Vicodin is a pain medication that is prescribed for moderate to moderately severe pain.
It is often prescribed following surgery or a serious injury. Even when used as prescribed, it has the potential to be addictive. Due to its potential for abuse, a person prescribed Vicodin should take it as recommended by their physician and should never give it to someone it is not prescribed to.
What is Vicodin?
Vicodin is a prescription narcotic that is used to relieve pain. It is the most frequently prescribed pain reliever in the United States. Vicodin works by binding to opioid receptors in the central nervous system, resulting in pain relief. In addition to relieving pain, Vicodin also has cough suppressing effects.
Vicodin is the brand name for the combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen, which are the active ingredients of Vicodin.
Is Vicodin an Opioid?
Vicodin is composed of acetaminophen and hydrocodone. Hydrocodone is a prescription opioid, therefore Vicodin is considered an opioid. People taking Vicodin should always be aware of the risks of taking a prescription opioid, as they can be addictive if misused.
Vicodin Drug Class Schedule
Vicodin is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule II substance because it contains hydrocodone, which is a Schedule II drug. The Schedule II classification means that it is highly addictive. The DEA defines controlled substances on a scale of I to V, with I having the highest potential for abuse and V having the lowest potential for abuse. In 2014, medications containing hydrocodone were switched from Schedule III to Schedule II due to their considerable potential for abuse.
Other Names for Vicodin
Many companies also produce combination drugs similar to Vicodin. Additionally, because of its potency, Vicodin and other similar branded drugs are popular for people looking to abuse drugs to get high. Because of the popularity of illicit Vicodin use, the drug is known by various street names.
Vicodin is a mixture of two drugs, acetaminophen and hydrocodone. Vicodin is the brand name for the mixture of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Other brand names for the mixture of acetaminophen and hydrocodone include:
- Lortab 10/325, 5/325 or 7.5/325
- Lortab Elixir
Vicodin Street Names
Vicodin is sometimes used other than prescribed by people who want to get high from it. Because it binds to opioid receptors, it can have a euphoric effect at higher doses. When Vicodin is used recreationally, it can go by other names referred to as street names, including:
- Idiot pills
There are three different forms of Vicodin and the dosage will be affected based on which one is taken. Vicodin comes in a 5 mg/300 mg, 7.5 mg/300 mg (also known as Vicodin ES) and 10 mg/300 mg (also known as Vicodin HP) versions. The numbers represent how much hydrocodone and acetaminophen are in the dose, respectively. Therefore, the difference in Vicodin dosage has to do with the hydrocodone dosage, which is:
- 5 mg/300 mg: One to two tablets can be taken every four to six hours as needed, not to exceed eight tablets a day.
- 7.5 mg/300 mg: One tablet every four to six hours as needed, not to exceed six tablets a day.
- 10 mg/300 mg: One tablet every four to six hours as needed, not to exceed six tablets a day.
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 a syrup. This form is made under the brand name Lortab Elixir and the dosing for pain management is similar to that of 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, but also increasing the risk of an overdose. These routes are dangerous and Vicodin should never be taken in this way.
How Long Does Vicodin Stay in Your System?
How long Vicodin stays in your system depends on the dose that you take. Once Vicodin is ingested, it will reach peak levels in the blood about 1.3 hours later. It will then start to decrease as it is broken down in the liver and eliminated by the kidneys. The rate it decreases is determined by the half-life of the drug. The half-life of Vicodin is about 3.8 hours, meaning it will reach half its maximum concentration in the blood approximately 3.8 hours after taking it.
Vicodin can be taken every four to six hours, depending on the dose. The total length of time it will stay in your system depends on how much you take and how often you take it. When testing for Vicodin during a drug test, hydrocodone can be detected in urine, saliva or hair. It is detectable in saliva for 12 to 36 hours, urine for up to four days and hair for up to 90 days following use.
Common Side Effects
Even when used as recommended, Vicodin can have side effects. The side effects can be short-term or long-lasting. Everyone’s body is different so what one person experiences may not be the same as what another person experiences. Always consult with a medical professional if concerning side effects develop.
- Abdominal pain
Some side effects can be more severe and may require medical attention. If a person experiences any of these effects, they should seek help immediately. The severe side effects of Vicodin include:
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Chest pain
- Swelling in the face, tongue, or throat (these are signs of an allergic reaction)
- Extreme drowsiness
- Light-headedness when changing positions
- Feeling faint
- Trouble walking
- Stiff muscles
- Confusion or other mental changes
Vicodin use can also have long-term effects that last beyond when a person stops using it. These effects are more likely to occur with longer use of Vicodin or when using it in ways or amounts other than prescribed. The long-term side effects of Vicodin are:
- Liver problems
- Increased pain sensitivity
- Blurred vision
- Problems with memory
- Mood changes
There are many other pain medications that can be used as alternatives to Vicodin, including other medications that also include hydrocodone or other opioids. Some of these alternatives may be considered due to a decreased risk of becoming addicted to the medication. Some alternatives to Vicodin for pain management include:
- 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 capsule.
- Vicodin vs. Percocet
- Tramadol vs. Vicodin
Tramadol is a pain medication that is opioid-like 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.
What does Vicodin Look Like?
Vicodin comes in tablet or pill form. It is a white capsule with imprinted writing on it that will vary based on the dose of the pill. 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.
Is Vicodin Dangerous?
Due to its high potential for abuse, Vicodin can be dangerous. Hydrocodone abuse is a serious problem in the United States, with 2.3% of the population misusing the drug in 2017. That percentage amounts to 12% of people who use hydrocodone misusing it. It is also a serious problem in Florida, accounting for 2.6% of drug occurrences and 6.3% of opioid occurrences reported in the first half of 2017.
Due to its effects on the central nervous system and the slowing of a person’s respiratory rate, it also has a great risk of overdosing. Taking too much Vicodin or taking it too often without letting it clear from the system can have serious effects, including death. Opioid overdoses, including hydrocodone overdoses, accounted for 4.4% of the 63,600 drug overdose deaths in 2016. In Florida, 357 people died from a hydrocodone overdose in 2017.
Vicodin is often used with other substances, which can be very dangerous. Vicodin can have negative interactions with many other types of drugs. When using more than one type of drug, it can be difficult to judge how much is too much. Of the 357 people who died from hydrocodone overdose in 2017, 308 of them had other drugs in their system at the time of death.
There are several drugs that 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 amplify these effects, making it easier to overdose. Similarly, Vicodin should not be mixed with benzodiazepines or weed.
The use of Vicodin and other drugs that affect neurotransmitters in the brain, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) or tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), should be avoided. 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 of them 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.
As noted by its DEA drug classification, Vicodin has a high potential for abuse due to 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 a person 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 duration to manage their pain. Vicodin addiction is a serious problem that can have long-term consequences. A person who has a Vicodin use disorder should seek medical attention to get help in overcoming their disorder.
Key Points to Understanding Vicodin
A few key points to remember about Vicodin are:
- Vicodin is a pain medication that should be taken as prescribed and only used by those it is prescribed to
- Vicodin has a high possibility for abuse and should be used with caution
- Vicodin should be taken at the lowest dose for the shortest duration possible to manage pain
- Vicodin addiction is a serious problem and anyone who has a Vicodin use disorder should seek help to overcome their disorder
Contact The Recovery Village Palm Beach to speak with a representative about how professional addiction treatment can address substance use disorders. You deserve a healthier future, call today.
Drug Enforcement Administration. “Hydrocodone.” October 2018. Accessed August 22, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Prescription Opioids.” June 2019. Accessed August 22, 2019.
AbbVie Inc. “Vicodin Prescribing Information.” February 2017. Accessed August 22, 2019.
Drugs.com. “Norco Dosage.” October 5, 2018. Accessed August 23, 2019.
Durbin, Kaci. “Percocet.” Drugs.com, April 25, 2019. Accessed August 23, 2019.
Drugs.com. “Vicodin vs Percocet: What’s the difference?” April 11, 2019. Accessed August 23, 2019.
Durbin, Kaci. “Tramadol.” Drugs.com, May 3, 2019. Accessed August 23, 2019.
Drugs.com. “Lortab.” October 17, 2018. Accessed August 23, 2019.
Drugs.com. “Drug Interactions between cannabis and Vicodin.” Accessed August 23, 2019.
Drugs.com. “Drug Interactions between Adderall and Vicodin.” Accessed August 23, 2019.
National Survey on Drug Use and Health. “2018 NSDUH Detailed Tables.” Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration, 2018. Accessed August 23, 2019.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement. “Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners.” April 2018. Accessed August 23, 2019.
Hedegaard, Holly; Warner, Margaret; Miniño, Arialdi M. “Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999–2016.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief, December, 2017. Accessed August 23, 2019.