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Hydrocodone Abuse, Addiction, and Treatment Options

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

March 1, 2019

Hydrocodone is found in several prescription medications used for pain. Individuals who take medications that contain hydrocodone are at risk for opioid dependence and addiction, and may need help when trying to quit.

What Is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is an opioid painkiller, similar to codeine, oxycodone, and morphine. This powerful narcotic is usually used to treat moderate to severe pain. Medications that contain hydrocodone are typically prescribed to people who have been injured or have had some form of dental pain.

Hydrocodone is classified as a Schedule II narcotic, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. A Schedule II narcotic has a high potential for abuse that can lead to both physical and psychological dependence.

Medications That Contain Hydrocodone

There are several combination medications that contain hydrocodone, most are prescribed as pain killers, but there are also liquid forms that may be prescribed as cough suppressants.

The combination of medications that include hydrocodone and are only available by prescription are:

  • Lorcet (hydrocodone and acetaminophen)
  • Lortab (hydrocodone and acetaminophen)
  • Norco (hydrocodone and acetaminophen)
  • Vicodin (hydrocodone and acetaminophen)
  • Liquicet (hydrocodone and acetaminophen)
  • Maxidone (hydrocodone and acetaminophen)
  • Anexsia (hydrocodone and acetaminophen)
  • Co-Gesic (hydrocodone and acetaminophen)
  • Hycet (hydrocodone and acetaminophen)
  • Hycodan (hydrocodone and acetaminophen)
  • Xodol (hydrocodone and acetaminophen)
  • Zolvit (hydrocodone and acetaminophen)
  • Zydone (hydrocodone and acetaminophen)
  • Vicoprofen (hydrocodone and ibuprofen)
  • Ibudone (hydrocodone and ibuprofen)
  • Reprexain (hydrocodone and ibuprofen)
  • Hydromet (hydrocodone and homatropine)
  • Rezira (hydrocodone and pseudoephedrine)
  • Tussicaps (hydrocodone and chlorpheniramine)
  • Tussionex (hydrocodone and chlorpheniramine)
  • Vituz (hydrocodone and chlorpheniramine)
  • Zutripro (hydrocodone, pseudoephedrine, and chlorpheniramine)

In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first hydrocodone-only painkiller. Both Zohydro ER and Hysingla ER are extended-release, one pill a day hydrocodone painkillers.

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Hydrocodone Medication Abuse Symptoms

Hydrocodone abuse is not always easy to recognize. Many people abusing hydrocodone may indeed, have a prescription. However, if someone is taking their pain pills in a way that they are not prescribed, it is substance abuse.

For example, if they run out of their prescription before they can get a refill, or if they are asking others for their pain medication, it is likely that they are abusing their hydrocodone.

People sometimes abuse hydrocodone due to the immediate effects of the medication. In addition to pain relief, hydrocodone can also create euphoria, decrease anxiety, increase feelings of calmness and relaxation, and increase feelings of happiness.

People abusing hydrocodone may also ingest hydrocodone in a way that is not prescribed. Pills can be crushed and snorted, smoked or even injected. Liquid hydrocodone may be mixed with other liquids, including alcoholic beverages. Mixing hydrocodone with other substances of abuse can have deadly side effects.

After a period of time, continued hydrocodone abuse can develop into dependence, and eventually addiction. Because hydrocodone is highly addictive, the transition from abuse, to dependence, and eventually addiction, is much shorter than most people realize. In fact, a person can develop hydrocodone dependence in a matter of weeks.

Hydrocodone Medicine Addiction Symptoms

A person who is dependent on hydrocodone feels that if they do not have hydrocodone, they do not feel normal. Over time, it can result in a hydrocodone addiction.

A person who is struggling with a hydrocodone addiction will show a number of the following symptoms:

  • taking hydrocodone in a way it is not prescribed
  • craving hydrocodone
  • unable to slow down or stop taking hydrocodone
  • spending large amounts of time finding or using hydrocodone
  • hydrocodone use negatively impacts responsibilities
  • using hydrocodone in hazardous situations
  • giving up recreational or enjoyable social situations to use hydrocodone
  • continued hydrocodone use in spite of recognizing negative impact
  • development of hydrocodone tolerance
  • withdrawal symptoms without hydrocodone

Hydrocodone Withdrawal

Hydrocodone withdrawal can be a significant reason that a person struggling with a hydrocodone addiction feels they cannot stop taking the drug. Although usually not fatal, hydrocodone has many painful, uncomfortable side effects.

When a person stops taking hydrocodone, there are many symptoms that may emerge, including:

  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • diarrhea
  • sweating
  • fever
  • cold flashes
  • shaking
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • muscle and joint pain
  • restless leg movement
  • insomnia

Withdrawal from hydrocodone can be disruptive and miserable. It is recommended that a person struggling with a hydrocodone addiction attend a medically-supervised detox program when they wish to stop taking hydrocodone. Detoxification programs like these are able to ease some of the pain and discomfort that come with withdrawal, by using medications, therapy, and other interventions.

Talking to a Doctor: Hydrocodone Addiction Treatment

Treatment for hydrocodone addiction can be provided at substance abuse treatment locations that are equipped to treat opioid use disorder. Most opioid use disorder treatment facilities start to begin with a medically supervised detox program to help the person stop taking opioids.

During detoxification, some medications are prescribed to decrease the severity of withdrawal symptoms. These medications include benzodiazepines (like clonidine), buprenorphine, and naltrexone. Some of these medications are also used as a continued regimen of treatment to keep people from relapsing, referred to as Medication-Assisted Treatment, or MAT.

After detox, attending a substance abuse treatment program to learn about addiction, develop coping skills, build support systems, and relapse prevention can help a person continue sobriety. Our resources can help you find a program that meets the needs of you or your loved one, contact us today.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Assessing and Addressing an Opioid Use Disorder

Food and Drug Administration - Timeline of Selected FDA Activities and Significant Events Addressing Opioid Misuse and Abuse

Medline Plus - Hydrocodone Combination Products

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