Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid synthesized from codeine, which itself is synthesized from the opium poppy. It is listed as a Schedule II drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Hydrocodone and drugs that contain hydrocodone are sold under many brand names including Vicodin, Lortab and Norco. Many opioid painkillers are a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen – a drug branded as Tylenol. Semi-synthetic opiates were developed in the early 20th century and used chemicals from the natural opiate plant as a base. They are deemed safer and more effective for medical purposes than pure or natural opiates. Hydrocodone addiction is serious and it is important to educate the public about the hydrocodone addiction signs.

Hydrocodone is prescribed for acute, severe pain after surgery or after an accident. Due to its addictive character, hydrocodone should not be prescribed for a long duration. Hydrocodone is available in increments of 2.5 milligrams up to a maximum of 10 milligrams. It comes in pill or liquid form and should not be mixed with alcohol or other prescription medications such as benzodiazepines and opiates.

The Dangers Of Hydrocodone Addiction

Hydrocodone like other opioids is extremely addictive and can result in overdose and death from respiratory depression. Hydrocodone abuse can destroy an individual’s health, life and relationships. To prevent this from happening, it is important to recognize the hydrocodone addiction signs. Hydrocodone abuse side effects include the following:

  • Respiratory depression
  • Constipation
  • Pruritis or itchy skin
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in sleep
  • Changes in mood

Although hydrocodone is a prescription drug, it can also be found on the streets or the black market, which increases the overdose rate. Hydrocodone abuse is similar to abuse of all other opioids, such as fentanyl, heroin and morphine, but hydrocodone is not as strong as the former three, which means a higher dose is needed to obtain the same pain relief and high. Like other opioids, hydrocodone binds to the mu opioid receptor in the body and increases levels of neurotransmitters, resulting in a euphoric state. The body’s natural painkiller components, known as endorphins, are inhibited when opioids are introduced into the body. As a result, the pain becomes more difficult to treat, because the body develops tolerance to prescription opioids over time.

Like with other opioids, hydrocodone drug abuse can result in overdose and death secondary to respiratory depression. Although they are not fatal, opioid withdrawals are known to be the most painful, causing excruciating bone pain, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and anxiety. It is often these painful withdrawals that result in relapse and opioid use once again.

Hydrocodone Addiction Treatment

Fortunately, multiple pharmacologic agents can be used to help individuals break the opioid addiction cycle. Methadone, naltrexone and Suboxone can be used to treat opioid dependence by reducing withdrawal side effects and curbing cravings, both of which can lead to relapse.

Treating opioid addiction with medication-assisted therapy has been ongoing for more than thirty years. Initially, methadone, which is a type of opioid, was the treatment of choice for opioid addiction. This opioid agonist binds to the same receptors as heroin, resulting in a similar high. The amount of methadone is slowly tapered over time, but many patients will become addicted to methadone, resulting in another addiction cycle.

In 2002 the FDA approved the use of the combination of buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) to manage opioid dependence. This combination medication is known as a partial opioid agonist/antagonist and antagonist combined, which acts by blocking opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Naltrexone is another well-known opioid antagonist used to treat opioid addiction. First introduced in clinical trials for opioid addiction treatment in 1973, naltrexone is used to prevent relapse after withdrawing from opioids. This medication acts to eliminate all opioids in the body, so if the body is not completely free of opioids when naltrexone is administered, severe withdrawal effects will occur. Vivitrol is the injectable form of naltrexone that can be administered on a monthly basis.

Therapy used in conjunction to pharmaceutical management is recommended. Therapy aims to treat and prevent the underlying need to use the opioid. Cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectal behavior therapy, neurofeedback and cognitive remediation are all types of therapy that Sovereign Health uses to aid in the treatment of hydrocodone addiction.

Sovereign Health’s Adolescent Program

Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego provides effective treatment for teens and adolescent who are 12 to 17 years of age. We encourage the support of families in addiction treatment, offering nonconfrontational interventions in a relaxing environment as well as group and family therapy. Sovereign employs multiple evidence-based treatments for the best results. We recognize that no two cases are the same, so we create treatment programs tailored to the specific mental and psychopharmacological needs of the patient.

Accredited by The Joint Commission and licensed for mental health, we also diagnose and treat co-occurring disorders. If your teen or a loved one has a hydrocodone abuse problem, please contact our admissions team today at our 24/7 helpline.

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