Understanding Hydrocodone Addiction and Treatment

Stats of Hydrocodone Abuse

Seemingly harmless pain relievers like hydrocodone are actually powerful, highly addictive substances. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), more than 2 million Americans are currently struggling with a substance abuse disorder related to prescription opioid painkillers such as hydrocodone. Many of the individuals struggling with hydrocodone addiction are the very patients to whom a doctor initially prescribed the drug.

Hydrocodone is also commonly sold illegally. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) noted in a 2014 report that hydrocodone is the second most common opioid prescription drug to be seized by federal, state and local law enforcement.

Considering the accessibility and popularity of hydrocodone for abuse, it is important to stay informed about the drug in order to keep your family safe from addiction. Use this resource to find out all the facts you need to know about hydrocodone addiction and treatment.

What Is Hydrocodone?

Learning more about the history and use of hydrocodone is an important step toward understanding the drug’s powerful effects. Hydrocodone is an actually a semi-synthetic opioid derived from codeine, a naturally occurring chemical found in the opium poppy. The drug is primarily used as a pain reliever, thanks to an analgesic potency that rivals morphine. Hydrocodone can also be used as a cough suppressant.

Variations of Hydrocodone

When sold and prescribed in the United States, hydrocodone is almost always combined with additional active and inactive ingredients. Doing so improves the effectiveness of the drug while also allowing companies to develop brand name versions of the popular painkiller. The most common variations of hydrocodone include:


This drug is made up of hydrocodone combined with acetaminophen, a mild pain reliever and fever reducer found in many over-the-counter medications. Acetaminophen improves the drug’s analgesic performance, but can also cause liver damage if abused. Additionally, several inactive pharmaceutical ingredients are used to produce Vicodin in factories. Vicodin was originally introduced on the pharmaceutical market in 1978, and today is one of the most recognizable brands of opioid medication.


Like Vicodin, Lortab is a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Lortab, however, features a different ratio of the two substances. Furthermore, the inactive ingredients used to produce Lortab differ from those used in Vicodin.

How Does Hydrocodone Affect the Body?

At a chemical level, hydrocodone is especially adept at influencing the central nervous system,

Hydrocodone Abuse Stats

specifically the body’s pain signals. By interacting with the body’s opioid receptors, hydrocodone limits the ability of the user to feel physical pain. Additionally, this chemical reaction activates the reward center of the brain, producing a pleasurable high for the user by increasing the amount of dopamine available in the brain.

These features of hydrocodone make the drug extremely effective as a fast-acting pain reliever. At the same time, the effects of hydrocodone also encourage individuals to abuse the substance.

Hydrocodone is extremely useful as a means of treating moderate to moderately severe pain in short-term scenarios. Chronic use of hydrocodone as a pain reliever, unfortunately, comes with a high risk for addiction because the body can become physically dependent on the drug very quickly. The more that someone uses hydrocodone to treat pain (or recreationally), the more tolerance the body builds up and the more of the substance is needed to achieve the same results.

Unfortunately, extended use of hydrocodone has a long list of health risks, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Obstructed breathing
  • Muscle weakness
  • Bowel problems

Overdose Risks

Continued abuse of hydrocodone also increases an individual’s risk for overdose. Overdose symptoms will likely require direct medical attention and could eventually lead to potentially fatal reactions if an individual’s hydrocodone abuse continues unabated.

The following overdose symptoms are just a few negative health consequences that accompany hydrocodone addiction:

  • Liver failure
  • Stomach spasms
  • Low blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Possible coma
  • Intense constipation

Who Is Abusing Hydrocodone?

One of the reasons that hydrocodone abuse has become a serious health problem across the United State is because the drug is extremely accessible across multiple population demographics.

Taking a closer look at the groups abusing hydrocodone underscores just how pervasive the problem is:

  • The NIDA reported that 54 million Americans over the age of 12 have abused prescription opioids such as hydrocodone at least once.
  • More than 4% of young adults aged 18 to 25 report misusing prescription drugs in the last month.
  • NIDA’s 2013 Monitoring the Future survey revealed that more than 5 percent of high school seniors reported abusing Vicodin.
  • Americans aged 57 to 85 are at an increased risk for hydrocodone addiction due to unintentional nonmedical use.

Getting Treatment for Hydrocodone Addiction

The consequences of abusing hydrocodone are significant. In addition to compromising relationships with friends and family, addiction to opioid painkillers is commonly the first step toward heroin abuse. That’s why it’s so important to understand just how quickly and severely a person can become dependent on hydrocodone.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is abusing their Vicodin prescription or is otherwise abusing hydrocodone, it’s important to seek help as quickly as possible. The longer the substance abuse continues, the longer it will take for the mind and body to repair the damage being done. Get in touch with The Treatment Center by The Recovery Village if you have more questions about hydrocodone addiction and treatment.

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