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Hydrocodone Abuse and Addiction

Hydrocodone is the most commonly prescribed painkiller in United States since it is the main ingredient in many narcotic drugs. In medical practice, it is used to manage moderate to severe pain and cough. It is an opioid and just like other opioid drugs, it is highly addictive when its use is prolonged. Most addicts start taking it after surgery or accidental injury to manage pain but end up becoming addicted to it. The drug binds with pain receptors, also known as opioid receptors present in central nervous system thus effectively weakening the transmission of pain signals. Taking the drug in higher doses can develop the feelings of euphoria that are desirable for the user. The desire to produce these feelings eventually leads to the development of addiction.

What is hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is an opioid or semi-synthetic opiate. Opiates are obtained from opium poppy plant but opioids like hydrocodone are different from opiates since they are chemically modified form of naturally occurring opiates. Hydrocodone is obtained by chemically altering natural opiate codeine. It is commonly prescribed for the management of moderate to severe pain and cough suppression.

Hydrocodone was first developed in 1920s by a German pharmaceutical company as a less dangerous alternative to codeine. At the same time, American scientists were considering hydrocodone as an alternative to opioids present in cough syrups. Even though it had been synthesized long ago, it was only in 1960s that its addictive properties were studied and brought to public knowledge. Despite its addictive potential, its use has significantly increased in the recent years.

How is hydrocodone used?

Hydrocodone is available in tablet and syrup forms. Most commonly, it is available in the form of white, oval pills. The potency of the tablets may vary from 10 mg to 120 mg. It is sold under a number of brand names and it is often mixed with other compounds such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen in medicines like Vicodin, Narco and Lortab. A pure hydrocodone product named Zohydro has also been approved by FDA.

People who abuse the drug often crush and snort the tablets. In United States, hydrocodone is available under a number of brand names such as:

  • Vicodin
  • Norco
  • Anexia
  • Lorcet
  • Lortab
  • Zolvit
  • Panacet
  • Xodol
  • Vicoprofen

A variety of slang names are also given to the drug by recreational users:

  • Hydros
  • Tabs
  • Watsons
  • Vics
  • Vicos
  • Vikes
  • 357s
  • Lorris/Loris
  • Nirco
  • Perks

Hydrocodone dosage amounts:

Specific dosage amounts of the drug are prescribed for the management of pain or suppression of cough by the physician. It is important to strictly adhere to prescribed amounts to lower down the risk of development of addiction. For patients who are not dependent on or tolerant to opioids, the dosage amount is usually 10 mg every 12 hours or 24 mgs every 24 hours. The dose can be increased depending upon patient’s needs. However, the increase should not exceed 10 mg every 12 hours.

Why is hydrocodone addictive?

Just like other opioid drugs, hydrocodone is highly addictive. The drug produces euphoric, calming and anti depressant effects upon consumption that are the reason why user becomes hooked to the drug. Hydrocodone is so addictive that even its medical use has been known to cause dependence. The US Drug Enforcement Administration classifies it as a schedule II substance which means it has got medical uses but the potential for its abuse and addiction is high. The drug acts on the opioid receptors and effectively blocks the feelings of pain. When used in high amounts, it even produces a euphoric feeling as described by the user. It also stimulates the production of dopamine which is a neurotransmitter associated with the feelings of happiness and reward. With the prolonged use, the brain start relying on the drug to produce dopamine so when the drug is quit, it fails to produce dopamine on its own resulting into the appearance of withdrawal symptoms.

Common hydrocodone drug combinations:

Hydrocodone is often intentionally or accidently combined with other prescription drug, alcohol or illicit drugs. The recreational users frequently combine it with other substances in an attempt to achieve a better and long lasting high. However, these drug combinations can be highly dangerous. The risk of an overdose is immensely increased and even death is possible.

  • Hydrocodone and Alcohol:Combining hydrocodone with alcohol can be seriously damaging for liver since both the drug are detoxified and removed by the liver. When consumed together, the liver has to do double the work which causes damage to it.
  • Hydrocodone and Benzodiazepines:Combining hydrocodone with benzodiazepines can greatly increase the risk of an overdose and death.
  • Hydrocodone and Marijuana:Combining marijuana with hydrocodone can impair judgment and coordination. The side effects of the drug such as drowsiness, confusion and lack of concentration are also amplified a great deal.

Hydrocodone abuse and addiction statistics:

Even though hydrocodone was first synthesized in 1920s, its addictive potential was not studied until 1960s. With the use of hydrocodone shooting up in United States, there have been many cases of hydrocodone abuse, addiction and overdose.

  • In 2012, over 2 million Americans tried opioids for recreational purposes for the first time.
  • Between the years 2006 and 2010, hydrocodone was most commonly prescribed drug.
  • In the year 2013 in Florida, the drug caused 431 deaths within a period of mere 6 months.
  • About 20% of people who abuse opioids like hydrocodone obtain it using a prescription.
  • The highest number of emergency cases is caused by opioid drugs. In 2013, about 46% emergency cases involved prescription opioids like hydrocodone.