What is Hydrocodone?

One of the most widely abused drugs in America is hydrocodone. Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid painkiller, with a high potential for abuse. It is available in many combinations with acetaminophen (Tylenol), and ibuprofen (Motrin). Brand names for hydrocodone are Vicodin, Norco, and Lortab. It is available in tablet and liquid dosage forms.

Hydrocodone was manufactured as an alternative for patients allergic to morphine and codeine since it is semi-synthetic and most patients with those allergies proved to not be allergic hydrocodone. It is a moderate to strong painkiller and works by binding to the same opioid pain receptors as other opiates. It is stronger than tramadol and weaker than oxycontin.

Why The Change In Federal Schedule

Originally, Hydrocodone was placed in schedule III of the Federal Schedule since it had less potential for abuse than similar opiate painkillers in class II. Because it was in class III it was easier to obtain, since physicians could authorize refills, and call prescriptions over the phone. This also made fake and forged prescriptions more readily available. The abuse and misuse of Hydrocodone continued to escalate, and in an effort to curb its abuse the DEA rescheduled it in 2014 into class II which meant it could no longer be phoned in and prevents the authorization of refills. The effect was a decrease in the total number of hydrocodone prescriptions, and an increase in prescriptions for tramadol, and acetaminophen #3 (Tylenol #3), since they are still in lower schedules, with less stringent prescribing rules.

Uses Of Hydrocodone

Hydrocodone and it’s combinations are used to treat moderate to high pain, and also are prescribed as antitussives or cough suppressants. As a cough suppressant, it is not as commonly prescribed as codeine, but it still has the same potential for abuse. When it is taken in a liquid form it works faster, and often patients who are seeking a quick ‘high’ or euphoria will inject it. The tablets are often crushed and swallowed for a faster high or relief. These habits are not the intended method of administration and can lead to harm, unwanted effects, and even overdose.

What Does Hydrocodone Do?

Hydrocodone binds to opioid pain receptors just like other opioids do. It changes the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain. It suppresses cough by lowering activity in the brain that causes cough. Hydrocodone is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, but chewing and crushing tablets, and injecting the drug allow for faster absorption. Once in the brain, it targets the pain receptors and also increases levels of dopamine in the brain. This is where the pleasure centers are targeted and the sense of euphoria, and ‘being high’ kick in. This is also what attracts so many persons to seek the drug for not approved uses or to take more than the prescribed amount.

Hydrocodone has a half-life of about four to six hours, which means that half of the dose is eliminated from the body in that time frame. This helps to understand why many need to take the drug in shorter periods of time or take higher than normal doses. Hydrocodone is eliminated from the body through the kidneys, while acetaminophen is broken down by the liver. Thus, hydrocodone combinations can affect many organs of the body. The short half-life also helps explain why overdose occurs fairly frequently.

How Is Hydrocodone Obtained?

Since Hydrocodone is a schedule II prescription medication it requires a written prescription each time it is dispensed. However, many patients obtain it from friends or family members, and the addictive behavior begins. Often, a patient with legitimate medical needs becomes addicted and turns to drug-seeking behavior like stealing prescription pads, forging prescriptions, and seeking them from other patients. Many addicts obtain hydrocodone on the street just like they would heroin or crack. Thus, it can lead to many problems since it has not been prescribed, and the potential for overdose increases.

Since Hydrocodone has shifted to Schedule II theft has decreased due to the fact that it is locked up. However, it is also a problem for healthcare workers who become addicted to it. Healthcare workers are no different than other potential addicts and this is also a potential area where abuse or misuse can occur. Teenagers and young adults also are able to find it from friends and family and with the internet, they can find it without a prescription.

Signs And Symptoms Of Hydrocodone Abuse

Common signs and symptoms of Hydrocodone abuse are:

  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • seizures
  • depression
  • headaches
  • blurred vision
  • confusion
  • muscle weakness
  • slower breathing
  • ringing in ears
  • constipation
  • irregular heartbeat
  • dry mouth
  • euphoria or pleasure
  • itchy skin
  • pinpoint pupils

When taken as prescribed hydrocodone can still cause some of the listed side effects. But, when a patient takes larger than normal doses over a long period of time they will exhibit most, if not all of these effects. Patients’ health will deteriorate both physically and mentally.

Drug-seeking behavior accompanies hydrocodone abuse. Patients will seek the drug looking for hidden supplies around the house. Often they will borrow from neighbors, friends, or even family members. The cycle is endless and ultimately, as tolerance develops and the daily dose increases patients become more at risk for overdose and possible death.

Other effects:

  • Socially Isolated
  • Financial Problems
  • Reckless Behavior, for example, driving erratically
  • Abandoning Hobbies

Overdose

Hydrocodone overdose is one of the more common types of opioid overdose and can demonstrate signs and symptoms such as:

  • dizziness
  • shallow breathing
  • confusion
  • fatigue
  • nausea and vomiting
  • seizures
  • intestinal and stomach muscle cramps
  • lightheadedness
  • coma
  • blueish-colored fingernails and skin
  • cold, clammy skin
  • loss of consciousness

Patients who take hydrocodone normally are taking some combination with acetaminophen or Tylenol. Because they are abusing hydrocodone they are also taking large quantities of acetaminophen and can quickly damage the liver leading to failure. Despite changes in dosing and new forms with lower doses of acetaminophen, this is still a problem.

Addiction Statistics and Prevention

In 2014 there were 120 million prescriptions for hydrocodone written, and after switching to Schedule II there was a seven tablet per patient prescribing increase in the US. In 2015 alone over 12.5 million Americans used hydrocodone, and that statistic doesn’t include the illicit use of hydrocodone.

Despite all of the statistics indicating high usage, diversion, and illicit behavior, the 2018 Monitoring The Future Survey reports a decline in hydrocodone misuse among school-age children. Also, the DEA also has reported that in 2018 the number of hydrocodone containing prescriptions decreased to roughly 71 million. As the number of prescriptions decreases and the parameters are in place for pharmacies and physicians to monitor hydrocodone dispensing, leaving the internet as the only other viable option for drug seekers to find hydrocodone.

Still, hydrocodone misuse continues to be a problem and for those who have found themselves addicted, it is a real problem. It can be prevented. Patients should always follow the directions of their prescriber and report any unwanted side effects. Likewise, if they feel that they need more pain relief they should talk with their physician. There are other options to help with pain without self-medicating. Finally, monitor your children’s behavior and habits and look for any indication that they might be abusing or misusing hydrocodone. Also, parents should always keep their medications out of the reach of their children.

Hydrocodone Drug Rehab And Therapy

If you or someone you know has an addiction or problem with hydrocodone then it’s time to get help. Transformations Treatment Center has treated many patients with hydrocodone abuse with success. Each patient’s case and needs are different, and the first step in therapy is to assess where the patient is and what they need. Withdrawal and detox are always the first steps in therapy.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms can begin in as little as six hours or up to twelve hours after the last dose. The following or symptoms of withdrawal from hydrocodone:

  • fever and chills
  • muscle aches and pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • shaky tremors
  • insomnia
  • Diarrhea 
  • restlessness
  • runny nose
  • strong cravings

Withdrawal may lead to powerful cravings and the symptoms may worsen. It is important that you seek help for yourself or your loved one immediately.

Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT)

The use of other opioids to treat hydrocodone addiction has become a common practice with effective results. Drugs like Methadone and Buprenorphine target the same opioid receptors as hydrocodone, but at a different level. They tend to not produce the euphoric high that hydrocodone produces. Treatment with these medications is part of the withdrawal process and may last long term. Each case is weighed separately and depends on many factors, such as length of abuse, age, and the daily dose the patient has achieved. Sometimes, naltrexone is added since it has antagonist effects which block some of the opioid receptors. Naltrexone is added after withdrawal is complete and helps with drug cravings.

At Transformation Treatment Center we offer several models that include counseling, behavior modification, and psychotherapy. These are added along with twelve-step programs to complete the Medication Assisted Therapy. The medication is added as part of the therapy and is never intended to be the only type of therapy.

Holistic Approach

Transformation Treatment Center offers a holistic approach that includes faith-based programs. We tailor a program towards your goals and needs. Every individual is different, and how they got here, and where they need to be is not the same. Our goal is to provide the treatment that works best for you. We treat every aspect of substance abuse, including mental, emotional, physical, and sociological aspects. Our goal is for you to live a healthy, sober, drug-free life. 

Recovery And Long Term Prognosis

Part of the treatment is the long term recovery. It depends on the individual and whether you want to remain drug-free. Like a heart patient must take their medication and exercise and eat right you must follow your physician and other professionals’ treatment recommendations. Stay on track by completing all programs and carrying out what has been taught. Once habits are changed and you proceed to live a drug-free life you must continue to follow all guidelines as required. Don’t think about relapse, but rather focus on practicing what is learned during treatment and avoid any substance abuse. The recovery really is up to you, but the prognosis is really good if you follow what we teach you here.  You are the most important part of the team.

Call Now For Help

You will never know what we can do unless you contact us now! We are here for you and are ready and waiting for you to contact us for yourself or your loved one. Don’t wait until it is too late, and become another negative statistic, but contact us and be a part of the continued success here at Transformations Treatment Center. 

References

National Institute Of Health

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4900766/

DEA- USDOJ.Gov

https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/hydrocodone.pdf

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Opioid Overdose.
    https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/
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