Vicodin is a prescription pain medication that contains the opioid hydrocodone combined with acetaminophen. Due to its effects on the brain, hydrocodone addiction is possible. This type of addiction is a serious problem in the United States, with 2.3% of the population misusing the drug in 2017.
A person at risk for Vicodin addiction may show signs and symptoms of Vicodin abuse before becoming addicted to the drug. If a person experiences these signs or has developed a hydrocodone use disorder, they should seek professional help to overcome their addiction.
Is Vicodin Addictive?
Vicodin is highly addictive. It is classified as a Schedule II drug by the drug enforcement administration because it contains hydrocodone. Schedule II drugs have the highest potential to be abused among prescription drugs. Hydrocodone addiction can develop with repeated use of the drug. How long it takes to get addicted to hydrocodone will vary from person to person. It depends on how much of the drug a person is taking and how often they are taking it.
What Causes Vicodin Addiction?
Since Vicodin is used for pain relief, you may ask yourself, “Why do you get addicted to Vicodin?” Vicodin can be additive because in addition to its pain-relieving effects it also can cause a euphoric or high feeling. People who use the drug to experience this euphoria rather than for pain management are at risk of becoming addicted.
When a person uses hydrocodone more often or in higher doses than recommended, they may become tolerant to it, meaning that they no longer get the same result from the same dose of the drug. 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 a person needs 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 people who have mental health illnesses.
Symptoms of Addiction
A person who has become addicted to Vicodin may show symptoms of Vicodin or hydrocodone addiction. These symptoms can be physical, behavioral or psychological. Some of the physical signs of addiction in general include:
- Changes in appearance or personal hygiene
- Bloodshot eyes
- Sudden weight loss
- Irregular sleeping patterns
Behavioral symptoms might include:
- Changes in activities, shifts in social circles or decreased time with family
- Secretive behavior
- Declining performance at work or school
- Neglecting obligations
Psychological symptoms might include:
- Changes in mood or personality
- The onset of depression or anxiety
- Acting paranoid or having obsessive thoughts
- Having a negative self-image
- Lack of motivation
If you recognize any of these symptoms in a person who is taking Vicodin, it might be useful to speak to them about your concern or have them seek medical help.
Signs Someone Around You is Addicted
Recognizing the signs of Vicodin addiction may help a person get the Vicodin abuse treatment they need. Some signs on how to tell if someone is addicted to Vicodin include:
- The person finishes their prescription faster than they should have
- They complain about not having enough Vicodin
- If someone is using the drug through a route such as snorting or smoking it is considered drug abuse and they are likely addicted to the drug
- When on the drug they display signs of euphoria or changes in mood
- They combine Vicodin with other substances
- They disregard commitments at school, work or social situations
Vicodin Abuse Statistics
The abuse of Vicodin is thought to be attributed to its availability, due to the high level of prescriptions that are written for it each year. Despite a year-to-year decrease in dispensing (-8.69%), hydrocodone was still the most prescribed drug in Florida in 2018. For this reason, in 2018, Florida established laws to limit the prescription of opioids.
Side Effects of Vicodin Abuse
The side effects or symptoms 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 that occur when a person uses Vicodin for longer than recommended. The side effects of Vicodin abuse are:
Physical side effects include:
- Physical Side Effects
Dizziness or feeling light-headed
Ringing in ears
Slowed heart rate
Psychological side effects include:
- Psychological Side Effects
Inability to focus
Behavioral side effects include:
- Behavioral Side Effects
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
Dishonest behavior such as lying or stealing
Obsession with getting more Vicodin
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 the slowing of a person’s respiratory rate, overdosing on Vicodin can have serious effects, including death. If someone is suspected to have overdosed on Vicodin they should get help immediately.
Vicodin Overdose Symptoms
Overdosing on Vicodin occurs when a person takes too much Vicodin at once or takes it too often, causing it to build up to dangerous levels in their system. The amount
of Vicodin that will cause an overdose varies from person-to-person based on characteristics like gender, body weight and composition, age, and general health.
Both components of Vicodin can be toxic. Hydrocodone suppresses CNS function that can lead to severe depression of breathing and heart rate. Acetaminophen can be toxic to the liver when taken in high amounts. Early symptoms of an overdose include nausea, vomiting, sweating and a general feeling of malaise. Other symptoms of hydrocodone or acetaminophen overdose are:
- Overdose Symptoms
Slow or having difficulty breathing
Sleepiness or drowsiness that progresses to a stupor or soma
Cold and clammy skin
The opioid overdose death rate, including hydrocodone or Vicodin overdose, was 4.4% of the 63,600 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2016. In Florida, 357 people died from hydrocodone overdose in 2017. Hydrocodone was also frequently used in overdose deaths by suicide, resulting in 9.3% of suicide deaths.
Vicodin is often used with other substances, which can be very dangerous. Vicodin can have negative interactions with many other types of drugs. 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. The drug that is most commonly taken along with Vicodin when a person overdoses is Xanax. In 25.7% opioid overdose deaths the person also had alprazolam (Xanax) in their system.
Facing Vicodin Withdrawal
When a person misuses Vicodin, the brain gets used to hydrocodone being around constantly and it may become reliant on Vicodin to function normally. If this happens, a person may become dependent on Vicodin. When a person that is 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 starts will depend on how much Vicodin a person is using and how often they are using it. When hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms occur, the process of detoxification, or detox, can help the person to once again function normally without the drug in their system. This usually involves tapering the drug, by using smaller and smaller amounts until it is no longer needed.
Key Points to Understanding Vicodin Addiction
Here are a few key points to remember about Vicodin addiction:
- Vicodin addiction occurs when a person uses Vicodin for longer than recommended or when a person uses it to get high
- Vicodin addiction can occur even when taken as prescribed
- A person addicted to Vicodin may become dependent on it and experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using it
- Overdosing on Vicodin is a serious problem that can be fatal; the chances of overdosing increase when Vicodin is combined with other drugs
Contact The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health to speak with a representative about how professional addiction treatment can help you address a substance use disorder. Take the first step toward a healthier future by calling today.
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