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Vicodin (Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen) Abuse and Addiction

The drug Vicodin is prescribed for people experiencing moderate to extreme pain. It's made of up hydrocodone and acetaminophen and has been a widely abused painkiller mostly due to accessibility.

It is used for dental pain, post-surgery pain, and as an opiate analgesic. It's one of the cheapest opiates available within medical plans compared to other opioid pain killers. This is especially true for the generic hydrocodone.

The working ingredient in Vicodin, hydrocodone, is an opioid and considered a narcotic. It is effective for reducing pain as it blocks pain receptors in the brain.

The drug works in the brain to manipulate how the body feels and responds to pain. The acetaminophen is a non-opioid pain reliever that reduces fever. Vicodin is negatively affecting patients because it creates a rapid tolerance, alters the brain at a cellular level, and causes uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Vicodin will often be abused which can lead to addiction. Once it gets to the point of addiction, most people will require professional detox and rehabilitation.

Although the medical industry has acknowledged the possibility of abuse and addiction, Vicodin is still being prescribed at high frequency. Studies are showing that prescriptions for hydrocodone and Vicodin have increased in recent years. When Vicodin is prescribed as a short-term solution, it's effective. It's the long-term use that is causing the addiction and health problems. Resources for family and friends are widely available because of the epidemic of drug prescription abuse.

Vicodin Addiction

What is Vicodin Exactly?

Vicodin is the name of an opioid pain medication that is comprised of hydrocodone and paracetamol. It's also known as hydrocodone/acetaminophen and hydrocodone/APAP. Vicodin's combination is a formula of opioid and non-opioid analgesic acetaminophen. Its main use and why it's prescribed so much is for the relief of moderate to extreme pain. The type of pain it can reduce could be acute or chronic, along with post-op pain. Vicodin comes in a pill form with different strengths. In 2014, the DEA rescheduled any drug with a hydrocodone combination. It went from a schedule III to schedule II as they've found Vicodin has been abused so widely.

The hydrocodone in Vicodin blocks pain receptors in the brain which is what causes you to not feel pain. It also gives you a sense of euphoria which is what makes Vicodin a drug of choice to abuse. Vicodin can be harmful to your liver when it's taken for a long time. This can cause liver failure, jaundice and issues with your urinary system. Vicodin is a depressant so it will naturally slow your heart rate down.

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Generic and Brand Names for Vicodin

  • Hydrocodone/acetaminophen
  • Vicodin ES
  • Vicodin HP
  • Anexsia (this brand has been discontinued)
  • Lortab
  • Lorcet
  • Lorcet Plus
  • Norco
  • Zydone
  • Hycet
  • Stagesic
  • Verdrocet
  • Xodol
  • Zamicet
  • Zolvit
  • Maxidone

Addiction Statistics for Vicodin Abuse and Addiction

In the past 15 years, there have been many high profile cases involving Vicodin drug abuse and addiction. Eminem was addicted to Vicodin for years and nearly overdosed in his home. Brett Favre, a pro football player was abusing Vicodin when he was prescribed the drug for post-surgery pain. Drug treatment facilities, the medical industry and addiction experts all agree, Vicodin addiction has hit epic proportions. Here are alarming facts about drug addiction and abuse with Vicodin;

  • Close to two million people in the U.S. are addicted to Vicodin.
  • A 2008 survey said that 1 in 10 young adults in the U.S. had used prescription painkillers by the time they made it to their senior year.
  • Abuse of Vicodin in the U.S. has quadrupled in a decade.

Becoming Addicted to the Vicodin High

Drug addiction in Vicodin is high because of the euphoric effects. Not only will the person stop feeling pain but it enhances dopamine action as well. This triggers feelings of pleasure and gives people a nice high. Vicodin is an opioid and is chemically related to heroin. Its addictive qualities are so strong that it can cause dependency in just one week for some. Abuse of Vicodin can easily and quickly become addiction. By snorting Vicodin, it increases the intensity of euphoria because it surges through the blood quickly. This does come with risks however and it's possible to overdose, fall into a coma, or die this way.

Accidental addiction can occur with prescription painkillers like Vicodin because people are not on guard. If a doctor gives a patient a drug, regardless of warnings, there is less severity of using the drug for pain relief.

As a person is dealing with their pain, they may unknowingly become physically dependent on the drug. They will get strong mental cravings regardless of how it negatively influences their life. The realization that they have built a tolerance isn't there until they run out of pills and begin to go through withdrawal.

Symptoms of Vicodin Abuse

If a person takes too much Vicodin, the heart rate may slow down to the point that there is no oxygen getting to the brain. This is where death can occur or the person may fall into a coma. Symptoms of drug abuse in Vicodin where more is ingested than is prescribed may include the following:

  • Abnormally slow heartbeat
  • The person may become confused
  • The person may become afraid
  • Seizures or convulsions may occur along with nausea and vomiting
  • A blue in vision can occur
  • Ringing ears
  • Constricted pupils

Recreational Vicodin Abuse

Many people are trying Vicodin dosages without having a prescription to the drug. Recreational Vicodin abuse has gotten worse over the years because it's so easy to obtain. Many teens will try opioid drugs like Vicodin as they can easily get them from the medicine cabinet or purchase them online. It's particularly enticing for recreational use because its opioid effects gives people a true high.

In the years 2009 and 2010, hydrocodone was the one of the most encountered opioid prescription drugs found in drug evidence based on DEA reports.

The problem with recreational hydrocodone/apap is mixing it with other substances. This has been the cause of many overdoses. If you know someone who is abusing Vicodin, you'll want to intervene before it's too late.

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Why Vicodin Addiction Occurs

Vicodin is no different from the other opioid pain killers that are being prescribed and the addiction risks are the same. Vicodin will change the function of the area of the brain known as the reward pathway. It's the part of the brain that is responsible for producing the good feelings we experience like satisfaction and pleasure. Drug abusers will end up using drugs in order to obtain euphoric feelings. This is considered a reward pathway. You get the same reward sensation through accomplishments or awards you've won through hard work. It helps us to feel good and normal and can be a huge motivator.

Painkillers and other drugs, including Vicodin will constantly interfere with how your reward pathway should work. In time, nothing will feel good except for a fix of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. If you try to quit, you'll have serious emotional lows because your brain has stopped producing the happy “reward” on its own. This is where the chemical dependency comes from and where Vicodin addiction is formed.

The Risks of Increased Tolerance in Vicodin

When someone consistently uses Vicodin, they increase tolerance to hydrocodone. Regardless of the prescription, the user will increase the Vicodin dosage past what they were prescribed to achieve the same effect on their pain (or to get high.) There are risks in drug tolerance because the side effects of hydrocodone will increase as the doses get higher. Also, when a person takes higher doses of Vicodin, they are also taking more acetaminophen in the body. This makes it easier to overdose on hydrocodone and can also cause irreversible liver damage.

Hydrocodone/Acetaminophen Side Effects

When someone is taking Vicodin, there are two different medications involved which puts a person at a greater risk of side effects. Hydrocodone impairs thinking and it's not recommended a person drive or operate machinery. Breathing can become depressed, especially for the aging. It can lead to serious lung disease and is also habit forming. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage when used excessively. This is especially the case if it's combined chronically with alcohol or drugs that harm the function of the liver. These are the most common side effects:

  • Dizzy, drowsy, or light-headedness.
  • A person is sedated so reactions are slower.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Constipation or difficulty urinating.

Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Aching muscles
  • Stomach pains
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Pain is likely to return and will be worse than before
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Cold sweats
  • Tremors
  • Symptoms that are flu-like

Differences Between Vicodin vs. Percocet

Both Vicodin and Percocet are powerful prescription opioid painkillers. The main difference is that while Vicodin has hydrocodone as one of the ingredients, Percocet has oxycodone for an opioid pain blocker. They both belong in the same class as morphine which is schedule II. They are equally risky when it comes to physical and psychological dependence. There are many similarities with Vicodin and Percocet and are often prescribed for similar health problems.

When it comes to price between Vicodin vs. Percocet, the generic version of Vicodin is usually cheaper within most medical plans. When a study compared the drugs, they found that Percocet was 1.5 times more potent than hydrocodone when taken in equal doses.

Vicodin Ingredients:

  • Vicodin tablets: 300 mg of acetaminophen with 5 mg, 7.5 mg, or 10 mg hydrocodone
  • Generic tablets: 300 mg or 325 mg of acetaminophen with 2.5 mg, 5 mg, 7.5 mg, or 10 mg hydrocodone
  • Generic liquid: 325 mg acetaminophen with 7.5 mg or 10 mg hydrocodone per 15 mL

Percocet Ingredients:

  • Percocet tablets: 325 mg of acetaminophen with 2.5 mg, 5 mg, 7.5 mg, or 10 mg oxycodone
  • Generic tablets: 300 mg or 325 mg of acetaminophen with 2.5 mg, 5 mg, 7.5 mg, or 10 mg oxycodone
  • Generic liquid: 325 mg acetaminophen and 5 mg oxycodone for every 5 mL

Side effects between Vicodin vs. Percocet are mainly the same but the hydrocodone found in Vicodin is more likely to cause constipation. When it comes to drug interactions, Vicodin and Percocet are quite similar. The effects of mixing with other medications, vitamins, supplements, or substances can be highly dangerous. When taking Vicodin, an additional risk is mixing it with MAOI's like selegiline or phenelzine. This risk doesn't occur with Percocet.

What to do if Someone You Know Is Abusing Vicodin

The signs of Vicodin addiction are pretty obvious for people close to the addict. They will often nod off in the middle of conversations, and are irritable and tired. They continue to take the drug even though you know their injuries have healed. The side effects that occur alongside with Vicodin will get worse. You may notice more extreme symptoms like incoherent sedation or passing out.

If this is happening to someone you know, you may wish to seek help for them. The discomfort of the withdrawal symptoms may make it challenging for them to quit alone.

Addiction specialists can help someone you know with their Vicodin abuse. Sometimes medical detox assistance is necessary while other times, it may just take holistic healing and 12-step treatment.

You may need to approach the person abusing Vicodin. An intervention is usually the best way to effectively help someone. This is because an addiction professional knows how an addicts mind works. They have no emotional ties to the situation so they can maintain a calm environment. It may seem hard at the time but this is how you help someone who's suffering from Vicodin addiction.

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