Norco Addiction and Abuse

Norco is a common drug amongst opiate abusers, because it contains opiate hydrocodone and is somewhat easy to obtain. For instance, people get it from friends and family or courtesy of diverted prescriptions.

Furthermore, Norco contains acetaminophen – a non-addictive analgesic. The hydrocodone component of Norco provides users a ‘euphoric high’ that may last several hours. As users increase their dosage, the intensity of the ‘high’ increases. Because of this, Norco has a high addiction potential.

Norco addiction and abuse

When Norco is used with other drugs or alcohol, it poses considerable risks. Combining medication, alcohol and hard drugs only adds to the growing list of adverse effects. The combination of acetaminophen and alcohol has the potential to cause liver damage in the long-term.

If you have a Norco addiction problem or know a family member who does, the first step to treatment and recovery is talking to a professional.

What is Norco?

Norco is a prescription medicine that contains hydrocodone and acetaminophen. It is prescribed as pain relief medication for people experiencing mild to severe pain. As a full opioid agonist, it’s similar in structure to opiates such as heroin, morphine and oxycodone.

Norco acts like other narcotic medicines by binding with opioid receptors in the brain, causing the neurons to increase the pain threshold of the individual. This significantly reduces their ability to feel pain. Therefore, Norco also acts as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant.

Norco and Vicodin – a comparison

Norco and Vicodin are both prescription narcotic medicines (opioid painkillers that are administered for pain relief). They both contain hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen, and are Class C drugs under the UK Misuse of Drugs Act (1971).

Drugs in this category have a moderate potential for misuse and addiction and must be recommended by a doctor to be consumed legally. The main difference between Norco and Vicodin is the hydrocodone/acetaminophen ratio in the tablet. Vicodin generally has a higher quantity of hydrocodone than Norco.

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Norco addiction and abuse: What is it?

If you take Norco legally, you’ll likely have been issued the drug as relief for some form of pain. However, some people use the drug recreationally, solely to experience its intoxicating effects. Prolonged Norco usage can lead to dependence, even amongst valid users.

Some common uses of Norco include:

  • Treat acute or chronic pain
  • Dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety and trauma
  • Euphoric effects
  • To dampen the withdrawal effects of a more dangerous drug dependence

Like most opiates, Norco acts as an opioid agonist. It binds with the receptors in the brain and affects the serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, causing the nucleus accumbrens to be flooded with neurotransmitters. This leads to feelings of pleasure and numbness, which many people find very appealing.

To relive this experience, abusers continue taking the drug. Even people who use it legally might increase their dosage. This results in a built-up of brain tolerance, allowing them to take more of the drug. If not checked in time, tolerance can develop into an addiction.

When a person is addicted to Norco, they cannot function ‘normally’ without using the drug. Instead, they experience physical and psychological symptoms that lead them to seek and use the drug. Untreated Norco addiction has potentially dangerous effects on the individual.

What causes Norco addiction and abuse?

Addiction in general is caused by several factors. Norco addicts often begin as regular pain medicating patients, but using the drug without caution causes them to develop tolerance, until it becomes a problem. However, there are scientifically proven reasons for the abuse and addiction of drugs (Norco).

  • Biological causes

Brain defects or injuries could also be a factor for drug abuse. Some injuries that affect the pleasure pathway could cause a deficiency in the production of dopamine or serotonin. Because of this, the person in question may seek addictive substances to produce the chemicals as a form of self-corrective behaviour.

  • Social causes

Peer pressure can drive people to start using Norco. In high schools and universities where the prevalence rate of Norco abuse is high, it’s easy for non-users to quickly pick up the habit. Furthermore, people who frequent night clubs and parties where Norco is sold may end up abusing the drug.

  • Genetic causes

Some people are genetically inclined to develop addictive behaviour. Studies have shown that many addicts tend to have a family history of substance dependence. This means people with addictive parents or grandparents are more likely to abuse substances than those without.

  • Environmental causes

Environment is a well-known causative factor for drug abuse. In places where Norco is being sold on the streets as a popular drug, there will be a high prevalence rate. People quickly become abusers when a drug is easy to obtain. In addition, children who grow up around Norco-abusing parents can learn to start abusing the drug themselves.

How addiction develops

Addiction develops when Norco is used without guidance. Recreational users are not the only people at risk of drug dependence. Even people who stick to their doctor’s prescription can be become tolerant after a while. As an opioid agonist, the drug’s action in the brain is specific to certain receptors and pleasure centres. The resulting feeling is intense, and users tend to want more.

Repeated use of Norco causes the brain to ‘learn’ and adapt to its effects. In time, it doesn’t produce the same intense numbing effect as before. Users will find themselves taking more of the substance to make up for it. Tolerance makes the brain form a fixation to Norco that is unhealthy and dangerous. This fixation or addiction prompts uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when the drug is absent from the system.

How Norco addiction and abuse affect the brain and body

Withdrawal symptoms occur because Norco alters the structure and regular chemical functions of the brain. Close MRI scans have revealed anomalies in an affected brain.

The opioid receptors are blocked, causing an excess of serotonin, since its reuptake is inhibited. This can cause serotonin syndrome. Too much of this neurotransmitter in the brain wears out the brain cells and causes fatigue. In many cases, the individual feels depressed or anxious.

Norco addiction also takes its toll on the body. A variety of complications have been traced to Norco abuse and addiction, varying from muscular spasms to respiratory problems and elevated blood pressure.

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Who becomes addicted to Norco?

Anybody who uses Norco without proper guidance from a doctor is likely to become addicted. Since the drug is moderately addictive, repeated usage can build tolerance. It’s therefore advisable to see a doctor about your legal prescription from time to time.

Recreational users are also at high risk of abuse and addiction to Norco, because their sole function of consumption is pleasure. It’s believed that the higher the dosage, the more intense the pleasurable effects. However, such abuse is a gateway to addiction.

People with a high risk of addiction include high school teens, university adolescents and older adults who need the drug for pain relief.

Signs, symptoms and effects of Norco abuse and addiction

If you or someone you know is abusing Norco, you’ll want to be able to recognise the signs early, so you can get treatment. Patients who begin to abuse Norco by increasing their dosage end up suffering the negative side-effects that can be addressed via addiction treatment.

Since Norco is an opiate medicine, its consumption is habit-forming. As the drug stimulates the brain’s reward pathway and suppresses pain, patients start experiencing cravings. Most of the time, craving is an indication of Norco dependency. If you start craving Norco, you should see a professional immediately.

Other signs include:

  • Increasing your regular dosage
  • Taking Norco recreationally/without prescription
  • Mixing Norco with other substances like cocaine and heroin
  • Becoming obsessed with getting Norco
  • Doctor shopping (seeing various physicians for multiple prescriptions)

Short-term effects of Norco on the body

Norco is an opioid narcotic medicine. Its primary function is to provide relief for pain. Users tends to exhibit the same feelings of mild euphoria and well-being as users of other opioids or opioid derivatives. These feelings tend to increase as the dose increases. After the initial euphoria, uncomfortable side-effects can be felt. They may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Lethargy
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Nausea/vomiting

These side-effects are temporary and don’t pose any serious problems. However, if abused for a long time, Norco can trigger a series of complications.

Long-term effects of using Norco

People who abuse Norco for extended periods are exposed to health problems – some of which can be life-threatening in some cases. These can include:

  • Reduced reaction time
  • Poor muscular coordination
  • Sedation
  • Poor cognition
  • Respiratory depression
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Liver damage

Some of these conditions are exacerbated during an overdose. In severe cases, the individual may fall into a coma or die.

Physical signs and symptoms of Norco abuse and addiction

Norco abuse and addiction reveal certain physical signs. This makes it easy to discern when somebody is abusing the drug. If that person appears to be ecstatic for no apparent reason, they may well be ‘high’. When the effect wears off, they will become an entirely different person.

Some physical signs and symptoms of Norco Abuse include:

  • Drug-seeking behaviour
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Weight loss
  • Anxiety
  • Fixation on Norco (talking about it a lot)
  • Tremors
  • Requesting Norco from another patient
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Psychological signs and symptoms of Norco abuse and addiction

Norco abuse also affects mental performance. People tend to feel psychological disturbances, due to the mind-altering effects of the drug on the brain.

Psychological signs of Norco addiction include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression

People addicted to Norco also exhibit mood swings because they are often restless until the next dose.

Signs of Norco withdrawal and overdose

Abusing prescription opioids like Norco increases the risk of overdosing. Sometimes, it can be life-threatening. The risk is even higher when you mix Norco with other substances such as alcohol or opioids that accentuate the effect of the drug.

When taken with alcohol or benzodiazepines, a person may feel their heartbeat slowing down or experience difficulty breathing. Taking Norco with other drugs is always a bad idea. People who overdose show the following signs:

  • Weak heartbeat
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Nausea
  • Unconsciousness
  • Blue colour under fingernails and lips
  • Shallow breathing

Besides overdosing, a Norco user may suffer life-threatening consequences from the acetaminophen in the pills. In high doses, acetaminophen is toxic and damaging to the liver. Drinking alcohol at the same time increases the risk of overdosing.

If you suspect someone of overdosing on Norco, call for emergency help quickly and loosen any tight clothing to aid breathing.


Norco-dependent users who suddenly stop taking the drug will experience withdrawal. These are physical symptoms associated with dependence. People who try to quit ‘cold turkey’ suffer withdrawal and may end up relapsing due to the pain. Withdrawal can also lead to overdose, because users may ingest more pills than usual in desperation for relief.

Dangerous Effects of Norco abuse and addiction

Norco addiction is a major gateway to several health complications. From physical to mental problems, severe outcomes can be the result if treatment is not applied in time.

Short-term effects of Norco abuse – such as constipation and vomiting – have the potential to dehydrate the individual.

People who have been using Norco for a long time may suffer liver damage, as opiates are usually metabolised in the liver.

Furthermore, the stress on the heart muscles can also cause the walls to rupture, resulting in a cardiac arrest.

Addiction also affects a person’s self-esteem and desire to become better. Individuals tend to entertain thoughts of self-harm and possible suicide.

The social impact of Norco addiction

People with Norco addiction are conscious of their habit and its effect on people around them. They tend to isolate themselves from family and friends, mainly because they can barely fit into society without using the drug to feel normal.

Abusing the drug interferes with their daily activities, thus reducing productivity at school or at work. Norco-dependent users may be unable to hold down a job for a long time. In addition, their friendships and romantic relationships are often strained, because of poor levels of commitment. There is also a high tendency for domestic violence.

People addicted to drugs can fall into financial difficulty and may become involved in crime. The social impact of Norco addiction should not be underestimated.

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Coping with withdrawal

Withdrawal is an unpleasant but necessary experience for treatment and recovery. The best way to manage it is to follow the advice of your physician. Firstly, prepare for it by tapering your usage. It is important to first wean off the drug, or the consequences could be dangerous.

You will be given special analgesics to reduce the pain and dampen cravings during this period. Detox clinics offer 24-hour medical attention to help you through any complications that may arise. After four to five days, the physical withdrawal symptoms will peak, then begin to subside. However, the psychological symptoms will persist for a few more weeks.

After the third week, you’ll be asked to exercise and perform other physical activities to build your strength and motivation. Patients in withdrawal should drink sufficient fluids to prevent dehydration.

How to Treat Norco withdrawal

There are usually two ways to approach Norco withdrawal, depending on your preferences and budget. The traditional method requires undergoing withdrawal symptoms for the complete duration. This is also based on your level of dependence to the drug.

With medication such as methadone and buprenorphine, the discomfort of withdrawal can be minimised to bearable extents.

Both drugs are mild forms of opioid analgesics that are capable of binding to the receptors in the brain, without the addictive effects of Norco.

The second method is rapid detox treatment. This is more expensive, but the physicians will put you under heavy sedation and speed up the withdrawal process. You won’t feel the painful symptoms and the process can take between four to six hours. After the whole procedure, you’ll be required to report to the clinic for Naltrexone injections every four weeks over a few months.

Although it is quick and bypasses withdrawal symptoms, rapid detox treatment is not without its own risks.

Therapy, treatment and rehab for Norco abuse and addiction

After detox, when your body is free from Norco, rehabilitation therapy is the next stage of treatment. In Norco rehab, you’ll be asked to share your problems during one-one-one sessions with a counsellor, as well as a group of other patients and former drug users. The aim of this activity is to uncover the root cause of your addiction and learn to beat cravings.

Relating with peers challenges you to open and share the problems you face regarding your habits. Whether you opt for an inpatient treatment or outpatient option, Norco rehab focuses on getting you to talk about your psychological dependence on the drug.

Norco therapy sessions involve various activities, designed to help individuals build resistance to their past habits and adopt a new mindset as a clean, sober person.

Common therapy practices include:

  • Traditional 12-step programme
  • Motivational therapy
  • Journaling
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Family therapy

After four to six weeks, if a doctor is satisfied with your recovery, you will be allowed to check out.

Norco addiction treatment prices

Although pricing is a reasonable gauge for choosing a rehab centre, it shouldn’t be the sole determinant. While there are luxury confidential rehabs that cost a lot of money, some modest, yet fully equipped rehabs are reasonably priced.

Some centres in the UK charge between £500 and £700 per week for a standard four-week programme, including detox. You can choose to pay the full cost at once or in instalments if you prefer. If you have private medical insurance, it may cover the cost of your treatment. Either way, do compare prices before making a final selection.

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Staying off Norco/support groups

Post-rehab can be a difficult time, especially the first few weeks after checking out. Avoid staying on your own during this period. Instead, move in with a trusted friend until you are strong enough to be alone. Isolation is the enemy of sobriety.

Joining support groups is also a great way to build resistance against cravings and stay off Norco. These groups also teach abstinence techniques and assign a sponsor for moral support.

Individual counselling and family therapy

After rehab, an ongoing therapy programme can help you navigate the waters of sobriety, until you can find your feet. This may include individual counselling with a therapist or moderated sessions, where you discuss your personal challenges with family members. It is also an opportunity to get things off your chest and mend broken bridges with loved ones.

Norco facts and statistics

  • In 2008, opiates accounted for 75% of pharmaceutical overdoses recorded.
  • The CDC has announced opiate abuse as a global epidemic. Every year, about 15,000 people die of recreational opiate abuse – a figure higher than even cocaine and heroin combined.
  • In the US, recreational consumption of opiates has tripled since 1992. Its population consumes about 99% of the world’s supply of hydrocodone.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Norco?

Norco is a prescription medicine that contains hydrocodone and acetaminophen. It is prescribed as pain relief medication for people experiencing mild to severe pain.

What are the various forms of Norco?

Most hydrocodone/acetaminophen tablets are variations of Norco. Other analgesic opiates include Vicodin and Lorcet.

What is Norco used for?

Norco is an opioid analgesic, which means it binds to receptors in the brain and increases the body’s pain threshold. It’s used to treat moderate to severe pain, from post-surgical procedures, accidents, back pains and so on.

Can Norco be abused?

Yes. When you take it for non-medical purposes, use more than the prescribed dosage or take the drug for longer than you should, it is considered abuse.

Can you get ‘high’ on Norco?

Yes. Norco produces euphoric effects when ingested. This is because it stimulates the brain’s reward pathway to release serotonin and norepinephrine.

Who becomes addicted to Norco?

People who abuse Norco tend to become dependent on the drug. It often starts with a regular prescription. However, tolerance is gradually formed and continuous abuse soon develops into a chemical fixation to the drug. Studies have shown that teens and older adults are at high risk of abuse.

What are the effects of Norco abuse and addiction?

Norco abuse and addiction effects are often a combination of the physical, psychological and behavioural. Common adverse effects include pinpoint pupils, sweating, tremors, respiratory problems, liver damage, anxiety, depression, paranoia, agitation, restlessness and elevated heartbeat.

What are Norco withdrawal symptoms?

When a Norco-dependent user suddenly discontinues using the drug, their body goes into ‘shock’ and experiences physical or psychological symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms are a reaction to the absence of Norco in the body. To complete treatment, it’s necessary to undergo medically supervised withdrawal.

Norco addiction symptoms: Can they be treated?

Yes, they can. Some doctors use medication therapy, which involves giving the patient methadone or naltrexone to mimic the effects of Norco and suppress cravings. Conversely, some rehab centres use holistic therapy.

How much Norco does it take to overdose?

According to some experts, consuming the equivalent of 90mh of hydrocodone is enough to cause fatal consequences. This is nine times the amount that is usually prescribed. However, exceeding 40 -50 mg can lead to an overdose.

Do Suboxone and Norco really work to treat addiction?

Yes. Suboxone is effective in treating Norco addiction, but it will require weaning off Suboxone afterwards.

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