What is Hydrocodone?

Pronounced as [hahy-druh-koh-dohn]

Hydrocodone is an opioid analgesic (painkiller) drug. It is usually combined with Acetaminophen, which is a classic non-narcotic analgesic. The most common combination of these 2 drugs is Vicodin. It is used as an antitussive (cough suppressant) and a narcotic pain reliever for the treatment of moderate to moderately severe pain. It has been shown to be as effective as codeine for cough suppression and nearly as potent as morphine for pain relief. It is the most frequently prescribed opiate in the United States.

What are the Generic and Brand Names for Hydrocodone?

There have been several versions of this drug that are available in the US market. These are:

  • Vicodin – consists of 300 mg of acetaminophen and comes in different dosages: 5 mg, 7.5 mg and 10 mg. Previous versions of this drug contained from 500 to 750 mg of acetaminophen but an FDA change in 2011 required all prescription painkillers to reduce their acetaminophen content because it has been found out that high doses of this cause liver damage.
  • Norco – consists of 325 mg of acetaminophen and comes in two different dosages: 7.5 mg and 10 mg.
  • Lortab – consists of 3250 mg of acetaminophen and comes in different dosages: 5 mg, 7.5 mg and 10 mg.
  • Zohydro – unlike all other drugs mentioned above, Zohydro is pure hydrocodone and comes in 6 different dosages: 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg, 40 mg, and 50 mg. This drug is only prescribed for severe pain.

What are the Most Common Street Names for This Drug?

This drug is also known by the following street names:

  • Vikes
  • Vics
  • Vicos
  • Hydros
  • Lorris
  • Fluff
  • Scratch
  • Norco
  • Idiot Pills
  • Tabs
  • Watsons
  • 357s

How does Hydrocodone Work?

Like with any other opioid drug, this drug works by binding to the receptors in your brain, blocking pain signals while also flooding your brain with dopamine. This gives euphoric effects and makes it addictive for the user.

How Strong is Hydrocodone?

This drug is around 10 times less potent than hydromorphone (Dilaudid). It also has a half-life of 4 hours. This simply means that your body will take somewhere around 4 hours to process half of the ingested drug in the blood’s plasma.

How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay In Your System, Blood, Urine, Saliva, Hair?

If you are to undergo a drug test, you may be wondering how long this drug stays in your system.

  • Blood test: N/A
  • Urine test: 2-4 days
  • Saliva test: 12-36 hours
  • Hair test: 90 Days

What are the Short-Term Effects of Hydrocodone Use?

Hydrocodone is an excellent pain reliever, but it can also cause other side effects to the patient taking it. These side effects can also be seen from most opioid drugs. These side effects generally disappear as the dose wears off.

Other more serious side effects of this drug arise because of its depressant quality. This can slow down your body’s typical rate of functioning (slowed heartbeat, delayed breathing, etc.) which can lead to other complications like bowel obstruction, breathing problems, slowed or irregular heartbeat, severe allergic reaction such as rash, hives, itching or swelling, trouble urinating, and vomiting.

What are the Long-Term Effects of Codeine Use?

Long-term use of this drug frequently leads to tolerance. This means that the patient will need to take more of the drug in order to get the same effect as when the drug was first used. Because of its strength relative to other opioid drugs, tolerance can develop very quickly. There have been cases of tolerance developing on patients after just a few doses. Long-term effects of hydrocodone use can include a broad range of physical problems which includes acetaminophen toxicity, liver damage and sensorineural hearing loss.

How commonly is Hydrocodone Abused?

Since it is the most commonly prescribed opioid drug in the US, it is also the most commonly abused. In 2011, the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) estimated that there were more than 82,000 emergency room incidents which are related to its non-medical use. In 2012, over 29,000 hydrocodone-related exposures and 36 deaths have been reported according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. And in 2013, 4 million people over the age of 12 were reported using this drug for nonmedical purposes.

The abuse of this drug is not limited to adults. The 2014 Monitoring the Future (MTF) Survey has found out that close to 6% of high school seniors had, at some point in their lives, used this narcotic without a prescription. One factor that may have caused this is that adolescents mistakenly think that this drug is safer than those illegal drugs sold on the streets because it is a prescription drug. .

What are the Effects of Drug Dependence to Hydrocodone?

Those that are addicted to this drug will also most likely develop dependence. When this happens, that person may not be able to function normally. These are the signs that dependence to this drug has already developed:

  • Taking too much of the drug at one time.
  • Not following your doctor's instructions when taking the medication.
  • Mixing hydrocodone with alcohol or other drugs.
  • Continuing to take the substance when it is no longer medically needed.
  • Faking injury to obtain more painkiller medication.
  • Using The drug without a prescription.

What are the Effects of Hydrocodone Addiction?

Even patients that are using the drug according to prescription can be addicted to it. But a more common cause of addiction to this drug comes from patients taking it that have developed tolerance to the drug. They continuously take more and more of the drug to get the same effects and before they know it, they are already addicted to it. People have also been abusing this drug to use its euphoric effects to escape personal problems and negative emotional states such as depression.

Addiction to this drug can be determined from these signs:

  • Exaggerating pain symptoms or lying about injury to receive prescriptions.
  • Requesting frequent refills for the drug.
  • Seeing two or more doctors for additional prescriptions.
  • Social isolation, or spending more time away from other people.
  • Going through money quickly.
  • Focusing more on obtaining and using hydrocodone than taking part in formerly enjoyable or valued activities.
  • Marked mood changes.

Addiction to this drug may then lead to overdose because of its use without professional supervision. Overdose from this drug can lead to more serious effects which include: generalized muscle weakness, slowed breathing, slowed heartbeat, cold or clammy skin, profound drowsiness, loss of consciousness, coma and death.

What are the Available Treatments for People Who are Addicted to Hydrocodone?

Like with other opioid drugs, inpatient treatment centers are available for these types of patients. The treatment usually starts with a detox process. This can produce very uncomfortable symptoms which, if not monitored in the same way as in an inpatient treatment center, can cause the patient to go back to the use of the drug. Some forms of medication are also given to the patient to help them in these withdrawal symptoms. Mental health treatments are also given to patients in some cases.

But what is most valuable in these inpatient treatment centers is that they provide a very helpful and supportive community that the patient will be able to relate to. This can greatly help the patient in learning how to live a normal life without the drug that they are addicted to.