The drug Vicodin is prescribed for people experiencing moderate to extreme pain. It is used for dental pain, post-surgery pain, and an opiate analgesic. It’s one of the cheapest opiates available within medical plans compared to other opioid pain killers. The active ingredient in Vicodin, hydrocodone, is an opioid and considered a narcotic. It effectively reduces pain as it blocks pain receptors in the brain.
The medication works in the brain to manipulate how the body feels and responds to pain. But Vicodin can negatively affect 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 addiction, most people will require professional detox and rehabilitation.
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. Here at Ashwood Recovery, we provide resources for family and friends to help them learn about and confront the epidemic of drug prescription abuse.
What Is Vicodin Exactly?
Vicodin is the name of an opioid pain medication comprised of hydrocodone and paracetamol. It’s also known as hydrocodone/acetaminophen and hydrocodone/APAP. Generic and brand names for Vicodin include:
- Vicodin ES
- Vicodin HP
- Anexsia (this brand has been discontinued)
- Lorcet Plus
Vicodin’s combination is a formula of opioid and non-opioid analgesic acetaminophen. Its main use and why it’s prescribed so much is to relieve 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 causes you not to feel pain. It also gives you a sense of euphoria, which 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.
Vicodin Abuse and Addiction
Drug addiction in Vicodin is high because of the euphoric effects. Not only will the person stop feeling pain, but it also enhances dopamine action. 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 some dependency in just one week. Abuse of Vicodin can easily and quickly become an addiction. Snorting Vicodin increases the intensity of euphoria because it surges through the blood quickly. However, this does come with risks, 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 people are 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.
Why Vicodin Addiction Occurs
Vicodin is no different from the other opioid pain killers prescribed, and the addiction risks are the same. Vicodin will change the function of the area of the brain known as the reward pathway. The part of the brain is responsible for producing the good feelings we experience, like satisfaction and pleasure. Drug abusers will end up using drugs 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 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.
Symptoms of Vicodin Abuse and Signs of Withdrawal
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 blur in vision can occur
- Ringing ears
- Constricted pupils
Because of its potency, individuals using Vicodin can quickly develop a tolerance to the medication. This dependency leads them to use more of the drug more frequently or in higher doses. It also causes changes to their brain chemistry, making it exceedingly difficult to function in a normal fashion without the drug. This is how addiction the disease of addiction develops. Individuals experience withdrawal symptoms when their body doesn’t have enough of the substance it’s become reliant upon. Some Vicodin withdrawal symptoms include:
- Aching muscles
- Stomach pains
- Pain is likely to return and will be worse than before
- Panic attacks
- Cold sweats
- Flu-like symptoms