Smoking Hydrocodone: Dangers And Effects

Hydrocodone is a highly addictive prescription medication, used to treat mild to moderate pain. When people smoke hydrocodone, they are at risk for respiratory problems, addiction, and overdose.

Hydrocodone is an opioid analgesic, or narcotic pain reliever. Medication containing hydrocodone may also be used to stop or relieve coughing. This semi-synthetic opioid is often sold under the brand names Vicodin, Lorcet, or Lortab.

People may abuse hydrocodone by taking more of the drug than prescribed. Some people may snort or smoke the substance. Smoking hydrocodone increases the drug’s effects, and heightens a person’s risk of addiction, respiratory infection, and overdose.

Hydrocodone causes some people to feel a sense of pleasant relaxation. Because of these positive effects, hydrocodone has a high abuse potential. This means that it’s easy for people taking hydrocodone to become addicted to the drug.

Can You Smoke Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is usually taken as an oral tablet. However, people who struggle with opioid abuse may experiment with alternate methods of use, including crushing and smoking hydrocodone tablets.

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Smoking hydrocodone is the second fastest way to get the drug to the brain (after injection). A person who does not want to inject the drug may try smoking to increase the pleasurable effects of hydrocodone.

When a person smokes hydrocodone, the entire dose of the drug hits the bloodstream at once. This can increase a person’s tolerance, meaning they require higher doses of the drug to get the same effect. It also puts a person at risk for overdose.

Dangers Of Smoking Hydrocodone

Anytime a drug is taken other than how it’s prescribed, it is considered substance abuse. There are no forms of hydrocodone that are meant to smoked, as this behavior can result in major risks to a person’s health.


Opioids like hydrocodone change the way the brain responds to pain. If someone takes large, frequent doses of the drug, their body will develop a tolerance to the medication.

This prompts people to take larger doses, in order to achieve the same high. People who are dependent on hydrocodone may take more of the drug than they are prescribed, or experiment with different methods of use, such as smoking.


When a person abuses hydrocodone, their body gets used to having larger doses of the drug. Smoking hydrocodone causes a rush of pleasure, but the high does not last long. This strong yet fleeting high may cause someone to immediately crave another dose of the drug.

This physical craving is called a dependence. A dependence means that a person requires certain doses of the drug in order to feel normal. If a person smokes hydrocodone to elicit a stronger high, they are likely on the path to full-blown opioid addiction.


While drug dependence causes a physical craving, addiction is the psychological component of drug abuse. Addiction causes a mental preoccupation with the drug, and can result in strong cravings.

Addiction may cause a person to be hyper-focused on the drug, and how to amplify its effects. Hydrocodone addiction can also lead a person to try dangerous methods of use, such as snorting, smoking, or injecting the substance.

Effects Of Smoking Hydrocodone

When a person smokes hydrocodone, they will likely experience a surge of warmth and well-being. This is followed by a period of extreme sedation, where they may nod in and out of consciousness.

Hydrocodone has serious side effects, even when taken as prescribed. If a person smokes hydrocodone, the potential side effects of the drug may be amplified.

Side effects of hydrocodone include:

  • fatigue
  • being semi-conscious, or “nodding out”
  • confusion
  • delirium or hallucinations
  • change in coordination
  • itching
  • nightmares
  • pin-prick sized pupils
  • slowed breathing
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • overdose

Hydrocodone affects the body’s central nervous system, and slows down a person’s pulse and breathing pattern. Large doses of hydrocodone can cause a person to stop breathing, which is the main cause of overdose.

Hydrocodone Overdose

Millions of Americans are currently prescribed opioids. This has partly contributed to the overdose crisis currently hitting the United States. In 2017, opioids like hydrocodone were involved in nearly 48,000 overdose deaths.

Hydrocodone is one of the most common drugs involved in prescription opioid overdoses. When a person smokes hydrocodone, they get an extremely large dose of the drug all at once. This greatly increases a person’s risk of overdose.

Signs of a hydrocodone overdose include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • loss of consciousness
  • confusion
  • choking or gurgling sound
  • cold or clammy skin
  • blue or gray tinted skin
  • irregular or weak pulse
  • coma

Hydrocodone overdose is preventable. Knowing the signs of an opioid overdose could save a person’s life. If you see a person displaying any of these symptoms, treat it as a medical emergency, and call 911 immediately.

Hydrocodone Withdrawal And Detox

Many people who are dependent on opioids have tried to get off these addictive drugs. However, if a person stops their use suddenly, they may experience agonizing withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms often lead people into the painful cycle of withdrawal and relapse.

Symptoms of hydrocodone withdrawal include:

  • agitation
  • anxiety
  • muscle aches
  • watery eyes
  • runny nose
  • sweating
  • yawning
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • chills or goosebumps
  • uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body (such as legs)

Hydrocodone withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable, but it is not usually life-threatening. People who are battling hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms can benefit from entering a medical detoxification program.

In medical detox, patients are provided supervision and support. Treatment teams may prescribe certain medications that help to ease withdrawal symptoms. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) drugs may include Suboxone or Zubsolv, which can also help to prevent relapse.

Treatment For Hydrocodone Abuse

Every day, 46 Americans die from prescription opioids. Fortunately, hydrocodone addiction can be treated in residential rehab programs across the U.S.

Inpatient treatment centers offer detox programs, medication-assisted treatment, and therapeutic recovery strategies. Patients may participate in individual and group counseling, and learn coping skills for life after addiction.

For more information on the dangers and effects of smoking hydrocodone, or to find a treatment center near you, contact one of our specialists today.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Prescription Opioid Data

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Drug Overdose Deaths

U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus - Opiate and opioid withdrawal

U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus - Hydrocodone

U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health - Adverse effects of opioids on the central nervous systems of palliative care patients.

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