Hydrocodone Addiction

Gabrielle Applebury
woman with medicine bottle and pills

Hydrocodone addiction is quickly becoming a serious problem in the United States and other countries. The Federal Drug Enforcement Administration reports hydrocodone is the most abused prescription drug on the market today.

Addiction to Hydrocodone

Hydrocodone is a type of narcotic, otherwise known as an opioid, that can be found in pain relievers like Vicodin and Lortab. It is also used as a pain medication on its own. Extended release forms of hydrocodone are labeled Zohydro ER and Hysingla ER and are used to manage chronic pain. Currently, there are over 200 products on the market that contain hydrocodone. Some of these include various cough suppressants, Tylenol, Anexia, and Lorcet.

These drugs are widely prescribed because of their pain relieving benefits. Hydrocodone has a calming and euphoric effect on patients, especially in high doses. The effect is similar to the one produced by drugs like heroin and morphine. It can also cause numbness and decrease anxiety, which has attracted users who are hoping to get some relief from intense anxiety, depressive symptoms, and trauma. Studies have also indicated that people who grew up with insecure attachment patterns are more likely to abuse drugs as adults.

Developing Addiction

In its pure form, hydrocodone is classified as a Schedule II substance. As such, it is heavily controlled and regulated. However, there are very few prescription drugs which are considered to be pure hydrocodone. While these drugs are regulated by federal and state laws, they are not as heavily regulated as other powerful painkillers. The slack regulations have led to widespread use and abuse.

Studies have shown that a hydrocodone addiction can develop in as little as one to four weeks and the longer someone uses the drug, the higher the potential for physical dependence. People who were prescribed hydrocodone on a short term basis, for three days or less, were less likely to develop an addiction compared to those who were prescribed it on a longer term basis. The amount of time it takes to become addicted to a drug containing hydrocodone depends on the individual user, as well as the amount of hydrocodone found in the medication. Once addicted, the habit can be very hard to kick and could lead to a chronic addiction.

Around 24 million people in the United States currently abuse this drug, meaning they are using it despite not having a prescription or the appropriate medical monitoring to do so. Every year, around 80,000 people are taken to the emergency room because of hydrocodone overdose or other hydrocodone-related medical complications. People who have experienced trauma or attachment based issues also have an increased risk of developing an addiction. Because hydrocodone can create a numbing, relaxed effect on the user, it greatly appeals to those experiencing intense symptoms of PTSD, depression, and anxiety.

Side Effects of Hydrocodone Abuse and Addiction

Symptoms of addiction can include abusing the drug, needing to use more over time to achieve the same feeling, and using despite it negatively impacting your health and wellness. You may have an addiction to hydrocodone if you spend the majority of your time worrying about where to get your next fix, feel like you aren't able to engage in your typical activities without using, and begin experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms when you aren't able to access hydrocodone. There are both severe and acute side effects associated with a hydrocodone addiction. Many of these effects are similar to those experienced by morphine users. If you are addicted and experiencing withdrawal symptoms you may notice:

  • Medicine addiction
    Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Decreased appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Mood changes
  • Death (caused by overdose or an allergic reaction)
  • Confusion
  • Ringing in ears

Overcoming Addiction

couple at therapy session

If you or someone you know is having trouble with a hydrocodone addiction, you should contact a physician immediately. A qualified and competent physician will be able to develop a plan of action to help you overcome the addiction. You can also contact one of the many addiction treatment centers located around the country. About 90 percent of those who abused hydrocodone will no longer have a physical dependence within a week of quitting, but 75 percent will relapse despite the physical dependence no longer being present. The psychological dependence on hydrocodone can take anywhere from months to years to overcome depending on the type of treatment sought, support received, as well as motivation to confront painful psychological symptoms.

Types of Treatments

Depending on your needs, different facilities will be able to assist you in recovering from hydrocodone abuse and addiction. Recovery can be a slow process, but it is possible.

  • Inpatient Center: These treatment facilities work well for those who need a higher level of care. Stays can last for a few days to up to several months. Usually clients will receive individual therapy, group therapy and drug counseling.
  • Outpatient Center: These centers are a step down in intensity compared to inpatient facilities. Usually, clients spend several hours receiving services that can include group counseling, addiction psycho-education, individual or family therapy, and sometimes drug tests.
  • Individual Therapist: Psychotherapists who specialize in addiction treatment can assist you in figuring out your triggers, offer healthy coping techniques, and discover the root cause of why you began using.
  • Detox Center: These facilities will provide you with professional medical monitoring while your body processes the hydrocodone out of your system. Because nutritional deficits, dehydration, and physical discomfort can accompany detoxing, having medical professionals assisting you can be helpful.
Doctor and patient

Understanding Hydrocodone Addiction

Hydrocodone is a highly accessible opioid that is sold as is, and can be found in several pain relieving and cough suppressing products. Due to its highly addictive potential, seeking appropriate help as soon as possible can assist those who are experiencing the pain that addiction can bring on.

Hydrocodone Addiction