Hydrocodone Addiction, Statistics, Abuse, Symptoms & Side Effects

What is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone belongs in a group of drugs called narcotic pain relievers and is typically prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. Hydrocodone functions in relieving pain by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, thus blocking pain reception. First synthesized in Germany in 1920, Hydrocodone was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for sale in the United States in 1943.

It was later discovered that the effects of hydrocodone could be maximized if combined with another non-opioid substance, such as acetaminophen. For this reason, hydrocodone is typically compounded with other substances to provide a possible synergy of painkilling effects. Hydrocodone is always combined with another medication when sold commercially in the United States.

Trademark names of hydrocodone compounds include Vicodin and Lortab. Hydrocodone has the potential to be habit-forming and can easily be misused, causing many negative complications. Having awareness of some of the dangers, signs, and symptoms of Hydrocodone abuse can be helpful in treating the addiction early.

Hydrocodone Treatment and Help

A hydrocodone addiction or subsequent abuse of painkillers is a destructive habit that can result in several negative consequences. If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to hydrocodone, the first step towards overcoming this is by identifying that there is a problem; next is to research hydrocodone rehab centers that can break the addiction and withdrawal symptoms. Having the help from a professional treatment center and team is crucial to dealing with the complications that may have resulted from hydrocodone abuse. An addiction to hydrocodone can be overwhelming and devastating to deal with, but fortunately, you do not have to be alone. Getting the help you need will allow for the best care and treatment, and ultimately, give you the tools you need to overcome this addiction.

Hydrocodone Addiction Statistics

Opiate based drugs, such as Hydrocodone, have been the most frequently reported drugs in the non-medical use category of emergency department visits [1]. Other statistics, such as the following, reveal the devastating nature of a Hydrocodone addiction:

  • In 2009, 1.2 million ED visits involved the non-medical use of pharmaceuticals or dietary supplements [1].
  • Hydrocodone, alone or in combination with other drugs, such as acetaminophine, was reported for over 100,000 emergency room visits [1].

A hydrocodone addiction can result in life-altering consequences, but having the right resources and tools can be instrumental in achieving recovery.

Causes of Hydrocodone Addiction

An addiction to hydrocodone could occur for several reasons. While superficially, it may seem that a hydrocodone addiction arose out of a simple need or strong desire for the drug, there are often major underlying issues connected to this substance abuse. Examples of this could be biologically, social, or psychological. There may be some genetic factors that are linked to drug addiction, and this would be a biological reason for an addiction to hydrocodone. A hydrocodone addiction might also be an attempt to “numb” emotional pain caused from psychological trauma, feelings of anxiety or depression, or instances of abuse. In these cases, these would be psychological causes of an addiction to hydrocodone. Finally, societal or environmental situations can increase the likelihood that a man or woman might abuse hydrocodone. These types of situations would be extreme poverty, homelessness, or family and friends who have regular access to the drug. An addiction to hydrocodone can be influenced by one or more of these factors and can also be co-occurring with other addictions or disorders, such as an eating disorder or alcohol abuse. The nature of addiction has similar causes; therefore, it is common to find that an individual who struggles with a hydrocodone addiction may abuse other substances as well.

Signs and Symptoms of a Hydrocodone Addiction

If you or a loved one is concerned that you might be suffering with an addiction to hydrocodone, it might be helpful to look for these signs and symptoms of abuse. While not all individuals display the same signs, you might notice one or more of the below symptoms in the case of an addiction to hydrocodone:

  • Increased isolation or withdrawal to use the drug in secret
  • Repetitive thoughts about using hydrocodone
  • Experience of “phantom pains” when drug is not in use
  • Secretly storing or hiding the drug to avoid disclosure
  • Unnecessary prescriptions for hydrocodone
  • Agitated or restless behaviors

Look for these signs and symptoms to identify if you or a loved one is dealing with a hydrocodone addiction.

Hydrocodone Effects

Addiction to hydrocodone can cause several short and long term consequences on the abuser. These consequences can impact a man or woman physically, psychologically, and socially. The following are ways that hydrocodone can influence the many facets of a user’s life.

Physical effects of hydrocodone addiction – The abuse of the drug hydrocodone can physically compromise the behaviors of the body by interfering with normal mechanisms. Here are some negative physical consequences resulting from using the drug hydrocodone:

  • Nausea, stomach pain, or loss of appetite
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Unusual thoughts or behavior, confusion
  • Compromised mental function
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Liver damage

Psychological effects from using hydrocodone – Abusing hydrocodone can also have negative impacts on mental health. Here are some negative psychological and mental effects from abusing hydrocodone:

  • Altered perception of reality
  • Personality shifts
  • Low self-esteem, negative body image
  • Feelings of anger, rage
  • Increased anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Confusion, disorientation
  • Paranoia

Hydrocodone abuse social effects – The abuse of hydrocodone can result in multiple negative social effects. These can include the following:

  • Withdrawal, isolation from friends and family
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Damaged relationships with loved ones
  • Division or brokenness within a family unit

Hydrocodone Withdrawal

If a man or woman addicted to hydrocodone should stop taking the drug abruptly, severe withdrawal symptoms could occur as the body has become dependent on it. The following are some of the symptoms that might be experienced by a hydrocodone abuser should the drug be discontinued:

  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Muscle Pain
  • Flu-like Symptoms
  • Seizures/Tremors
  • Depression

Any individual who has become dependent on hydrocodone is at risk for relapse once withdrawn from the drug. This means that there could be reoccurring use of the drug after a period of abstinence from using it. Relapsing can be common for men and women attempting to “stay clean” from hydrocodone for the first time. Having the support of a hydrocodone treatment facility can prevent relapse prevention and create long-term success for recovery.


[1]: http://www.drugabuse.gov/sites/default/files/hospitalvisits.pdf

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 13, 2013
Published on AddictionHope.com, Help Guide for Substance Abuse Treatment