Vicodin Addiction, Abuse and Treatment

Vicodin Addiction, Abuse and Treatment

Vicodin or Hydrocodone (also known as Anexsia, Dicodid, Hycodan, Hydromet, Hycomine, Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Novahistex, Hydroco, Tussionex, Vicoprofen, and Xodol) is an opiate that is semi-synthetic. It is derived from two naturally occurring opiates, codeine and thebaine.

Vicodin is an analgesic and anti-tussive (used for coughs). Hydrocodone can be found in tablet, capsule and syrup form. In recent years, there has been an increase in illicit drug use of vicodin.

Vicodin, like other narcotics, relieves pain. It does so by binding to receptors in the brain and spinal cord. Vicodin can be taken with or without food, but under no circumstances should be taken with alcohol. At present, the FDA does not know whether use by a pregnant woman is contraindicated. Therefore, use during pregnancy is not recommended.

What makes someone likely to abuse Vicodin?

In the last ten years, narcotic use has increased greatly. It has been found that use of these drugs is more prevalent in mid-western non-urban areas. The majority of the inpiduals utilizing these drugs are privately insured. One study conducted in 2000 at an addiction unit found that 53% of those admitted were dependent on Vicodin.

The majority of the inpiduals who were dependent on opiates were likely to have some sort of other drug dependence. In fact in the mentioned study, 83% had another type of drug addiction and 45.1% had additional psychiatric disorders. Over 60% had a history of addiction treatment and had been previously admitted for psychiatric illness.

It has been found that Vicodin is utilized more often than Oxycodone. The biggest predictor of Vicodin abuse is alcoholism or another type of drug addiction. For patients who are in need of the pain relief provided by opiates that have a history of drug abuse expert assessment and monitoring is required.

One word - Pain

Vicodin is used for treatment of pain. This is the reason that inpiduals who can afford to seek medical treatment are more likely to become addicted. The most common source of pain reported includes the head and neck. On average narcotic medications were used for thirty seven months. Though the medical issue with which patients presented was addressed the potential for drug addiction was not given importance. Utilizing Vicodin with claims of chronic pain real or imaginary can and has led to drug addiction.

In addition to the generalized risk of becoming addicted to Vicodin these inpiduals are at risk for withdrawal from the drug which in many cases can be deadly. It is for this reason that many patients who experience chronic illness do not want to use prescription medication. There is the fear of dependence, addiction as well as suffering the many different side effects that accompany the use of Vicodin.

What are the side effects of Vicodin?

Common side effects:

  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Euphoria
  • Vomiting and constipation

Overdosing Risks

Vicodin contains a high amount of acetaminophen or Tylenol. This keeps a lot of potential addicts from using Vicodin in excessive amounts. Acetaminophen is very damaging to the liver if consumed in excessive amounts over long periods of time. Ten to fifteen grams of acetaminophen in a twenty four hour period can result in severe liver toxicity. Fifteen to twenty grams in one day can be fatal.

Since Vicodin is water soluble it is possible to extract some of the acetaminophen by using hot or cold water which in turn makes the drug more palatable. Extracting the acetaminophen involves crushing the tablets and then allowing them to dissolve in hot water. The mixture is then cooled and ran through a coffee filter. In thirty minutes, most of the acetaminophen has been removed from the solution. This makes the mixture much safer to consume. In order to avoid all of these potentially devastating side effects many addicts use opiates that contain one substance such as OxyContin.

Only in some cases can someone take up to 120 milligrams of Vicodin per day. In order for this to be possible one must titrate or slowly increase the medication up and is only intended for opiate dependent patients. For these inpiduals the patients need to be monitored very carefully. Otherwise there is the possibility of overdose. The symptoms of overdose can not only be devastating but also deadly. Signs of overdose include:

  • Respiratory Depression
  • Extreme Drowsiness
  • Coma
  • Cold or Clammy Skin
  • Bradycardia (slowing of heart beat), and hypotension
  • Circulatory Collapse, Cardiac Arrest or Death

Vicodin addiction like any other drug is a serious matter not to be taken lightly. Lack of attention to this topic can lead to overdose which as noted above can result in death. If one suspects he or she is becoming addicted or knows someone who may be experiencing said effects a medical professional should be contacted to avoid a possibly devastating outcome.

Adams NJ, Plane MB, Fleming MF, et al. Opioids and the treatment of chronic pain in a primary care sample. Journal of Pain Symptom Management. 2001; 22:791–796
Chabal C, Erjavec MK, Jacobson L, et al.: Prescription opiate abuse in chronic pain patients: clinical criteria, incidence, and predictors. Clinic J Pain. 1997;150–155.
Dickinson BD, Altman RD, Nielsen NH, et al. Use of opioids to treat chronic, noncancer pain. West J Med. 2000; 172:107–115.
Joranson DE, Ryan MK, Gilson AM. et al.: Trends in medical use and abuse of opioid analgesics. JAMA. 2000; 283:1710–1714.
Longo LP, Parran T Jr, Johnson B, et al. Problem-oriented diagnosis. Available from: American Family Physician 2000 April
National Institute on Drug Abuse. Proceedings of the community epidemiology work group. Vol. 1, Bethesda, MD; 2001.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. Proceedings of the community epidemiology work group. Vol. 2, Bethesda, MD; 2001.
Mitka M. Abuse of prescription drugs: is a patient ailing or addicted. JAMA. 2000; 283:1126, 1129.
Substance Abuse Services Commission. OxyContin abuse: Maine’s newest epidemic. Portland, ME; 2002.
Miller, Norman S.& Greenfeld, A. (2004). Patient Characteristics and Risks Factors for Development of Dependence on Hydrocodone and Oxycodone. American Journal of Therapeutics. Volume 11(1), January/February 2004, pp 26-32

Topic Discussion

  1. Addict

    Withdrawal from Vicodin, or any other form of prescription of non-prescription pain medicine (i.e. Heroin) will never be deadly. That statement is incorrect. IT might feel like you're dying while withdrawaling (trust me I know) but the withdrawal itself would never kill a person. The same is NOT true for Alcohol and Benzodiazepines, in which both can kill someone strictly from the withdrawl itself.

  2. Addict

    Vicodin is a highly used drug and Resumen is abused a lot as well. It is prescribed mainly for pain ways. The addiction of this drug is very dangerous and thus one has to understand the signs of its addiction early to reduce addiction and avoid all of its harmful effects.

  3. Addict

    A valuable information

  4. Addict

    I personally feel that there are some cases were "being addicted" to Vicodin is the lesser of two evils, (for lack of a better way to put it).
    My Mother has dealt with the chronic pain of severe RA for over 25yrs. Along with some other health issues that are just common with aging (High blood pressure, Heart trouble, suffered a minor stroke). She takes and has taken bunches of pills every day because of all this for some time. And while some are so concerned about an addiction to Vicodin - I couldn't care less, if it improves her quality of life that is what is important. It's the 15+ years of taking prednisone that I fear is more dangerous and damaging and I am convinced will be what causes her death.

    I think this all needs to balanced and weighed to consider the individual.

    I dare anyone to tell me my mother should spend her days in more pain than she already does just because of some "thought" or label or idea that she is addicted. How about being addicted to a desire to not live every day in constant pain?

    And yes she has done a lot for herself (exercising etc.) and resisted the pain killers for the first 15years - but the RA isn't going away or getting "better" with her age. And after trying some of the newer stuff like Humira and a few like it and becoming very, very ill because of - her choices are managing her pain on a daily basis.
    And the next time a punk pharmacist talks to her like she's a child and a drug addict (which has happened more than once) I'm going to give them their own need for a pain pill or two.

  5. Addict

    I've had chronic back pain for over 10 years now and have taken vicodin all this time. I have reduced from three tablets daily to two but I would not be working if I didn't take it. Call me an addict but until you've experienced the pain you probably shouldn't judge someone. The only alternative is surgery and I've heard some good things but the majority of things I know of spinal surgery are horror stories. Maybe someday I won't be able to manage the pain anymore and have to choose a more drastic measure, but until then I'll stick to Vicodin.

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