When taken as intended, hydrocodone works to relieve chronic pain, however, it may also cause some negative side effects. This is especially true, if someone is taking more than the recommended dose of the medication for non-medical purposes.
Possible side effects of hydrocodone include:
- stomach pain
- dry mouth
- back pain
- muscle tightening
- difficult, frequent or painful urination
- ringing in the ears
- difficulty falling or staying asleep
- swelling in the feet, ankles and legs
- uncontrollable shaking in different parts of the body
If someone is complaining about or exhibiting the symptoms listed above, hydrocodone abuse and possibly addiction may be present. Hydrocodone can also cause more serious side effects depending on if the individual taking the drug is allergic to it, and whether they have a tolerance to opioids, like hydrocodone.
More severe side effects of hydrocodone may include:
- chest pain
- agitation, hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that do not exist), confusion and loss of coordination
- fever, sweating, shivering, severe muscle stiffness and twitching
- nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
- increased heartbeat
- decreased sex drive or sexual dysfunction
- irregular menstrual cycles
- changes in heartbeat
- hives, itching and difficulty swallowing or breathing
Hydrocodone may also produce other symptoms, not listed here. Contact a healthcare professional if you experience any unusual problems while taking this medication.
Other symptoms of hydrocodone abuse include, euphoria, abnormally cheerful mood, abnormally despondent mood, anxiety and emotional lability. Someone who is misusing hydrocodone may not be able to think clearly, leading them to develop a psychological dependence on the drug—where they believe that they will not be able to function without it.
Various treatment options exist for hydrocodone abuse and addiction. Depending on the needs of the individual, and how severe their misuse of the drug is. Treatment options can range from a monthly support groups, to formal inpatient treatment program.
What is Hydrocodone?
Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid made from chemical compounds found in opium. Similar to other opioids, hydrocodone carries a high risk potential for abuse and dependence. Common prescription medications that contain hydrocodone include: Vicodin, Norco and Zohydro.
Hydrocodone is also combined with other, more mild pain relievers like acetaminophen, in order to discourage abuse of the drug. However, large doses of acetaminophen may cause irreversible liver damage, that can cause death, regardless of how quickly treatment is administered.
Abusing hydrocodone can become deadly, as it can suppress breathing rates and cause complete cardiovascular failure. The U.S. is the largest consumer of hydrocodone, accounting for almost 100 percent of the world’s total hydrocodone prescriptions.
How Is Hydrocodone Abused?
Like other drugs of abuse, it is possible to abuse hydrocodone orally, by injection or by snorting. In order to inject or snort hydrocodone, individuals will first crush up the pill and then add it to water for injection or snort it. This is done to speed up the rate of the onset of desired effects, like the euphoric rush.
However, the practice of crushing up hydrocodone tablets can be very risky, especially when someone is taking the extended-release form of the medication, as this can cause an extremely high dose of hydrocodone to be administered all at once. This also significantly increases the risk of sudden, and possibly fatal overdose.
Dangers Of Hydrocodone Abuse
The dangers of hydrocodone abuse include physical and psychological dependence, addiction, potential fatal overdose and uncomfortable withdrawal.
If someone has abused hydrocodone long enough, their body and brain adapt to the presence of hydrocodone in their system. This adaption can change the way the body and brain respond to the drug, a process referred to as tolerance.
Those who develop a tolerance to hydrocodone will need to take larger, more frequent doses of the drug to achieve the desired effects they once got from a smaller dose of the drug. In an effort to achieve the same “high” effect by increasing the dose taken, the individual also increases the risks of overdosing on the drug.
Some symptoms of hydrocodone overdose include:
- pinpoint pupils
- nausea and vomiting
- spasms (pain) of the stomach or intestinal tract
- low blood pressure
- weak pulse
- coma (unresponsiveness)
- possible seizures
- difficulty breathing
- shallow breathing to no breathing
- bluish-colored fingernails and lips
- muscle damage from being immobile while unresponsive
Perhaps the most dangerous side effect of hydrocodone abuse is the development of addiction. As someone begins to abuse hydrocodone habitually, they may experience some life changes that aren’t so subtle.
Possible habits of someone addicted to hydrocodone may include: continually taking the drug throughout the day, always keeping pills on their person, setting aside money to purchase more drugs, looking for more drugs everywhere they go and looking for misplaced prescription pads in doctors offices.
Although hydrocodone withdrawal is typically not life-threatening, it can still be a very uncomfortable and painful process. If someone who has been chronically abusing a strong opioid like hydrocodone for a few weeks or more, suddenly stops or cuts back on the amount they are taking, they will experience withdrawal.
When an individual stops using this type of drug, the body needs time to recover, withdrawal from opiates can occur any time long-term use is stopped or cut back. Opioid withdrawal can be broken into two stages: the acute withdrawal stage and the prolonged withdrawal stage.
The severity of the withdrawal symptoms is directly affected by the severity of the addiction. Those who have abused larger doses of hydrocodone more frequently will experience more severe withdrawal symptoms, compared to those who have abused smaller doses less frequently.
Possible acute withdrawal symptoms of hydrocodone include:
- agitation and anxiety
- muscle aches
- increased tear production
- runny nose and other flu-like symptoms
- excessive sweating
Possible prolonged hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms include:
- abdominal cramping
- dilated pupils
- nausea and vomiting
Every individual will experience hydrocodone withdrawal differently, however, in general withdrawal symptoms will appear six to nine hours after the last dose. The length of the withdrawal process will also depend on the severity of the addiction.
Those who have abused hydrocodone for longer periods of time will generally experience longer withdrawal. It should also be noted that, post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) is also possible in individuals who have abuse opioids like hydrocodone.
PAWS can occur months, sometimes even years, after complete abstinence from the drug.
Medically-Supervised Hydrocodone Detoxification
Due to the uncomfortable withdrawal process from hydrocodone, it may be best to consider a medically-supervised hydrocodone detoxification program. These programs provide support and medical assistance needed to help individuals get through their first leg of recovery.
In a medically-supervised detox, individuals are provided medications like buprenorphine (Subutex, Suboxone) to help curb cravings for hydrocodone and lessen the effects of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
This, in combination with a behavioral therapy, can ensure that the individual going through recovery doesn’t relapse during the initial detox stage.
Treatment Options For Hydrocodone Addiction
There are many treatment options available for hydrocodone addiction. Detoxing from the drug is only the first step towards recovery. Many people need additional help to break free from their addiction to hydrocodone, and that is okay.
Addiction is a complicated brain disease, and enrolling in an inpatient treatment program can ensure that the best care is provided, as well as a holistic look at the individuals circumstances and behaviors surrounding their addiction.
To learn more about hydrocodone addiction and treatment, contact a specialist today.