Vicodin Addiction and Abuse

Vicodin – the brand name for the combined drug hydrocodone/paracetamol – is a narcotic analgesic, acting on the central nervous system to prevent coughs and relieve pain. Vicodin works like other opioid painkillers, targeting opioid receptors in the brain to change the way your body responds to pain, while acetaminophen (paracetamol) reduces symptoms of fever.

The medication is only used in people aged six years and above, because of side effects like shallow breathing. For Vicodin to be fully effective, it must be taken when the first signs of pain occur. Waiting until a later time – when symptoms worsen – reduces the efficacy of the drug.

The medicine should only be taken according to a doctor’s prescription. This is important for older people, who are more sensitive to severe side effects of pain medication.  As a habit-forming drug, taking more than prescribed (for a period longer than your doctor recommends) leads to abuse, dependence and consequently drug addiction.

Vicodin Addiction and Abuse: What is it?

Abuse occurs when you take Vicodin for any purpose outside legitimate use. People with opioid use disorder take Vicodin because it induces the feeling of relaxation, calmness and the ‘rush’ of euphoria in addition to pain relief. As time passes, the original dosage doesn’t produce the same feelings. You therefore increase the dose on your own (without a doctor’s permission) to achieve the same results.

Apart from blocking neurotransmitters that cause you to feel pain, Vicodin increases the production of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of euphoria and pleasure. The effects of the drug are strong enough that you can develop tolerance and dependency within a few weeks of taking Vicodin. Signs of abuse include extreme paranoia and anxiety, drowsiness, difficulty concentrating and severe mood swings.

Once you’ve developed substance dependence on Vicodin, you may start ‘doctor shopping’ – a practice common amongst individuals who are addicted to prescription painkillers. You’ll also buy drugs on the street or ask others with legitimate prescriptions to sell drugs to you because your only goal is to feed your drug habit.

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What Causes Vicodin Addiction and Abuse

Most people who abuse Vicodin or become addicted to drugs start out as legitimate drug users, who had a prescription for chronic back pain, post-surgery pain, cancer medication or pain meds for an injury. ‘Accidental’ addicts start abusing drugs after they’ve built a tolerance and need higher doses to keep pain away.

Once you’ve built a tolerance for Vicodin and don’t consult your doctor, drug dependence

and addiction are not far off. Getting the drug becomes your only goal in life. When the pain subsides and it’s time to stop using Vicodin, you won’t be able to quit, because it’s altered brain chemicals to the extent you now depend on Vicodin to feel like yourself or function normally.

Apart from accidental drug addicts, there are recreational drug users who have no pain or injury, but simply use Vicodin for the euphoric ‘high’ and pleasurable effects. Recreational users often don’t take the medicine orally: for a more potent ‘high’, they crush, snort or dissolve and inject the drug so that it goes straight to their bloodstream.

How Vicodin Addiction and Abuse Affect the Brain and Body

When you take Vicodin, hydrocodone compounds connect to proteins in the spinal cord and central nervous system. This interrupts pain signals and changes how your brain perceives pain and your reaction to it.

When abused, Vicodin can cause damage to the brain. The interrupted brain receptors become clogged, as the brain doesn’t have enough time to expel the drug before you take the next (higher) dose. This alters brain chemistry and causes it to self-sedate. When the brain sedates itself with Vicodin, you’re more sluggish, respond slowly to stimuli, and have problems with cognition, learning and memory. Also, you’ll generally move at a slower pace, because natural brain function has changed.

The continuous flow of Vicodin causes erratic fluctuations in the brain that lead to depression and extreme euphoria – two symptoms that make it harder to quit the substance. The depressant qualities of Vicodin on the body causes slowed heart rate, impaired coordination, shallow breathing and dizziness.

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Who Becomes Addicted to Vicodin?

Addiction experts believe that the rising number of people addicted to Vicodin is caused by the ease with which medical professionals overprescribe the drug for pain relief, when other medication (with a lower potency or risk of addiction) could suffice. Millions of people around the world have developed dependence on Vicodin, because they trust their doctors to prescribe the correct medication and never think to ask about the risk of addiction.

Recreational users who are looking for heroin substitutes are also at risk of becoming addicted to Vicodin. As the government and police crack down on heroin usage, substance users are turning to prescription opioids to fill the gap with medication that provides similar euphoric effects.

Many sports stars like Tiger Woods (who have back pain) or celebrities like Ant McPherson (who was prescribed pain meds after knee surgery) who have struggled with Vicodin can’t identify the moment when they crossed the line from legitimate usage to drug abuse. Anyone who takes painkillers outside of a doctor’s prescription can become addicted to Vicodin.

Short-Term Effects of Vicodin on the Body

The short-term effects of Vicodin are immediate. These include: cloudy thinking, drowsiness, anxiety, fear, dizziness, euphoria, shallow breathing, urine retention, slow heart rate, lower perception of pain, feelings of relaxation and suppression of coughing.

Long-Term Effects of Using Vicodin

It’s easy to focus on the ‘high’ experienced when taking Vicodin without thinking of the long-term effects – some of which might be irreversible. With continued usage, Vicodin can damage your brain and liver because of repeated heavy dosage.

The obvious risks of building tolerance and addiction cannot go unstated: addiction will likely cost you your job, finances, happiness, family, friends and physical health. You’ll also notice that your memory is slow, and you’re always anxious, irritable and have poor stress management.

Physical Signs and Symptoms of Vicodin Abuse and Addiction

As you get used to Vicodin, previous dosage doesn’t have the same effects, so you may suffer pain. Physical signs manifest in irregular heartbeat, constipation, insomnia, dizziness, heart problems, liver damage, confusion, loss of brain cells, cognitive difficulties, skin rashes and nausea.

Physical signs can be treated with detoxification in a residential facility, followed by therapy, where you’ll learn coping techniques.

Psychological Signs and Symptoms of Vicodin Abuse and Addiction

Psychological signs of Vicodin abuse are harder to spot. Here are a few things to look for:

  • Mood swings that start with agitation and anxiety, but escalate to hallucination and paranoia, as drug usage problem worsen
  • Hiding drug use from friends and loved ones
  • ‘Doctor shopping’ to acquire more prescriptions
  • Increased dosage after building tolerance
  • Obsession with the next Vicodin use
  • Withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to quit Vicodin

Opioids produce psychoactive effects that alter the brain’s chemical system. With each dose of Vicodin, opioids stimulate brain cells to produce dopamine at abnormally high levels. This affects brain cell sites and overall chemical balance.

The emotional effect of addiction includes low self-esteem when the drug leaves your system, because you realise you have no control over your habit and you’ll be uninclined to adopt a positive attitude to life in general.

The Social Impacts of Vicodin

One of the signs of addiction is that your social cycle dwindles until it only includes drug users and dealers. You become a recluse and lose your friends. In a bid to avoid the temptation of using drugs, many people will stay away from you or might not enjoy your company while you’re under the influence.

You’ll make more mistakes at work, school and life in general, because the chemical alteration in your brain affects brain function, coordination and concentration. Relationships within your family suffer, while you might empty your bank accounts to finance drugs. This all culminates in job loss, due to numerous sick days, unexplained absences and mistakes in work.

Signs of Vicodin Withdrawal and Overdose

Withdrawal from Vicodin is painful and unpleasant, but a necessary step in getting clean and fully recovering from addiction.

Signs to expect during Vicodin withdrawal include panic attacks, tremors, depression, diarrhoea, cold sweats, flu-like symptoms, convulsions and chronic pain.

Signs of Vicodin overdose include a bluish tint to the fingernails and lips, respiratory depression, pinpoint pupils, uncontrolled vomiting, weak heartbeat, coma and death.

Coping with Withdrawal

The best way to cope with Vicodin withdrawal is to avoid home remedies or home detox. Complete the detox process at a medical facility, where you’ll be properly supervised and taken care of. Instead of opting for the ‘cold turkey’ method, you’ll slowly taper off Vicodin by reducing your dose until you stop using completely.  Professional medical personnel provide medication that makes it easier to withdraw from Vicodin and relieve painful symptoms.

To avoid painful withdrawal symptoms, you could attempt the rapid detox process, during which detoxification is completed within eight hours and two subsequent days of treatment, instead of seven to ten days of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

How to Treat Vicodin Withdrawal

The best treatment for Vicodin withdrawal is detox at a medically-supervised facility. During the first three days of withdrawal (when symptoms peak), the focus is mainly centred on easing Vicodin from your body and providing medication that makes the process as painless as possible. Medication such as Suboxone and Methadone are synthetic opioids with low potential for addiction, which replace Vicodin and relieve withdrawal discomfort.

After your body is rid of harmful toxins and you’re physically stabilised, you’ll work with a therapist to treat psychological withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, fear, hallucinations, insomnia, depression and paranoia.

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Therapy, Treatment and Rehab for Vicodin Abuse and Addiction

When a loved one is addicted to Vicodin, it’s important you do your research when looking for the right treatment. Importantly, the ‘cold turkey’ method of withdrawal is known to be unsafe, unpredictable and can sometimes lead to life-threatening withdrawal symptoms which you’re not equipped to handle.

At a Vicodin treatment facility, you’ll have access to the best medical professionals who are experienced with Vicodin addiction. They’ll use a combination of methadone maintenance treatment, behavioural therapy techniques and alternative therapy models.

One such approach is talk therapy. Many people who are dealing with opiate use disorder need to learn practical coping mechanisms that help them deal with triggers, temptations, stress, loss and disappointment. Talk therapies like group counselling allow you to share addiction stories with other recovering addicts. Meanwhile, one-on-one therapy teaches you how to alter negative thought patterns and behaviour for more positive thinking. Both methods have proved effective when used in combination with medication.

Staying off Vicodin

Once you’ve completed addiction treatment, your goal is to stay off Vicodin for good. In future when you need painkillers for any legitimate reason, notify your doctor or medical professional that you’ve struggled with an addiction to painkillers in the past.

Replacement medication like methadone and buprenorphine work to reduce cravings for Vicodin. However, you have to be careful not to repeat the same mistake twice. Take the drugs exactly how your doctor prescribes them to prevent replacing one addiction for another. Attend meetings, never miss a single therapy session, live healthily, make sober friends, exercise regularly and consider massage therapy and acupuncture to relieve stress.

Individual Counselling

Individual counselling is at the core of the therapy approach for drug rehabilitation. Counselling focuses on drug addiction problems faced by the individual, such as recognising behavioural patterns, as well as emotions and thoughts that fuelled drug usage and learning how to change those negative patterns for positive actions, thoughts and behaviour.

Individual counselling starts during the detox process, because medication alone isn’t enough to help you quit drugs if you don’t understand or address the underlying problems that led to drug use initially. The programme continues during rehab and aftercare.

Support Groups

The first step to maintaining sobriety after rehab is to join community-based support groups that encourage sober living. For Vicodin addicts, Narcotics Anonymous is a group of people who have problems with drug usage. This 12-step programme provides recovering addicts with a direct path to recovery.

You move through the 12 steps, discuss your progress during meetings, learn what worked for others, become more comfortable with sober living and improve confidence and self-esteem. The journey takes time and dedication, but if you attend meetings, you will increase your chances of staying sober.

Family Therapy

Family therapy is often employed as part of addiction treatment. It addresses parenting skills, depression, conflict, financial issues, unemployment and any triggers that enabled a family member to use Vicodin. The goal of family therapy is to find ways to improve communication, enforce parental authority, learn what is harmful and what helps, as well as identify ways to interact without hurting the feelings of family members.

Benefits of family therapy include:

  • Sharing feelings in a healthy way to release pent-up anger and frustration
  • Set boundaries that help the individual’s journey to recovery
  • Learn self-care techniques that help you deal with triggers after rehab
  • Gain better understanding of Vicodin addiction and how it affects or impacts behaviour
  • Rebuild broken relationships and regain trust that was lost during the throes of addiction


What is Vicodin?

Vicodin is a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. It is used to relieve pain in patients who have chronic back pain, those who underwent surgery or are experiencing severe pain from injury, as well as cancer patients for whom other opioids are not sufficient for pain relief.

Who Becomes Addicted to Vicodin?

Anyone with a prescription for Vicodin, or who uses itrecreationally, can become addicted if they abuse the drug.

What are Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms?

Withdrawal symptoms of Vicodin addiction include muscle pain, diarrhoea, restlessness, vomiting, nausea and insomnia.

What does Vicodin Look Like?

Vicodin is a white, oblong tablet. The strength, brand name and number of milligrams of acetaminophen and hydrocodone are clearly inscribed on the body.

What are the Effects of Vicodin Abuse and Addiction?

Vicodin has both short and long-term effects when you abuse it. Short-term effects of Vicodin abuse include: drowsiness, urine retention, mood change, anxiety, respiratory depression, constipation and euphoria. Long-term effect include: hallucination, depression, liver damage, exposure to transmitted diseases like hepatitis and HIV, painful withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit, drug dependence and addiction.

Can Vicodin Be Abused?

When you take Vicodin in any way not prescribed by a medical professional – or you use Vicodin for the euphoric ‘high’ it produces – this is considered abuse. Substance users who abuse Vicodin take higher, more frequent doses, and crush the pill to snort, smoke or inject, as these methods increase the potency of the ‘high’.

What are the Street Names for Vicodin?

Common street names for Vicodin include vees, vikes, Vikings, vocogesic,vitamin V, V-itamin, hydros, fluff, M357s, magnums, scratch, and fluff.

Vicodin Addiction Symptoms: Can they be Treated?

Symptoms of Vicodin can be treated when you receive treatment at a rehab centre with detox facilities. You’ll be given medication as each symptom appears and detox in a safe environment, under the supervision of medical personnel.

How much Vicodin does it take to Overdose?

Vicodin contains 5-10 mg of hydrocodone and 300-500 mg of acetaminophen. It takes about 18 Vicodin tablets or 90 mg of hydrocodone to overdose. Acetaminophen can prove fatal when you take more than 7,000mg. The symptoms manifest within 12 hours and during that timeframe, your liver might have suffered permanent damage.

Am I Abusing Vicodin?

There are a few signs that show when you’re abusing Vicodin. Noticeable signs include: vomiting, mood swings, obsession with consuming Vicodin, inability to focus and taking higher doses at a more frequent period than prescribed by your doctor.

Do you get ‘High’ on Vicodin?

It’s unlikely you’ll feel the ‘high’ effects of Vicodin when you take the dosage prescribed by a medical professional. Getting ‘high’ on Vicodin happens when you use it for recreational purposes, accidentally overdose, mix Vicodin with alcohol and other substances or take it in a non-oral form to increase the ‘high’ effect.

How does Vicodin Affect the Body?

Effects of Vicodin on the body include: urine retention, lethargy, drowsiness, physical dependence on Vicodin, constipation, itchiness, nausea, difficulty concentrating, lightheadedness and fear.

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