Vicodin is a common prescription painkiller often used to relieve moderate to severe pain. Being opioid-based, it also has the potential for dependence and addiction. Vicodin addiction and misuse is a growing problem in the U.S. and a significant contributor to the country’s opioid epidemic.
This post provides helpful information about Vicodin addiction, from recognizing the signs and symptoms to seeking treatment.
What is Vicodin?
Vicodin is a prescription pain medication made of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Doctors prescribe it to relieve moderate to severe pain, particularly after surgery or for those suffering from long-term chronic pain.
Vicodin is an opioid-based drug. Opioids interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain to change how your body feels and responds to pain. Opioids trigger a release of endorphins, which are your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. This brain response means opioids also create a feeling of euphoria or pleasure, especially once the original pain subsides.
Opioids and Addiction
The prevalence of prescription painkiller abuse in the U.S. has skyrocketed in the last several years. Experts estimate that more than 6% of the population has used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons, and opioids are one of the drugs most often used.
Prolonged use of Vicodin can lead to tolerance, dependence, and, when misused, addiction.
Although people may take Vicodin as prescribed, anyone treated with opioids can develop opioid tolerance. This tolerance means you have to take increasingly larger amounts to achieve the same effect. You also would experience withdrawal symptoms when the drug is reduced or stopped altogether. This increased tolerance is called opioid dependence and is a common risk of regular use.
Dependence can result in some people finding alternate ways to access opioid-based drugs to continue increasing their dosage beyond their medical prescription. Dependence creates the potential for addiction, overdoses, and even death.
Risk Factors for Vicodin Addiction
Most people prescribed opioids don’t develop an addiction, so don’t be alarmed if your doctor prescribes you an opioid-based drug. It’s critical to take the medication as directed and inform your doctor if you have concerns about tolerance or dependence. Communicating with your doctor is especially important for people recovering from alcoholism or other substances.
Numerous medical studies have shown that factors including genetics, mental health issues, and past substance misuse issues contribute to opioid addiction.
Those at increased risk of becoming addicted to opioids include people with:
- A history of substance use
- A family history of substance use
- Mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- A history of childhood abuse or trauma
Signs and Symptoms of Vicodin Addiction
Recognizing addiction in yourself or a loved one can be difficult. You may overlook dependency (tolerance and withdrawals) until the prescription ends. This dependence can then quickly lead to addiction.
Criteria for diagnosing a substance use disorder include:
- Taking Vicodin in larger amounts or longer than prescribed
- Difficulty cutting down on Vicodin use
- Cravings and urges to use Vicodin
- Needing more Vicodin to get the effect you want (tolerance)
- Developing withdrawal symptoms when not taking Vicodin (dependence)
- Continuing to use Vicodin even when it interferes with daily life and relationships
Vicodin addiction can also lead to adverse health consequences while using the drug.
Noticeable signs of Vicodin use include:
- Slurred speech
- Poor coordination
- Slow or shallow breathing
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mood swings
- Depression or anxiety
Although suffering withdrawals when Vicodin use ends doesn’t mean you’ll develop an addiction, it does mean your body has built up a dependence, so it is still essential to watch for.
Vicodin withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
- Watering eyes
- Abdominal cramping
Vicodin withdrawal symptoms can vary significantly from individual to individual. The symptoms typically start between six and 24 hours after the last use of the drug, with the most uncomfortable symptoms lasting up to a week or even longer in rare cases.
The Effect of Addiction on Life and Health
Vicodin addiction can have many dangerous consequences on all aspects of a person’s life, from health problems to negative social impacts.
In addition to the health effects of Vicodin overuse mentioned above, such as drowsiness, dizziness, mood swings, and mental health problems, a severe risk of opioid addiction is the possibility of an overdose and potentially death.
Overdoses most commonly occur when a person attempts to stop taking Vicodin and reduces their tolerance, then immediately starts to take it at the same level as before. This risk is why it’s best to undergo detox and withdrawal while under the care of a licensed professional.
Another potential health complication of Vicodin overuse is liver damage or liver failure from the acetaminophen in the drug.
Vicodin addiction also can harm the social life and connections of a person with substance use disorder. A person’s need to obtain and take more drugs can cause them to lose focus at work or school, break down relationships, and give up social and recreational activities. These changes can then lead to further mental health problems.
Breaking the dependence on opioid-based drugs can be challenging, and withdrawal can be painful and intense. Therefore, the best treatment for Vicodin addiction is to seek the help of a qualified professional. Professional detox programs can help those with substance use disorder wean themselves off the drug slowly and safely while successfully managing withdrawal symptoms.
Treatment plans can include addiction therapy and medications to ease symptoms and aid recovery.
Getting Help With All Recovery
If you or a loved one has a Vicodin addiction, you need professional help to uncover the root cause of your addiction and start on your way to recovery. All Counseling wants to help connect you with the mental health support you need and deserve. Use our counseling directory to find a therapist in your area who specializes in addiction.