In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the health care community that prescribing opioids to relieve pain would not cause addiction. This led to an increase in opioid prescriptions by medical providers, which caused widespread misuse and diversion before it was fully understood that the medications were highly addictive.
In 2019, according to the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid-related overdoses killed almost 50,000 individuals in the United States. Addiction and misuse of opioids is a severe crisis that affects many families in the country and causes a significant economic burden of $78.5 billion annually. Among the different forms of opioids, Vicodin is one of the popular choices, with Americans consuming about 99% of the global supply. While a vote for the FDA to limit the sale of Vicodin in the United States has been passed, the drug is still available.
What Is Vicodin?
Vicodin is a medication that constitutes hydrocodone, which is a pain-relieving opioid, and acetaminophen, which is a non-opioid pain reliever, used to treat moderate or severe pain. It is typically prescribed to people with acute pain from injuries, chronic pain, and after major surgery. Vicodin’s dangers come from the components that make up the drug. Acetaminophen affects the liver because of the release of harmful byproducts when being processed. Excess acetaminophen can result in liver tissue damage and scarring, leading to interference with liver functioning. Eventually, a person may need a liver transplant.
Typical liver damage cases involve taking 4,000 mg or more of acetaminophen daily. Due to this, the FDA prohibited the marketing of products with over 325 mg of acetaminophen in 2014. Previous products had 500-750 mg of this substance.
Vicodin misuse raises the chances of developing addiction and, in turn, increases the probability of an overdose and health issues linked to long-term use. Using any prescription drug beyond the doctor’s recommendations can have adverse effects on your health.
How to Use Vicodin
Before you take Vicodin, make sure you carefully read the guidelines and patient information and consult your physician or doctor for clarifications. The dosage is usually based on the patient’s medical condition, their response to treatment and weight. Ensure that you do not exceed the dose, take it beyond the recommended time or increase the frequency.
Pain-relieving medications deliver the best results when taken immediately rather than waiting until the pain worsens. The doctor may prescribe long-acting opioid drugs for ongoing pain, so you only have to use them for breakthrough pain. Ask a doctor about how and if you can safely use Vicodin with other medications.
If you suddenly stop using Vicodin, you may experience withdrawal symptoms, especially after using it in high doses or over a long time. It is better to lower the dosage slowly. Do not hesitate to tell your pharmacist or doctor if you experience any withdrawal symptoms like watering eyes, restlessness, trouble sleeping, anxiety, runny nose, sweating, diarrhea, nausea, muscle aches, sudden behavioral changes, or suicidal thoughts.
Side Effects of Vicodin
Using Vicodin may cause some side effects, including nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, lightheadedness, vomiting, and constipation. Some of these side effects can decrease after using the medication for a while. If they worsen or persist, it would be best to inform your doctor. Exercising, drinking enough water, and taking fiber-rich foods will help prevent constipation. Taking laxatives may also be necessary, but be sure to ask for your doctor’s recommendation. When getting up from lying down or sitting, do it slowly to avoid lightheadedness and dizziness.
Some of the severe side effects are hallucinations, sleep apnea, mood, and mental changes, difficulty urinating, abdominal pain, weight loss, unusual fatigue, and appetite loss. Other severe effects include drowsiness, fainting, shallow or slow breathing, and seizures. In these cases, seeking medical attention is a necessity.
While Vicodin is not associated with intense allergic reactions, get medical assistance if you experience itching, trouble breathing, severe dizziness, or rashes or swelling, particularly in your throat, tongue, and face. Make sure your doctor knows about your allergies and medical history because Vicodin may have inactive ingredients that can cause health problems, including allergic reactions.
How Vicodin Is Taken
A drug’s delivery mode affects how fast it gets into your bloodstream. Vicodin is usually in tablet form and taken orally, so the medicine is dissolved in your stomach, the intestines, and the liver for processing before reaching the brain and taking effect. A person starts feeling the pain relief approximately 20-30 minutes after taking the drug.
When dissolved or crushed and mixed with water to create a solution before being injected, snorted, or smoked, the absorption period shortens drastically and produces a euphoric, intense high. These forms of intake, especially injection, put you at more risk of an overdose. Injection offers the fastest means of delivering the drug to your brain. When hydrocodone hits your brain at once, it can severely interfere with the central nervous system.
Effects of Snorting Vicodin
Besides causing a fast and unpredictable high, snorting Vicodin can damage your lungs, throat, and nose, making it hard to breathe, eat and drink. It can also cause sleep apnea, snoring, congestion, sinus infections, frequent nose bleeds, lung infection, mouth and nose sores, and voice change. Snorting builds your tolerance to Vicodin faster than when taken orally, thus increasing the chances of addiction.
Health Risks of Vicodin Injection
Although it delivers pain-relieving effects faster, injection poses adverse health effects. You will likely develop permanent scars on the injection areas, and using non-sterile needles or syringes can cause abscesses, blisters, and many more skin issues. If your skin is dirty, you may develop an infection.
Sharing or using unsanitized needles or syringes puts you at risk of contracting diseases like HIV, Endocarditis, or Hepatitis C. Endocarditis is an endocardium infection caused by bacteria that can be transmitted by using unsanitary injection equipment. It can be fatal if not treated. You are also more susceptible to addiction and overdose if you inject Vicodin.
Signs of Vicodin Overdose
The symptoms of Vicodin overdose include:
- Weak pulse
- Intestinal spasms
- Low blood pressure
- Severe drowsiness
- Shallow or slow breathing
- Bluish fingernails or lips
- Extreme tiredness
- Dark urine
- Yellowing skin and eyes
It is vital to learn to spot these symptoms and know what you need to do in case of an overdose, especially if your loved one uses Vicodin. Consider these symptoms as a medical emergency and seek immediate medical intervention.
Many people who inject or snort Vicodin effectually develop an addiction to it. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, this medication falls under Schedule II of controlled substances, having been upgraded from Schedule III in 2014. The DEA voted to impose tighter restrictions to avoid fraud and protect users from misuse or abuse of the drug.
Diagnosing the Addiction
Noticing the signs of Vicodin addiction can be pretty tricky. Certain users can become dependent on the drug without realizing it. While a person accepting that they have a Vicodin problem is a personal matter, loved ones can start the conversation once they notice any addiction signs. It is highly likely that your friend or family member wants to stop using but does not know where to begin or is too scared to seek help.
It is paramount to encourage your loved one to speak to health care professionals because they are better positioned to offer guidance regarding treatment for Vicodin and substance use. Assure your loved one that they have your unconditional support and motivate them to take the step to seek help. Granite Recovery Centers can help make such discussions fruitful and walk you through various treatment options, like our inpatient treatment program.
According to the DMS-5, for a person to receive a substance use disorder diagnosis, they have to meet at least two of the 11 criteria within 12 months. Meeting two or three criteria means the person has a mild substance use disorder, while meeting four or five is viewed as moderate. Six and above is considered severe. The criteria are:
- Taking larger amounts of Vicodin or for longer than prescribed
- Having the desire to stop or lower Vicodin use but failing to do so
- Spending too much time using or recovering from Vicodin use
- Experiencing urges and cravings for Vicodin use
- Failing to handle your responsibilities at school, work, or home due to Vicodin use
- Continuing Vicodin use even after it affects your relationships
- Giving up essential occupational, recreational or social activities because of the drug
- Developing psychological or physical problems from Vicodin
- Needing to use larger quantities to feel the effects
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop using
Treating Vicodin Addiction
Once you develop a physical Vicodin dependence, it will likely lead to addiction. Withdrawing from Vicodin can be painful and intense, making many users keep using the drug to avoid the painful experience of withdrawal. Getting professional help is a more effective way to break Vicodin addiction.
The probability of overcoming Vicodin use increases if you join a treatment program and stick to it. Through a medical detox program, you will expel the drugs from your system safely, and the staff will help manage your withdrawal symptoms before going through other treatment forms like therapy.
Medically Assisted Treatment
Substance use treatment centers can provide medications to ease your Vicodin withdrawal symptoms. These drugs are used together with recovery support and therapy to offer the best chance of long-term sobriety. The commonly used drugs are:
- Buprenorphine: This opioid treats chronic pain, opioid use disorders, and acute pain. It is taken through injection, sublingually or buccally. It activates similar brain receptors as Vicodin to release dopamine and relieve withdrawals.
- Naltrexone: This drug lowers cravings and blocks Vicodin effects in case the person relapses. It also helps alcohol users to stay away from alcohol. It would be best if you did not use this drug if you are currently using opiates because it can trigger rapid withdrawal symptoms.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is among the most potent forms of counseling for treating Vicodin addiction. CBT helps patients acquire the necessary coping skills to handle life stressors and cravings without relapsing. Patients can also use attention diversion techniques to lower the negative impacts of pain and achieve better pain management.
Granite Recovery Centers combines CBT with other programs like the 12-step curriculum to provide comprehensive treatment. Combining cognitive behavioral therapy with relapse prevention allows patients in addiction recovery to identify situations that make them vulnerable to Vicodin use. Through counseling, you can learn tools to improve various areas of your life, such as your financial status, personal relationships, and employment.
The most significant benefit of residential treatment is that it separates you from triggers, which lowers the risk of relapse. Triggers can be people, things, or places that motivate you to turn to drug use. Patients in residential rehab receive support and therapy from trained professionals, increasing the chances of successful recovery. Since people with similar problems will also surround you in an inpatient program, you can motivate and support each other and celebrate every milestone together.
This approach offers a tailored treatment program with a broad range of recovery and therapeutic support services for Vicodin use disorder. Patients go through different lessons and activities with the guidance of an expert clinician or psychiatrist. Some of the advantages of partial hospitalization include medication management, high discharge planning, case management, recreational activities, family support, and group and individual therapy.
This type of program treats Vicodin addiction by addressing co-existing mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety. The benefits of doing so include developing strategies to manage triggers, understanding the role of exercise and diet in recovery, and improving decision-making, boundary development, and coping skills.
Prolonged Vicodin dependency increases your vulnerability to mental issues like depression and anxiety. A dual diagnosis treatment program is key to treating Vicodin use disorders comprehensively because addressing one problem and neglecting the mental health component raises the chances of a relapse.
Vicodin can cause adverse impacts on your life, affecting health and also other aspects of daily living. Addiction can even occur when the correct prescription is followed due to the way this drug affects the brain. If you or your loved one has an issue with Vicodin use, you can contact Granite Recovery Centers for personalized assistance in overcoming addiction.