Hydrocodone Symptoms and Warning Signs

Hydrocodone is a narcotic analgesic, often prescribed for chronic pain relief. It is commonly known as Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab, Vicoprofen and Hycomine. It affects the pain signal centres in the brain and changes how the body perceives pain at that very moment. It also induces a euphoric feeling, which is often the attraction for its abuse.

Because hydrocodone (like many other opioids) is mostly prescribed and legal, it’s easy to abuse, because many people pay little or no attention to the fact that it is highly addictive. Many times, hydrocodone abuse is not intentional and derives from normal usage.

What is Hydrocodone Abuse?

There is more than one way to abuse hydrocodone; when you stop taking the drug as prescribed by a doctor, you are considered to be abusing it. Abuse doesn’t only mean that you’ll take more than prescribed – even though this is a very common form of abuse. Rather, you’ll abuse a drug when you take it at irregular frequencies or pause and restart in between doses. You also abuse a drug when taking it for longer than prescribed.

Abuse and addiction are two different things, but the former is the stepping stone to addiction. You may have started taking hydrocodone as prescribed by your doctor, but deviated for certain reasons. This might be because you felt the pain needed a higher dosage or you liked the euphoric feeling that comes with using the drug.

When you abuse hydrocodone for a period of time, your body will start to build tolerance, which simply means it will no longer feel the same effects as the initial dosage. This will most likely cause you to increase the dose. How you take the drug will also influence how quickly your body builds tolerance. Some people crush and inject it, snort or smoke it, to ensure hydrocodone enters the bloodstream faster to induce its rapid effects – more so than when taken normally.

Addiction takes hold when you begin to take the drug just to feel normal. It is the point where your body is so adapted to it that not taking the drug for a while would cause you to experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be dangerous, so people addicted to hydrocodone are often advised not to stop using without talking to medical personnel first.

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How you can tell you’re addicted to Hydrocodone

You can tell you’re addicted to hydrocodone when you stop following the prescribed dosage; start ‘doctor shopping’ to source more prescriptions when your regular doctor refuses; keep taking hydrocodone after the symptoms it was prescribed for are no longer present; experience withdrawal symptoms when you don’t use it for a while; take the drug in dangerous situations; stay away from friends and family to hide your dependency from; forge prescriptions; fail when attempting to stop using the drug; and obtain hydrocodone via illegal means if there is no other way.

People who are at risk of abuse and addiction

Everyone who has any contact (direct or indirect) with hydrocodone is at risk of abuse and addiction. Opioids are generally not as highly feared as illegal drugs like cocaine and marijuana, which is why it is easy to become addicted. However, there are certain factors that add to the risk, which include:

  • Genetic factors: people who possess certain traits (like impulsiveness) often have a high risk attached to them when it comes to addiction. For instance, if you have a family history of substance abuse, this will increase your chances of being addicted to a substance yourself.
  • Environmental factors: stress factors in an individual’s environment are major contributions to addiction problems. Someone going through a divorce or experiencing a hard time at work – or even struggling with financial issues – can find hydrocodone an easy option to help mask the emotional stress for a while. Other people who are exposed to hydrocodone – like doctors, other medical professionals and people to whom the drug is prescribed – have an increased chance of abuse and addiction to hydrocodone.
  • Existing or former addiction problems: people with a history of addiction are likely to relapse or take up another addiction.
  • Other factors such as cooccurring medical issues like depression, anxiety and schizophrenia can also increase the risk of hydrocodone abuse.

Short-term side effects of Hydrocodone abuse

If abusing hydrocodone, you may experience certain immediate side effects – some of which could be deadly. Even when following the prescribed dosage, you can still experience such side effects.

These include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slowed heart beat
  • Blurry vision
  • Agitation
  • Aggression
  • Dry mouth
  • Confusion
  • Breathing difficulties

Some of these immediate effects are deadly, because an overdose can increase their severity, especially with breathing difficulties, which could prove fatal.

More serious side effects of hydrocodone abuse include muscle twitching, loss of consciousness and hallucination.

Long-term side effects of Hydrocodone abuse

Abusing hydrocodone over a long period of time can lead to permanent or long-lasting effects, such as:

  • Damage to the liver
  • Jaundice
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Death
  • Coma
  • Mood swings

Dangers of Hydrocodone abuse

The dangers of hydrocodone abuse are not just physical – such as damage to the liver and other organs, jaundice, coma and death. There’s also the risk of depression, anxiety, hallucinations and aggression.

Due to the fact that opioids are prescribed, their addictive nature is often not paid enough attention, making hydrocodone easy to abuse.

Abusing hydrocodone can also lead to death. When your body builds a tolerance and you keep increasing the dosage, you can easily overdose. The effects of overdose include pinpoint pupils, slowed breathing, profuse perspiration, decreased blood pressure, coma, dizziness and reduced pulse. Some of these symptoms may prove fatal if there is no immediate help available.

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Intervention for Hydrocodone abuse

If a loved one is addicted to or is abusing hydrocodone, staging an intervention may assist to get them the help they need. It may help for them to see how the problem affects loved ones. Sometimes, people are not aware how bad the situation is.

During an intervention, you may give ultimatums like moving the kids out. Importantly, honesty is key in intervention, but so is passing across the message of love and support.

Ultimately, choosing to get help or take the help you may offer is the choice of the person. It is often advisable, however, to keep to any ultimatums that were given.

Interventions could go wrong or cause more harm than good however. You talk to intervention experts who can help guide you through staging an intervention for your loved one. This does not mean he or she will certainly choose to get help, mind you. So you must be ready for the possibility of a no.

Detox and withdrawal from Hydrocodone

When you stop taking hydrocodone after some time, you could experience withdrawal symptoms. The withdrawal phase occurs because when you started taking the drug initially, your body adjusted to regularly functioning with it in your system. When you stop taking it, your body becomes shocked by its absence and reacts in the manifestation of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Profuse sweating
  • Muscle ache
  • Chills
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of appetite

Detox is simply the process of cleansing your body of the toxins left by the drug. This could be undertaken ‘cold turkey’, which is the abrupt cessation of using hydrocodone, though not usually advised. Another method is ‘tapering’, whereby you’ll be gradually weaned off the drug until you no longer need it. Medically supervised detox (otherwise known as medical detox) can imply tapering or comprise the use of other medication to aid detoxification in an effort to reduce withdrawal symptoms.

Hydrocodone and other drugs

Combining hydrocodone with other drugs – without the guidance of a doctor – is very dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.

Hydrocodone is a central nervous system depressant. Therefore, other depressants like alcohol should never be combined with hydrocodone to avoid the risk of overdose, extreme sedation, or respiratory difficulties (which could lead to death).

Hydrocodone contains properties that induce drowsiness and should not be paired with other medications of a similar nature, such as muscle relaxants, remedies for cold, and other pain medications. Combining them could cause extreme drowsiness and impair normal function, like driving.

Mixing hydrocodone with alcohol might not occur directly, as many over-the-counter medications – like cough syrup – actually contain alcohol. This is why you must consult your doctor before taking any drugs alongside hydrocodone.

You may know someone who has combined hydrocodone with a certain drug and experienced no adverse reactions; however, remember that your doctor considered factors such as age, gender, medical history (including allergies, sensitivity, weight, and co-occurring sickness) before prescribing hydrocodone. These would have to be considered once more before giving the go ahead to add any other medication to hydrocodone.

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What does treatment for Hydrocodone addiction include?

Hydrocodone addiction treatment may vary in duration, based on how long you’ve used it and how much you’ve used. Subsequently, with these variables in mind, treatment could take a week or even months to complete. If you’ve only recently become addicted to hydrocodone, your treatment duration might be less than what you’d require if you had been addicted for years.

Treatment will involve detox; the medically assisted method is often recommended, as this often involves the supervision of medical experts. It could comprise ‘tapering’, which will slowly wean you off the drug by reducing your dosage gradually, until you no longer have to take any simply to function. Other drugs can also be applied to remove your dependency on hydrocodone, although this could potentially carry the risk of a new addiction being formed.

Therapy is another part of treatment; you could undergo individual or group therapy. Individual therapy helps you identify any underlying causes of the addiction that may be present. Meanwhile, group therapy offers support, encouragement and success stories in an encouraging environment that can prove extremely helpful. You may even choose to combine both therapies.

How much does it cost to get treatment?

The cost of treatment for hydrocodone addiction varies, according to the rehabilitation centre involved, as well as other factors such as length and degree of addiction, as well as any co-occurring health issues.

Other considerations – such as luxury, how much privacy you desire, and location – may add to the cost of treatment. For instance, being treated in a rehabilitation centre that offers luxury facilities will typically cost more.

Can I detox at home?

Yes. A lot of people choose to detox at home. However, this is often not recommended, because of the risks attached. Most people detoxing at home do so via the ‘cold turkey’ approach, which is abruptly discontinuing use of the drug. This is mostly accompanied by intense withdrawal symptoms and usually leads to a relapse.

Even when using the ‘tapering’ method at home, there is still a chance of a relapse, as the dose to which you have become accustomed may now be too much for your body, in turn causing you to overdose.

Detoxing at home may also expose you to triggers within your immediate environment, which is another reason medically supervised detox is still the most recommended.

What if I do not undergo treatment?

Choosing to undergo treatment for hydrocodone addiction is entirely your choice. If you choose not to, you inevitably choose to remain addicted and put your health and mind at great risk. Remaining addicted to hydrocodone means you could overdose and even die. You could also cause permanent damage to your liver and other organs in your body. Furthermore, you could risk the lives of others around you in situations like driving whilst impaired.

Can medications help with Hydrocodone addiction?

Yes. Certain medications can help with hydrocodone addiction – some of which are applied during the detox process. There are also medications available to help with withdrawal symptoms like nausea, headaches, vomiting and others.

These medications have to be applied only as prescribed by a doctor to avoid mixing medications that may put your life in danger.

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