Learn About Vicodin Addiction and Abuse
Vicodin is a prescription painkiller that is frequently prescribed to treat moderate to severe acute or chronic pain. An opioid narcotic, Vicodin is comprised of a combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodone, and is a highly addictive substance. As such, those who are prescribed Vicodin may develop a tolerance to and dependency on the medication. Unfortunately, even individuals who do not possess a medical need for this powerful painkiller may seek out the substance in order to experience the pleasurable effects that it elicits. In doing so, they are at risk for developing tolerance and dependency as well.
Vicodin works as a central nervous system depressant that prohibits an individual from feeling pain, while also producing feelings of relaxation, contentment, euphoria, and an overall sense of wellbeing. These pleasurable effects are what make this substance a popular drug of abuse the world over. As the abuse of Vicodin persists, however, a subsequent addiction can develop, leaving individuals in a perilous position of struggling to put an end to their use of the medication. And the presence of such an addiction can rapidly wreak havoc of every aspect on an individual’s life.
Vicodin Addiction Statistics
As one of the most commonly prescribed painkillers, Vicodin addiction impacts the lives of many people. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, in 2010 alone, an estimated 139 million Vicodin prescriptions were filled. Additionally, the rate of abuse of this substance is noted as having quadrupled over the last decade and is suspected to continue growing in prevalence.
Causes and Risk Factors for Vicodin Addiction
The ongoing abuse of Vicodin can result in the development of an addiction to the substance, known clinically as Vicodin use disorder or as a type of opioid use disorder. The following causes and risk factors are said to impact the vulnerability individuals have to suffering from this type of disorder:
Genetic: Genetic influences are noted as playing a major role in the development of an addiction to drugs like Vicodin. When a history of substance abuse and addiction exists within one’s family, he or she is more susceptible to experiencing similar concerns at some point in his or her life. Additionally, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) reports that the presence of certain personality characteristics can influence a person’s vulnerability to suffering from Vicodin use disorder, and such characteristics are believed to be hereditary in origin.
Environmental: The environment by which one is surrounded can add to a person’s susceptibility to developing an addiction to Vicodin. For example, those who are surrounded by family members or peers who abuse substances, including prescription medications, are more likely than others to view the behavior as acceptable and therefore engage in it themselves. Additionally, those who have easy access to obtaining Vicodin are more likely to abuse the substance than are those who do not have the same accessibility.
- Family history of substance abuse and addiction
- Personal history of abusing other substances
- Personal or family history of mental illness
- Possessing a novelty-seeking personality
- Possessing an impulsive temperament
- Suffering from a condition that warrants the receipt of a Vicodin prescription
- Having easy accessibility to the acquisition of Vicodin
- Being in an environment where substance abuse is prevalent
Signs and Symptoms of Vicodin Addiction
The presence of the following signs and symptoms could indicate that an individual is suffering from an addiction to Vicodin:
- Frequent absenteeism from one’s place of employment
- Continuing to engage in the abuse of Vicodin, despite having the desire to stop
- Consuming Vicodin in situations where it could prove to be physically hazardous, such as while operating a vehicle
- No longer adhering to daily responsibilities
- No longer engaging in activities that one once enjoyed
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Making multiple visits to various doctors in order to acquire prescriptions for Vicodin
- Constricted pupils
- Psychomotor agitation
- Psychomotor retardation
- Cravings for Vicodin
- Impaired judgment and reasoning capabilities
- Memory problems
- Attention and concentration disturbances
- Suicidal ideation
- Mood dysregulation
- No longer finding interest in things that one once enjoyed
- Euphoric feelings followed by apathetic feelings
Effects of Vicodin Addiction
When Vicodin abuse persists without intervention, an individual becomes susceptible to experiencing a great deal of negative ramifications. Such detriments can impact him or her physically, socially, and emotionally, and may include the following:
- Oxygen deficiency within the body’s tissues
- Liver damage
- Vision impairment
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Chronically dry nose and mouth
- Worsening of current, or onset of new, mental illness symptoms
- Familial discord
- Marital strife
- Demise of friendships
- Hindered occupational performance
- Job loss
- Financial turmoil
- Suicidal ideation
- Attempts at suicide
Vicodin Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders
Those who become ensnared in the dangerous pattern of ongoing Vicodin abuse may also simultaneously suffer from symptoms of mental health conditions. Examples of disorders that are known to co-occur alongside Vicodin use disorder may include:
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Major depressive disorder
- Persistent depressive disorder
- Tobacco use disorder
- Stimulant use disorder
- Alcohol use disorder
- Other substance use disorders
Effects of Vicodin Withdrawal and Overdose
Effects of Vicodin withdrawal: When an individual suddenly stops taking Vicodin after having done so for a prolonged period of time, he or she is susceptible to experiencing the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal as his or her body attempts to re-regulate itself to the way that it functioned prior to the introduction of the medication. Symptoms and effects that are known to accompany the withdrawal process may include the following:
- Intense cravings
- Dysphoric mood
- Chronic flowing of tears
- Pupillary dilation
- Muscle aches
Effects of Vicodin overdose: When a person consumes more Vicodin than his or her body is capable of appropriately metabolizing or excreting, he or she will likely experience an overdose. Overdosing on any substance should be viewed as a medical emergency, and overdosing on Vicodin is no exception. Examples of warning signs that could indicate that someone has overdosed on this prescription medication may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Cold, clammy skin
- Extreme confusion
- Alterations in speech patterns
- Labored breathing
- Loss of consciousness
How is Vicodin made?
Made in a professional lab with specialized equipment, Vicodin is a mixture of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Vicodin tablets usually contain 500 mg of acetaminophen and 5 mg hydrocodone, although stronger dosages include
- Vicodin ES with 750 mg of acetaminophen and 7.5 mg of hydrocodone
- Vicodin HP with 660 mg of acetaminophen and 10 mg of hydrocodone
Despite greater quantities of acetaminophen, hydrocodone is the active ingredient. As a powerful opioid, hydrocodone is responsible for the addictive qualities of Vicodin.
How do people get high on Vicodin?
Many people abuse Vicodin by taking it with alcohol. Since alcohol and opioids are both central nervous system depressants, their effects overlap to produce a high. Although alluring, this combination is extremely dangerous because too much of either can slow down the brain to the point of sedation and breathing cessation. Additionally, the effects of alcohol and acetaminophen can cause irreversible liver damage.
Others abuse Vicodin by crushing the pill and then snorting or injecting the crushed remains. A person will grind the pill into powder between their molars and swallow. Either way releases a high dose of hydrocodone into the bloodstream very quickly, thus intensifying the pleasurable effects. However, snorting or injecting is just as dangerous as taking the pills with alcohol because it is nearly impossible to control how much of the drug enters your bloodstream.
What should I not mix with Vicodin?
Anything that enhances the effects of Vicodin can lead to overdose effects, slowing your breathing and heart rate to dangerous levels. You should avoid mixing Vicodin with
- Alcohol: Opioids and alcohol both depress nervous activity in the central nervous system. In addition to sedation, many opioids inhibit the coughing reflex, which places an individual at high risk for aspiration, pneumonia and choking. This creates a dangerous effect that could stop breathing altogether.
- Opioids (Percocet, Oxycontin, Vicodin): The additive effects of opioids slow vital centers of the brainstem that controls breathing and heart rate.
- Depressants (Xanax, Valium, Ativan): Combining depressants and opioids can lead to respiratory depression.
- Stimulants (Ecstasy, amphetamine, Ritalin): With nearly opposite effects, the conflicting messages sent to various body systems disrupt the stability of vital organs, including the heart and brain. The symptoms produced by stimulants can also mask the symptoms of an opioid overdose, so a person could continue to take high doses of the drug without knowing he or she is already in the danger zone.
You should also avoid products containing acetaminophen. Too much acetaminophen is toxic for your liver, and acetaminophen-induced liver injury is potentially life threatening. The daily dosage of acetaminophen should not exceed 4000 mg, although a person who drinks more than two alcoholic beverages should not take more than 2000 mg of acetaminophen.
Vicodin can interact with certain antibiotics, and other medications and produce some adverse effects, but none of the effects should be life-threatening. However, which medications you mix depend on your personal situation and why you are taking these drugs; if your doctor has prescribed you something you’re not sure about, be sure to ask him or her for clarification.
What are the short-term effects of Vicodin?
Short-term effects of Vicodin include:
- Difficulty concentrating
What are the long-term effects of Vicodin?
Long-term effects include:
- Hearing loss
- Kidney damage
- Liver failure
- Nasal tissue damage if snorted
- Skin infections, collapsed veins if injected
What are the overdose effects of Vicodin?
Overdose effects include:
- Yellowing of the skin or white of eyes from liver damage
- Extreme drowsiness
- Cold and clammy skin
- Slowed heartbeat that could lead to cardiovascular collapse
- Slowed or stopped breathing
How long does Vicodin stay in my system?
This depends on the dosage and frequency of use. On average, Vicodin can be present for one to six days in the urine, and up to 90 days in the hair. For chronic users, the drug can be present much longer in the body system.
How long do the effects of Vicodin last?
A 10 mg dose of hydrocodone has a half-life of about 4 hours. This means it takes your body four hours to get rid of half of hydrocodone from your system. Pain-relieving effects wear off in about four to six hours (although half the drug is still in your system), and withdrawal effects usually begin to show up six to 12 hours after the last dose.
How much Vicodin can I take before I risk overdosing?
The quantity of Vicodin consumed before overdose depends on your body and your tolerance to opioids. Many Vicodin overdoses occur when Vicodin is mixed with alcohol, painkillers, or other similar acting drugs.
Since there is typically 100 times more acetaminophen than hydrocodone in a Vicodin tablet, the possibility of liver toxicity from acetaminophen overdose is much more likely than overdose from hydrocodone. Taking one gram of acetaminophen at one time could cause permanent liver damage if done regularly; over 7500 mg in a single dose poses a significant risk of toxicity.
Since Vicodin contains 500 mg of acetaminophen, it’s safe to take one tablet every four hours, or two every six hours. Any more than this, and you risk overdosing on acetaminophen.
Can Vicodin kill you?
Yes, Vicodin can certainly kill you if you abuse it or take more than the prescribed amount.
Acetaminophen toxicity can cause lasting damage, and any more than two tablets every six hours could land you in the hospital. Studies suggest that 90 mg of hydrocodone (or 18 tablets of Vicodin 5/500) is a lethal dose, but the acetaminophen overdose would have landed you in the hospital before you reach that point.
Taking Vicodin with another drug that increases your chance of overdose (alcohol), and snorting or injecting the drug by illegal means also produces severe health consequences.
How do I know if I’m addicted to Vicodin?
Below are common signs of Vicodin addiction:
- Needing more of the Vicodin to achieve the same effect (tolerance)
- Spending more money or resources than you have to obtain Vicodin
- Continuing to use Vicodin despite the problems it causes
- Unable to cut down or stop Vicodin use
- Depending on Vicodin to relax or enjoy yourself
- Others have expressed concern about your Vicodin use
- Feelings of guilt when using Vicodin