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Vicodin Abuse & Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Statistics, & More

Written by Melissa Carmona

& Medically Reviewed by Elizabeth Cambria

Medically Reviewed

Up to Date

This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

Last Updated - 08/23/22

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Vicodin addiction affects thousands of people a year, contributing to the ongoing opioid epidemic in the US. Thankfully, Vicodin addiction treatment is available.

Vicodin is a combination medication that contains hydrocodone, an opioid, and acetaminophen, an over-the-counter pain reliever. Products with hydrocodone can be habit-forming and come with a potential for addiction warning before use. Vicodin addiction can occur even when using the medicine as prescribed. Along with Vicodin addiction, the medicine also carries a risk of overdose and death.

What is Vicodin?

Vicodin is a prescription narcotic used for pain relief. In the United States, it’s the most frequently prescribed pain medicine. When someone takes Vicodin, it works by binding to opioid receptors in the central nervous system.

Is Vicodin an Opioid?

The hydrocodone in this combination medicine is an opioid. Hydrocodone is only available by prescription. Hydrocodone, as with other opioids, can be habit-forming, especially with extended or ongoing use.

Other Names for Vicodin

Vicodin is a specific brand name. Other brand names for medicines that contain hydrocodone, as Vicodin does, include:

  • Lortab
  • Lorcet-HD
  • Hycodan
  • Norco
  • Tussionex
  • Vicoprofen
  • Vicodin ES
  • Vicodin HP
  • Vituz
  • Xodol
  • Zolvit
  • Zutipro
  • Zydone

Street or slang names for Vicodin or similar products containing hydrocodone can include:

  • Fluff
  • Vic
  • V-itamin
  • Vike
  • Hydros
  • Watson-387

Vicodin Uses

In a prescription setting, Vicodin is an antitussive and a narcotic analgesic. An antitussive is a cough suppressant. A narcotic analgesic means Vicodin and other products with hydrocodone are reserved for treating moderate to severe pain.

Vicodin Side Effects

As with many other prescription medicines, Vicodin can have side effects even when used as intended and directed by a doctor. There are short- and long-term side effects. Not everyone will experience the same effects.

Short-term Vicodin side effects may include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Back pain
  • Muscle tightening
  • Frequent, difficult, or painful urination
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Trouble breathing

Long-term side effects of Vicodin and other opioids can include:

  • Constipation
  • Progressive hearing loss
  • Tolerance
  • Dependence
  • Decreased immune system
  • Sexual-related problems
  • Low energy
  • Mood changes
  • Depression

Vicodin also contains acetaminophen, which can lead to side effects. If someone takes over four grams of any product containing acetaminophen in a day, it can lead to liver damage and potentially death.

Vicodin Dosage & Administration

There are three forms of Vicodin available in different dosages. Vicodin comes in 5 mg/300 mg, 7.5 mg/300 mg (also known as Vicodin ES), and 10 mg/300 mg (also known as Vicodin HP). The numbers represent how much hydrocodone and acetaminophen are in the dose, respectively. All strengths of Vicodin contain 300 mg of acetaminophen so the difference in Vicodin dosage has to do with the amount of hydrocodone in each strength. Each strength may be prescribed by a healthcare provider as follows:

  • 5 mg/300 mg: One to two tablets every four to six hours as needed, not exceeding eight tablets daily
  • 7.5 mg/300 mg: One tablet every four to six hours as needed, not exceeding six tablets daily
  • 10 mg/300 mg: One tablet every four to six hours as needed, not exceeding six tablets daily

Vicodin comes in pill or tablet form and should be taken as prescribed. It should be taken orally and ingested. In addition to pill form, hydrocodone and acetaminophen can also come as syrup. This form is made under the brand name Lortab Elixir, and the pain management dosing is similar to the pill.

When used recreationally, people may use other routes of administration, including snorting or smoking Vicodin. These routes cause the drug to be absorbed into the blood more quickly, allowing the person to feel its euphoric effects faster and increasing the risk of an overdose. These routes are dangerous, and Vicodin should never be taken this way.

What Does Vicodin Look Like?

Vicodin comes in tablet or pill form. It is a white capsule with imprinted writing that will vary based on the pill dose. The different doses are denoted by:

  • 5 mg/300 mg: “5” and 300” separated by a line on one side and “VICODIN” on the other side
  • 7.5 mg/300 mg: “7.5” and 300” separated by a line on one side and “VICODIN ES” on the other side
  • 10 mg/300 mg: “10” and 300” separated by a line on one side and “VICODIN HP” on the other side

Vicodin Interactions

Several drugs should be avoided while taking Vicodin due to adverse interactions. Vicodin should never be taken with alcohol, as it is also a CNS depressant and can increase its side effects, making it easier to overdose. Similarly, Vicodin should not be mixed with benzodiazepines.

The use of Vicodin and other drugs that affect neurotransmitters in the brain should be closely monitored, such as:

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs),

These drugs are commonly used to treat depression and other mental health issues.

Vicodin use is commonly combined with other addictive drugs when used recreationally. While some have no known interactions, such as Adderall and Vicodin, combining drugs without medical supervision can be dangerous. Many overdoses involve the use of more than one drug at a time.

Vicodin Alternatives

Many other pain medications can be used as alternatives to Vicodin, including other medications that also include hydrocodone or other opioids.

Vicodin vs. Norco

Norco is another brand name for a drug that is a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. It comes in slightly different forms from Vicodin, containing the same amounts of hydrocodone but higher amounts of acetaminophen, at 325 mg per tablet.

Vicodin vs. Percocet

Percocet is a combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone. It is also an opioid because it contains oxycodone. It is also a prescription pain medication but may be more likely to be abused than Vicodin.

Tramadol vs. Vicodin

Tramadol is an opioid-like pain medication but has additional effects that make it different from most opioids. It is less addictive than Vicodin, though it still has the potential for abuse, and can be used for chronic or long-term pain management.

Vicodin vs. Oxycodone

Oxycodone is another type of opioid that is used for pain medication. Like hydrocodone, it is sometimes combined with other drugs such as acetaminophen. It is considered to have a higher potential for abuse compared to Vicodin.

Lortab vs Vicodin

Lortab is another brand name for the combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodone. Like Norco, it also contains 325 mg of acetaminophen compared to the 300 mg found in Vicodin but has the same choices for the amounts of hydrocodone.

Is Vicodin Addictive?

As noted by its DEA Schedule II drug classification, Vicodin has a high potential for abuse due to having hydrocodone as an ingredient. Hydrocodone addiction occurs when a person experiences the euphoric effects of hydrocodone and wants to use it more often to achieve those effects. A person who uses a drug for the euphoric effects rather than the prescribed pain-relieving effects or who craves the drug for these effects may be addicted to hydrocodone.

Vicodin addiction can occur even when taken as prescribed. To avoid addiction, a person should use the lowest dose possible for the shortest amount of time to manage their pain. Vicodin addiction is a serious problem that can have long-term consequences. A person with a Vicodin use disorder should seek medical attention to help overcome their disorder.

About Vicodin Addiction

Vicodin is addictive because of the hydrocodone it contains. Opioids like hydrocodone can reduce the perception of pain, which is why they’re prescribed. These drugs can also create euphoria or relaxation. When someone takes an opioid, it travels through their blood and to the brain, attaching to receptor sites. This function can release brain chemicals that create the high people can experience with opioids. Vicodin triggers the brain’s reward center of the brain similarly to other pleasurable activities. Since opioids like Vicodin can activate the reward process, they motivate repeated use of the substance for pleasure.

When people use hydrocodone more often or in higher doses than recommended, they may become tolerant to it, meaning they no longer get the same result from the same drug dose. This will often lead to a person taking more of the drug to get the same effect, which can lead to dependence on the drug. When people need Vicodin to feel normal, they have become dependent on it.

Certain people may be at an increased risk of becoming addicted to Vicodin, including people with a history of substance use, personally or in their family, or those with mental health disorders.

Vicodin Abuse Statistics

According to opioid crisis statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2019, an estimated 10.1 million people 12 and older misused opioids in the previous year. This includes Vicodin. More specifically, 9.7 million people misused prescription pain medicines like Vicodin.

Signs & Symptoms of Vicodin Abuse

The side effects, symptoms and signs of Vicodin abuse can be similar to the normal Vicodin side effects that occur when taking the drug as prescribed. However, if a person continues taking the drug despite these effects or is continually experiencing these effects, they may have developed an addiction to Vicodin. There are also long-term side effects of hydrocodone use when a person uses Vicodin for longer than recommended. The symptoms of Vicodin abuse include:

Physical Side Effects

  • Drowsiness
  • General weakness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Drug cravings
  • Vomiting
  • Small pinpoint pupils
  • Tremors
  • Slowed heart rate and breathing

Psychological Side Effects

  • Euphoria
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Fear
  • Inability to focus

Behavioral Signs

  • Finishing prescriptions early
  • Doctor shopping (finding a doctor that will prescribe Vicodin when others won’t)
  • Claiming to have lost the prescription or that it was stolen
  • Avoiding family and friends
  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Dishonest behavior such as lying or stealing
  • Obsession with getting more Vicodin

Effects of Vicodin Abuse

Over the long-term, there are effects of Vicodin abuse that can include:

  • Addiction
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Sexual-related problems
  • Decrease in testosterone in men and higher levels of insulin resistance
  • Higher risk of mental health disorders
  • Immune system dysfunction
  • Chronic constipation
  • Sleep apnea
  • Trouble breathing
  • Increased risk of heart symptoms like heart attack

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Vicodin Withdrawal

When someone uses Vicodin, the brain gets used to hydrocodone being around constantly and may rely on it to function “normally.” When someone dependent on Vicodin stops using it, the brain will need to re-adjust to its absence, and symptoms of hydrocodone withdrawal can occur. When Vicodin withdrawal symptoms occur, the process of detoxification, or detox, can help the person function normally again without the drug in their system.

Early symptoms of Vicodin withdrawal can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Increased irritability
  • Muscle aches
  • Tearing of the eyes
  • Sweating
  • Runny nose
  • Yawning
  • Trouble sleeping

Later Vicodin withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Goosebumps
  • Dilated pupils

Vicodin Overdose

Taking too much Vicodin or taking it too often without letting it clear from the system can lead to a hydrocodone overdose. Due to its effects on the central nervous system and slowing a person’s respiratory rate, overdosing on Vicodin can have serious effects, including death. If someone is suspected of overdosing on Vicodin, they should get help immediately.

Overdose Symptoms

Overdose symptoms of opioids like Vicodin can include:

  • Pale skin
  • Very small pupils
  • Skin feels clammy to the touch
  • Limpness of the body
  • Fingernails or lips have a bluish or purple tint
  • Vomiting or gurgling sounds
  • Can’t be awakened
  • Unable to speak
  • Breathing slows or stops
  • Heartbeat slows or stops

Overdose Statistics

In 2020, there were an estimated 91,799 drug overdose deaths in the United States. Opioids were involved in 74.8% of those. In 2020, an average of 44 people died each day from overdoses involving prescription opioids like Vicodin.

Naloxone for Vicodin Overdose

Naloxone is a medicine that can quickly reverse a Vicodin or opioid overdose. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist. The medicine attaches to opioid receptors to block the effects of opioids. When someone is given naloxone soon enough, it can restore their normal breathing. The medicine doesn’t affect someone with other drugs outside of opioids in their system, and it’s not a treatment for an opioid use disorder, only a temporary treatment for an overdose before emergency care arrives.

Treatment for Vicodin Addiction

Medical Detox

The first stage of a treatment program for Vicodin abuse or addiction is often a supervised medical detox. During medical detox, clinical professionals can monitor vitals and ensure patients are as safe and comfortable as possible as substances leave their system. During medical detox, the goal is stabilization. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) may be useful to help with symptoms of withdrawal and opioid cravings.

MAT is meant to be used with behavioral therapies and counseling as a holistic approach. Medications for opioid use disorders can include buprenorphine, naltrexone and methadone. These are not a cure for addiction but are part of a more comprehensive, science-based approach to treatment.


Medical detox is only the first phase of a treatment program. Addiction has deeper, underlying issues that need to be addressed during a rehab program. There are inpatient and outpatient rehab programs for someone with Vicodin addiction. Some people go through a full continuum of care, starting with inpatient rehab and gradually transitioning down as they’re ready.

Get Help Today

Vicodin addiction can be overwhelming and scary, but you aren’t alone. Treatment programs can help you overcome opioid addiction and reclaim your life. If you or a loved one is struggling with Vicodin addiction, reach out to our team at The Recovery Village at Baptist Health.

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