Looking for information about Vicodin? This helpful guide has all the information you need about side effects, warning signs of dependence and treatment for opioid addiction.
1. What is Vicodin and What is it Used For?
2. Vicodin and the Brain
3. The Path to Vicodin Addiction
4. Abusing Vicodin with a Prescription
5. Abusing Vicodin without a Prescription for Medical Reasons
6. Abusing Vicodin for Recreational Purposes
7. Vicodin Addiction Symptoms
8. Diagnosing Vicodin Addiction
9. Vicodin Withdrawal and Detox
10. Vicodin Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation
11. Finding the Right Vicodin Rehab Facility for You
Vicodin addiction is a natural consequence of Vicodin abuse. If you take more of it than you should, you may develop a dangerous drug dependency.
Defeating Vicodin addiction is not easy. But the situation is far from hopeless. If you enroll in an addiction treatment program at a high-quality Vicodin rehab center, you’ll have an excellent chance of overcoming your substance use disorder. You can choose sobriety over addiction, and during your time in Vicodin rehab you’ll learn how to do it.
In 2018, Vicodin and other painkillers with a similar formula were the top-selling prescription medication in 10 states. Vicodin is given to medical patients suffering from moderate to severe chronic pain, including those who are recovering from injuries, illness or medical procedures.
The active ingredients in Vicodin are hydrocodone, a moderately strong opioid, and acetaminophen, the over-the-counter substance sold as Tylenol. Standard Vicodin tablets contain just five mg of hydrocodone and 300 mg of acetaminophen. But it is the hydrocodone that gives Vicodin its potency.
Vicodin was long considered a relatively harmless narcotic drug. Consequently, many physicians prescribed it for only mild pain, or even as a precaution for conditions that might be accompanied by some level of pain.
But in fact, Vicodin is just as addictive as any other type of opioid. In addition to its painkilling abilities, hydrocodone causes feelings of pleasure, relaxation and mild euphoria that users find very alluring.
Now that physicians know the truth, they are being more careful about handing out prescriptions. But Vicodin is still highly effective against chronic pain, which has helped it retain its popularity with both doctors and patients.
This drug can be used safely. But exceeding recommended doses, or taking it without a prescription, is risky behavior that could leave you addicted and unable to control your Vicodin consumption.
Vicodin works by linking with opioid receptors in the brain. The human body can manufacture its own opioids, in response to pain, and these receptors are designed to connect with these endogenous products. But opioid receptors do not discriminate and will bind with any opioid molecules they encounter, including those in medications like hydrocodone.
While they share similar chemical structures, naturally-produced opioids are less powerful than opioid medications. Vicodin will provoke a stronger pain-killing response from opioid receptors, enough to take the edge off of pain that endogenous opioids cannot counteract. Opioids also trigger the release of the neurochemical dopamine, which is what causes the pleasurable sensations associated with Vicodin consumption.
None of this is especially disturbing, as long as doses of Vicodin are carefully controlled. But if you begin taking more Vicodin than you should, two things will happen. First, your brain’s opioid receptors will adjust to the presence of so much hydrocodone, and they will gradually lose their sensitivity to its effects. This will force you to boost your Vicodin consumption to compensate, causing your Vicodin dependence to blossom.
The second result of excessive Vicodin use is an escalating desire for the pleasurable effects caused by dopamine. You’ll crave the euphoric feelings this chemical can cause, and once that happens you’ll have another incentive to keep increasing the size and frequency of your Vicodin doses.
Eventually, it becomes almost impossible to function without heavy quantities of Vicodin. Brain chemistry becomes seriously altered, and you are no longer able to gain any satisfaction from Vicodin unless you’re consuming levels that are neither safe nor sustainable.
The fall into Vicodin dependence is a slippery slope. As your addiction deepens, you’ll become trapped by a pattern of behavior that only makes the problem worse. Your descent into the abyss will accelerate, reinforced by decision-making that becomes increasingly compulsive and uncontrollable. Without Vicodin rehabilitation, you may be unable to reverse course and turn your life around.
Most men and women who receive prescriptions for Vicodin listen to their doctors and limit their doses. But others become so enamored of the drug’s effects that they push beyond the limits. They take more than they’re supposed to, to deal with some residual pain, or simply because they like the way it makes them feel.
They may convince themselves that this is okay, and not risky as long as they don’t exceed recommended doses by much. But they underestimate hydrocodone’s addictive power. Soon their Vicodin abuse will carry them into the danger zone and into Vicodin dependence.
Some people who suffer from severe pain don’t go to the doctor for help. Or they do see a physician but become dissatisfied with the course of treatment, which does not remove all of their pain. In these instances, some men and women will self-medicate with Vicodin, which isn’t hard to do since the drug is so widely available. Their friends or family may have bottles of it sitting around, or they may have some of it themselves, left over from expired prescriptions. They may even know where to find it on the black market.
No matter how cautious they try to be, they are putting themselves at grave risk for Vicodin addiction with this type of behavior. There simply is no way a person can properly regulate their Vicodin consumption without medical supervision. If they try, the chances are great that they will use too much of it and become Vicodin dependent.
In some instances, people use Vicodin for reasons that have nothing to do with medical need. Instead, they use it because of its mind-altering side effects. They often use it in combination with other drugs or alcohol, in order to increase the intensity of the high or enhance the feelings of relaxation.
Recreational Vicodin abuse alone is hazardous enough. But when it’s used in combination with other intoxicants, the risks of addiction and drug overdose will skyrocket. Recreational opioid abuse leads many people to heroin, which highlights how dangerous this reckless this behavior really is.
Vicodin is expected to produce some side effects, even if taken as prescribed. But ever-escalating consumption will bring new and more intense Vicodin side effects, signaling your slide into addiction.
The most common Vicodin addiction symptoms include:
- Frequent drowsiness
- Mental confusion or detachment
- Memory problems
- Poor coordination
- Slow heart rate
- Nausea and vomiting
- Unexplained muscle cramps or pains
- Trouble urinating
- Fatigue, lethargy
- Bouts of agitation or anxiety
- Shallow breathing or respiratory difficulties
If you experience these symptoms and have been gradually increasing your consumption of Vicodin, there is reason for concern.
One of the most disturbing and frightening signs of Vicodin addiction is an overdose. Almost 50,000 people in the United States died from an opioid overdose in 2017, and many of these unfortunate victims were abusing Vicodin in combination with alcohol, benzodiazepines, cocaine and other intoxicants.
Vicodin overdose symptoms include overwhelming grogginess, unresponsiveness, a loss of coordination and balance, nausea and vomiting, dilated pupils, lips turning blue, low blood pressure and respiratory distress.
If you don’t get help when these symptoms first appear, you could pay the ultimate price. Of course, the best way to save yourself from a Vicodin overdose is to seek help from a Vicodin rehab facility before anything this drastic happens.
Under standards listed in the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the criteria for diagnosing Vicodin addiction include the following behavioral and emotional symptoms:
- Vicodin use is often heavier than planned.
- Using and obtaining Vicodin, and recovering from its abuse, has become overly time-consuming.
- Cravings for Vicodin are frequently experienced.
- Vicodin use is linked to a variety of social and interpersonal difficulties.
- Important personal, familial, occupational and educational responsibilities are neglected because of Vicodin abuse.
- Vicodin use has led to reckless or physically dangerous behaviors.
- Abuse of Vicodin is connected to the development of serious physical and mental health disorders.
- Favorite hobbies and other enjoyable activities have been abandoned in favor of Vicodin abuse.
- Attempts to reduce Vicodin consumption have been made, but have all proven unsuccessful.
- Growing tolerance for Vicodin has led to increased usage.
- Withdrawal symptoms are experienced when Vicodin is not taken for a few hours.
The severity of your Vicodin addiction will depend on how many symptoms you report.
Half of all people with Vicodin addiction will have co-occurring mental health disorders or additional substance use disorders. So, medical professionals who evaluate you for Vicodin addiction will screen for these conditions at the same time.
Vicodin withdrawal symptoms will likely be experienced approximately six to eight hours after use of the drug ceases or is significantly reduced. They will peak in intensity within 48-72 hours and endure at levels that cause physical and emotional discomfort for a week or longer.
The most frequently experienced Vicodin withdrawal symptoms include:
- Anxiety and agitation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle aches
- Heavy sweating
- Racing or uncontrollable thoughts
- Lack of energy
- Chills and other fever-like symptoms
- Powerful cravings
Needless to say, experiencing such symptoms for several days could be enough to destroy anyone’s determination to stay clean and sober. But the worst of Vicodin withdrawal symptoms can be avoided, through your participation in a medically-supervised detox program.
The main purpose of detox is to help patients reach a sustainable level of physical and emotional stability, to prepare them to receive addiction treatment. The best Vicodin rehab facilities offer detox services onsite, in clinical settings where all of your medical needs can be addressed and monitored on a 24-hour basis. Addiction specialists and mental health professionals will be available to meet with you at all times, and physicians, nurses, physicians and support staff will provide any additional healthcare services you require.
If your addiction to Vicodin is mild to moderate, you may begin to taper off the drug during detox, at a reasonable pace that prevents the appearance of significant Vicodin withdrawal side effects. Or, alternatively, you may be given a maintenance medication called buprenorphine, which you can take as a replacement for Vicodin. This opioid satisfies Vicodin cravings but without causing euphoria, changing the psychological dynamics of addiction and making your transition to full sobriety easier.
You will still have to taper your opioid consumption over time, as you pass through detox, treatment and aftercare. But studies show that buprenorphine use decreases the chances of eventual relapse. Since it doesn’t cause euphoria, buprenorphine won’t reinforce your addiction and will therefore be easier to give up completely.
Other medications administered in opioid detox include methadone, which traditionally has been taken as a replacement drug for heroin, and clonidine and lofexidine, two non-opioids that can reduce the intensity of Vicodin withdrawal symptoms.
Detox programs generally last from a week to 10 days, after which you’ll be officially admitted as a patient in your chosen Vicodin rehab facility.
Once you’ve been admitted, you’ll spend between one and three months in your Vicodin rehab facility. Inpatient or outpatient treatment programs will both be available, and your choice will depend on your personal preferences and medical needs.
In either inpatient or outpatient treatment, your recovery plan will be comprehensive and diverse. It will include services for mental health disorders, if they’ve been diagnosed in addition to your drug dependency.
Your Vicodin addiction treatment plan will include a mixture of:
- Individual therapy. With your counselor you’ll work through any personal, psychological or emotional issues that made you susceptible to drug dependency.
- Group therapy. This involves counseling sessions shared with peers who can give you advice, understanding and acceptance.
- Family therapy. Loved ones can boost your chances of recovery by offering unconditional love and moral support.
- Life skills and relapse prevention classes. You’ll emerge from these sessions with more self-comprehension and better ideas about how to cope with life’s stresses.
- Instruction in holistic healing practices. Mind-body therapies like yoga, acupuncture, medication and biofeedback will help you manage stress and anxiety, which can easily sabotage your sobriety.
The top Vicodin rehab centers rely exclusively on evidence-based treatments with an established record of success. You’ll be in good and caring hands throughout your time in treatment, and as you transition into aftercare services at the end you’ll be well prepared to embrace your new drug-free lifestyle.
Before choosing a Vicodin rehab center, you’ll want to visit multiple institutions to make sure you find the one that offers the best combination of healing services.
Your needs are unique and your story is your own, and staff and administrators at the rehab you select will understand that and respect it. They will rely on proven treatment methodologies but still customize your treatment plan to ensure it gives you a great chance to find lasting sobriety.
You’ll ask many questions during your visits to Vicodin rehab centers, while seeking the input of your loved ones as well. The best addiction treatment professionals will welcome your questions and give you answers that leave you feeling hopeful and encouraged.
When you find the right Vicodin rehab facility for you, the choice will be obvious. The peace of mind you feel after that initial visit will stay with you as your treatment progresses, and it will be a major asset in your efforts to overcome your Vicodin dependence. Qualified treatment professionals can help you turn your life around once you’re ready to embrace the challenge.