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What is Hydrocodone?
Hydrocodone belongs in a group of drugs called narcotic pain relievers and is typically prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. Hydrocodone functions in relieving pain by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, thus blocking pain reception.
First synthesized in Germany in 1920, Hydrocodone was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for sale in the United States in 1943. It was later discovered that the effects of hydrocodone could be maximized if combined with another non-opioid substance, such as acetaminophen.
For this reason, hydrocodone is typically compounded with other substances to provide a possible synergy of painkilling effects. Hydrocodone is always combined with another medication when sold commercially in the United States.
Trademark names of hydrocodone compounds include Vicodin and Lortab. Hydrocodone has the potential to be habit-forming and can easily be misused, causing many negative complications. Having awareness of some of the dangers, signs, and symptoms of Hydrocodone abuse can be helpful in treating the addiction early.
How Does It Work?
Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic narcotic, opioid pain reliever. It acts similarly to codeine. Hydrocodone is effective at decreasing pain and relieving coughing, but also causes drowsiness, mood changes, and mental “clouding.” It is thought that opioid pain relievers (such as hydrocodone) work by binding to opioid receptors in the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord).
Side Effects of Hydrocodone
Short-term side effects of hydrocodone include headache, stomach pain, and slowed heartbeat. Long-term effects can include mental illness or addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with hydrocodone addiction, seek professional treatment.
Some side effects of hydrocodone are more severe than others. The most common side effects of hydrocodone are nausea and constipation. Lightheadedness, dizziness, and fainting are more common when you first start using the drug. Additional side effects of hydrocodone include:
- Stomach pain
- Back pain
- Muscle tension
- Foot, leg or ankle swelling
- Ringing in the ears
- Trouble sleeping
- Uncontrollable shaking
More severe side effects of hydrocodone include:
- Muscle stiffness
- Irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
Long-Term Effects of Hydrocodone
Long-term use of prescription opioids such as hydrocodone can lead to narcotic bowel syndrome (NBS). Also known as opioid-induced central hyperalgesia, this condition occurs when opioids slow the bowel and cause constipation, bloating, or nausea.
Narcotic bowel syndrome can occur in people who use large doses of opioids. It produces recurring abdominal pain, and continued use of hydrocodone can exacerbate symptoms. As more Americans are using painkillers, the prevalence of NBS in the United States has increased.
Prolonged use of hydrocodone can also result in hydrocodone addiction. Addiction is a brain disease that affects physical and psychological health. People experiencing addiction compulsively seek drugs despite knowing the health, legal, and social consequences.
An overdose occurs when people experience adverse reactions after taking more of a drug than is recommended. In recent years, overdosing on opioids such as hydrocodone has become widespread in the United States.
Symptoms of a hydrocodone overdose include:
- Blue fingernails and lips
- Cold, clammy skin
- Muscle weakness
- Decreased awareness
- Narrowed or widened pupils
- Slowed breathing and heartbeat
Signs and Symptoms of a Hydrocodone Addiction
If you or a loved one is concerned that you might be suffering from an addiction to hydrocodone, it might be helpful to look for these signs and symptoms of abuse. While not all individuals display the same signs, you might notice one or more of the below symptoms in the case of an addiction to hydrocodone:
- Increased isolation or withdrawal to use the drug in secret
- Repetitive thoughts about using hydrocodone
- Experience of “phantom pains” when the drug is not in use
- Secretly storing or hiding the drug to avoid disclosure
- Unnecessary prescriptions for hydrocodone
- Agitated or restless behaviors
Look for these signs and symptoms to identify if you or a loved one is dealing with hydrocodone addiction.
Addiction to hydrocodone can cause several short and long term consequences on the abuser. These consequences can impact a man or woman physically, psychologically, and socially. The following are ways that hydrocodone can influence the many facets of a user’s life.
Physical effects of hydrocodone addiction – The abuse of the drug hydrocodone can physically compromise the behaviors of the body by interfering with normal mechanisms. Here are some negative physical consequences resulting from using the drug hydrocodone:
- Nausea, stomach pain, or loss of appetite
- Shallow breathing
- Slow heartbeat
- Unusual thoughts or behavior, confusion
- Compromised mental function
- Difficulty breathing
- Seizures or convulsions
- Liver damage
Psychological effects of using hydrocodone – Abusing hydrocodone can also have negative impacts on mental health. Here are some negative psychological and mental effects from abusing hydrocodone:
- Altered perception of reality
- Personality shifts
- Low self-esteem, negative body image
- Feelings of anger, rage
- Increased anxiety
- Mood swings
- Confusion, disorientation
Hydrocodone abuse social effects – The abuse of hydrocodone can result in multiple negative social effects. These can include the following:
- Withdrawal, isolation from friends and family
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Damaged relationships with loved ones
- Division or brokenness within a family unit
If a man or woman addicted to hydrocodone should stop taking the drug abruptly, severe withdrawal symptoms could occur as the body has become dependent on it. The following are some of the symptoms that might be experienced by a hydrocodone abuser should the drug be discontinued:
- Panic Attacks
- Muscle Pain
- Flu-like Symptoms
Any individual who has become dependent on hydrocodone is at risk for relapse once withdrawn from the drug. This means that there could be reoccurring use of the drug after a period of abstinence from using it. Relapsing can be common for men and women attempting to “stay clean” from hydrocodone for the first time. Having the support of a hydrocodone treatment facility can prevent relapse prevention and create long-term success for recovery.