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The Effects of Hydrocodone Use

  1. Article Quick LinksPrint
  2. Short-term Effects of Hydrocodone
  3. Side Effects
  4. Long-term Effects of Hydrocodone
  5. Hydrocodone Dependency
  6. Hydrocodone Withdrawal Treatment

Widely prescribed for pain relief, hydrocodone is the active component of many of the so-called painkillers that have alarming abuse potential and an unfortunately high rate of diversion into the illicit drug market.

Widely prescribed for pain relief, hydrocodone is the active component of many of the so-called “painkillers” that have alarming abuse potential and an unfortunately high rate of diversion into the illicit drug market.

Hydrocodone is a prescription medication sold under multiple brand names (e.g. Vicodin, Norco, Lortab, etc.) in combination with other analgesic or anti-inflammatory medication, including acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Doctors prescribe this opioid drug for pain relief. When taken long-term and/or in excessive doses, hydrocodone users are at high risk of dependency. When taken appropriately—as pain relief for limited periods of time, adhering to a physician prescription—the risk of opiate addiction is minimized.

Hydrocodone Effects Quiz question 1

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that 20 percent of Americans have taken prescription drugs for non-medical reasons, and this type of abuse is on the rise. If you or someone you know has been showing any signs of addiction as a result of taking hydrocodone without a prescription, you can get help by calling 1-800-943-0566. Our helpful staff will provide you with more information about hydrocodone abuse, addiction and treatment.

Prescriptions of hydrocodone-containing drugs by year

United States

Hydrocodone/acetaminophen has been the most dispensed prescription in the US every year from 2006-2010. (source)


Average cost of hydrocodone

  • Vicodin: 30 tablets hydrocodone/acetaminophen 5mg/325mg, $9-14 (source)
  • Vicoprofen: 90 tablets hydrocodone/ibuprofen 7.5mg/200mg, $90-130
  • Zohydro ER: 60 capsules hydrocodone 20mg, $470-530

Legal penalties involving hydrocodone

  • Hydrocodone itself is classified as a Schedule II drug. The DEA has recently moved combination hydrocodone-containing products such as Vicodin from Schedule III to Schedule II, a more restrictive classification. (source)
  • Trafficking in a Schedule II drug such as hydrocodone can carry a federal sentence of up to 20 years imprisonment and a $1 million fine. (source) State penalties for possession of Schedule II drugs can include prison sentences of up to 15 years. (source) (source 2)
  • The effects of hydrocodone medications can be a factor in impaired driving, leading to DUI charges. (source)

Hydrocodone Effects Quiz question 2

Short-term Effects of Hydrocodone

In the short-term, effects of hydrocodone are primarily to moderate pain signaling in your central nervous system through interaction with your body's numerous opioid receptors. As is a pain reliever, hydrocodone doesn't so much decrease the cause of pain as it does the mindfulness of the pain signal itself. Many abuse hydrocodone in the absence of pain at all, however, and do so because of its ability to cause a rewarding high. Even when used for pain management, though, some users report a secondary sense of mild euphoria.

As a great weapon in pain management, hydrocodone also produces a dose-dependent and rewarding high, which proves troublesome as it reinforces dependency.

As a great weapon in pain management, hydrocodone also produces a dose-dependent and rewarding high – this becomes troublesome as it reinforces dependency.

One must keep in mind that this is a prescription medication, so doctors prescribe it for patients who are experiencing some type of pain, possibly chronic, and looking for relief. Hydrocodone brings the much-desired relief and, as a side-effect for some, a pleasurable high that interacts with the brains reward circuitry – both effects help to explain why it is easy to become addicted or dependent on hydrocodone and other opiate drugs.

Side Effects

Some patients experience mild side effects when they take hydrocodone. These symptoms in isolation are usually not life-threatening and quite manageable (especially in the face of needed pain relief). They can include:

  • Anxiety / Dysphoria
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Trouble sleeping / nightmares
  • Diffuse muscle weakness
  • Itchiness (secondary to histamine release)

Some of the more serious side effects of hydrocodone require medical care and can include:

  • Bowel obstruction
  • Breathing problems
  • Slowed or irregular heartbeat
  • Severe allergic reaction such as rash, hives, itching or swelling
  • Trouble urinating
  • Vomiting

Hydrocodone Effects Quiz question 3

Serious health complications and persistent side effects may mean it's time to see a doctor, and these issues can also indicate a hydrocodone abuse problem. If you or a loved one has a drug abuse problem, call 1-800-943-0566 to speak with one of our compassionate counselors about treatment options.

Hydrocodone Effects Quiz question 4

Synaptic Effects of Hydrocodone

Long-term Effects of Hydrocodone

Addiction may be one of the most dangerous long-term effects of hydrocodone use. Hydrocodone is an opiate, or narcotic, similar to codeine, heroin and morphine. These kinds of substances are particularly risky, because you can become addicted even when you are taking them as recommended by your doctor. Repeated use of hydrocodone frequently leads to tolerance, so you will need to take more of the drug in order to get the same effect. Tolerance can easily lead to addiction, which happens when your substance abuse begins to have a negative impact on your everyday activities.

Long-term effects of hydrocodone use can include physical problems, such as hearing loss and liver damage, but the most damaging result of being addicted to hydrocodone may be its adverse effect on your personal life. Drug addiction can wreak havoc on family relationships, cause difficulties with job performance and lead to mental health problems. If you are experiencing personal troubles associated with hydrocodone use, you may have an addiction. Call 1-800-943-0566 today, and learn where to find help with prescription drug abuse.

Hydrocodone Effects Quiz question 5

Hydrocodone Dependency

Hydrocodone dependency happens when a person cannot function normally without taking the drug. If you or someone you love exhibits any of the following signs and symptoms, dependence on hydrocodone can be suspected:

  • Taking too much of the drug at one time
  • Not following your doctor's instructions when taking medication
  • Mixing hydrocodone with alcohol or other drugs
  • Continuing to take the substance when it is no longer medically needed
  • Using hydrocodone without a prescription

Addiction to hydrocodone presents a unique and troublesome circumstance because it is a legal substance that is typically prescribed by a medical professional. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that doctors gave out nearly 140 million prescriptions for products containing hydrocodone in 2010, putting hydrocodone at the top of the list of prescribed opiates in the United States.

Drug dependence is a serious illness, and like other sicknesses, it requires treatment to overcome the problem. It is never too late to seek help for a substance abuse problem, and there are a number of choices when it comes to treating an addiction to hydrocodone.


Credit: Howcast

Hydrocodone Withdrawal Treatment

Withdrawal from hydrocodone can cause a number of physical, emotional and mental symptoms, so going through the process in a reputable treatment center is recommended. Detox centers offer both inpatient and outpatient services, but inpatient rehab centers may be better suited to dealing with the effects of opiate withdrawal.

The physical effects vary from person to person and depend on a number of factors, including how long you have been taking the drug. Common withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Constant shivering
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Intense sweating
  • Nausea
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Severe pain
  • Vomiting

Withdrawal from long-term hydrocodone use can be very unpleasantdescribed as flu-like symptoms, by somebut is not life-threatening.

Withdrawal from long-term hydrocodone use can be very unpleasant—described as flu-like symptoms, by some—but is not life-threatening.

Any one of these symptoms may be enough to send a user back to the drug for relief, and that is why inpatient detox centers are a safe, caring and effective place to deal with hydrocodone withdrawal. To help a Hydrocodone addict, call our helpline at 1-800-943-0566 for more information.

Hydrocodone Effects Quiz question 6

Some treatment programs administer medication to ease the patient's withdrawal, but this is strictly controlled and used only for a short period of time. The most important part of treatment involves discovering why you became addicted and how you can live without the substance in the future. Behavioral therapy can help drug users retrain their minds and teach them new ways to deal with pain and other circumstances that led to substance abuse. No matter what the cause or severity of an addiction to hydrocodone, help is always available. Make a big step toward your future life by calling 1-800-943-0566 today.

Need Help Understanding Your Addiction Treatment Options? Call 1-888-747-7155.