by the following:

  • Taking more hydrocodone than prescribed, or taking hydrocodone for longer periods of time than suggested
  • Having the desire to stop taking hydrocodone but not being able to do so
  • Spending large portions of your time and energy getting, using, and/or abusing hydrocodone
  • Having cravings and urges for hydrocodone
  • Not being able to keep up with your daily responsibilities due to being obsessed with getting or maintaining hydrocodone
  • Continuing to use hydrocodone despite the problems doing so causes you
  • Using hydrocodone instead of attending major life parties, events, etc.
  • Willingness to put yourself in danger to use hydrocodone
  • Using hydrocodone despite having a physical condition that could worsen with the use of hydrocodone
  • Having a developed tolerance to hydrocodone
  • Having withdrawal symptoms 
  • Willingness to take different forms of hydrocodone then what the doctor prescribes you

Common Symptoms of Hydrocodone Abuse

Like with all opioids, there are some common physical symptoms that occur when someone is abusing hydrocodone. Due to the power of hydrocodone, many of these symptoms occur soon after the abuse of hydrocodone begins.

The Symptoms of Abusing Hydrocodone Include:

  • Diarrhea or upset stomach
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Flushed or warm skin
  • Slow and shallow breathing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rash or itchy skin
  • Slurred speech
  • Sexual dysfunction in men

Long-Term Effects of Hydrocodone Addiction

When suffering from addiction to hydrocodone for a long period of time, people can develop long-term illnesses that will stick with them for the rest of their life. Oftentimes, it is not until a person detoxes from his or her hydrocodone addiction that he or she becomes aware of these long-term effects of hydrocodone addiction.

Gastrointestinal Problems

People that suffer from a hydrocodone addiction for a long period of time often cause damage to their bowels that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. This severe and long-term damage to bowels can lead to other gastrointestinal issues such as hemorrhoids and tearing of the skin in and around the anus.

Other gastrointestinal problems caused by hydrocodone addiction include fecal impaction, rectal prolapse, and damage to the nerves in and around the anus, and ulcers. Addiction to hydrocodone drugs that contain acetaminophen, otherwise known as Tylenol, in them can even lead to gastrointestinal bleeding. 

Respiratory Damage

When a person abuses large amounts of hydrocodone for a long period of time due to addiction, it causes him or her to decrease their overall breathing rate. This, in turn, causes not enough oxygen to enter the body. Over time, this limited amount of oxygen entering the body can cause damage to numerous organ systems.

The organ system that often suffers the most damage because of this limited amount of oxygen in the body is the brain. Long-term oxygen deprivation due to hydrocodone addiction can even cause irreversible damage to the brain.

Severe respiratory damage due to a long-term addiction to hydrocodone can also lead to sudden death in people that suffer from sleep apnea or lung disease. Smoking the harsh chemicals that are within hydrocodone can also damage the lungs. 

Endocrine System Damage

The endocrine system is the system that regulates and manages your hormones. People that suffer from hydrocodone addiction for long periods of time cause the hormone levels in their bodies to decrease. This, in turn, causes long-term damage to their endocrine system.

Oftentimes, the hormones that hydrocodone addiction damages are estrogen and testosterone. As a result, some people with hydrocodone addiction develop fertility problems. In fact, a study found that women that suffer from hydrocodone addiction have 30 – 70% lower hormone levels than normal. Low hormone levels due to hydrocodone addiction can also lead to depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis, and bone fractures. 

Hyperalgesia (Increased Pain Responses)

Hyperalgesia is an increased sensitivity to pain due to damage to receptors in the brain. People are more likely to develop hyperalgesia if they abuse opioids, such as hydrocodone. As a result, hydrocodone addicts tend to need longer periods of time to recover from an injury or surgery. Hyperalgesia in people that have a hydrocodone addiction can also lead to developing intense cravings for hydrocodone to relieve their increased levels of pain.

Brain Damage

Hydrocodone addiction can alter the number of chemicals that your brain releases and absorbs. This is particularly true when it comes to neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin and dopamine are two neurotransmitters that help us feel pleasure and happiness. Hydrocodone addiction can cause a flood of these “feel good” neurotransmitters to enter the brain. In doing so, the brain changes the way it controls emotions, rational thinking, memory, and learning. 

Loss of Limbs

When a person with a hydrocodone addiction experiences a hydrocodone overdose, it can lead to an overall loss of blood flow. Extreme loss of blood flow can lead to the need to amputate one or more limbs. 

Liver Damage

Hydrocodone has large amounts of acetaminophen, otherwise known as Tylenol, in it. Studies show that consuming more than 4,000 mg of acetaminophen in one day can lead to acute or chronic liver injury, or worse, liver failure. To help deter the development of liver injury or failure in people taking hydrocodone, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limited the amount of acetaminophen in hydrocodone based medications to 325 mg. 

Hydrocodone Addiction Prevention

To prevent addiction to hydrocodone, only take the amount that your doctor prescribes you. Tell your doctor if you realize that your sensitivity to pain changes or if you are developing cravings for hydrocodone. On hearing these things, your doctor will likely reduce your dosage.

Treatment of Hydrocodone Addiction

If you suffer from a hydrocodone addiction and need treatment, go to a detox and substance abuse and addiction treatment center such as Unity Behavioral Health. You may also benefit from medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Medication-assisted treatment is a combination of counseling and behavioral therapy that utilizes medications such as methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine to help you fight off opioid dependence. 

Unity Behavioral Health is Here to Help You

Regardless of how addictive hydrocodone is, Unity Behavioral Health is here to help you recover from your addiction. Here at Unity Behavioral Health, we provide individualized care to all our patients that is attentive, understanding, and accommodating.

To learn more about the addiction treatment programs that we provide at Unity Behavioral Health, contact us through our 24-hour helpline at 561-805-1216. You can also contact us 24/7 by filling out a contact form on our website. 

References 

www.healthline.com/health/understanding-hydrocodone-addiction#treatment

www.fda.gov/drugs/information-drug-class/information-about-medication-assisted-treatment-mat

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