Vicodin Addiction, Statistics, Abuse, Symptoms & Side Effects

What is Vicodin?

Vicodin is a commonly prescribed narcotic drug that can create sensations such as calm or euphoria, mimicking the effects of heroin or morphine. Vicodin is a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen and intended to provide relief for moderate to severe pain. The drug works in the body by blocking pain receptors in the brain but can also produce a sense of euphoria, which can make the drug highly addictive. While Vicodin is regulated by state and federal law, it is not as closely controlled as other potent painkillers. This minimal regulation has made Vicodin more easily accessible through over-prescription, forged prescriptions, and theft, increasing the widespread abuse of the drug. Street names of the drug Vicodin include “hydros”, “vikes”, “V”, and “Watson 387”. When used for recreational purposes, Vicodin is typically crushed into a powder form and snorted or injected in order to achieve a “high” more rapidly. While the sense of euphoria attained when abusing Vicodin may temporarily create feelings of happiness and satisfaction, serious physical complications can result from misuse. A Vicodin addiction does not only result in physical effects but psychological and social as well.

Vicodin Abuse Statistics

Vicodin addiction is a widespread illness that affects a variety of people of various ages and demographics. Statistics on Vicodin abuse reveal the severity of this detrimental behavior:

  • In 2009, surveys revealed that 16 million Americans age 12 and older had used a prescription pain reliever for nonmedical purposes at least once in the year [1].
  • The Monitoring the Future Study of 2010 revealed that 2.7% of 8th graders, 7.7% of 10th graders, and 8.0% of 12th graders had abused Vicodin [2].
  • Vicodin addiction cost Americans over $484 billion annually. This includes the cost for healthcare, lost job wages, crime and the associated criminal justice system costs, and traffic accidents [Need Reference].
  • Vicodin abuse in the United States alone has nearly quadrupled within the last 10 years [1].
  • Almost 23,000 individuals across the United States engaged in the recreational use of Vicodin, according to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) [1].

Causes of Vicodin Addiction

Addiction to Vicodin could have several origins. Many factors could influence the progression of Vicodin addiction, and include causes that are biological, psychological, and/or social in nature. For example, a man or woman could have a genetic predisposition to drug addiction, and this would make them more likely to abuse Vicodin. Psychological causes, such as abuse or underlying trauma, could influence an individual to become addicted to a painkiller, such as Vicodin. Social factors might include one’s environment, living conditions, or previous exposure to the drug from friends and family. Vicodin might originally be sought to alleviate pain, whether physical and emotional, and as tolerance is built toward the drug, it becomes necessary to take more to feel the numbing effects. This is usually the beginning of the vicious cycle of a Vicodin addition, and professional help is necessary to help break these behaviors.

Signs and Symptoms of Vicodin Addiction

A Vicodin addiction can be identified by a variety of signs and symptoms. Are you concerned that you are struggling with an addiction to Vicodin? Do you believe that a loved one is stuck within the throes of Vicodin abuse? Review the following signs and symptoms to learn what is commonly revealed in a Vicodin addict:

  • “Nodding Out” – This is usually one of the first symptoms noticed by others. When a man or woman is addicted to Vicodin, they will appear to be in a daze and have difficulty focusing
  • Other Physical Side Effects – These include vomiting and nausea, severe mood swings, paranoia, blacking or passing out, inability to focus on a task or conversation, severe anxiety or depression and insomnia.
  • Obsession with Vicodin – Individuals who are addicted to Vicodin will become obsessed with the drug and act compulsively to obtain the drug
  • Relationship loss – Vicodin addicts will have difficulty in their personal life due to their incessant need for the drug, and their relationships will suffer as a result.
  • Attaining more Vicodin – Men and Women addicted to Vicodin will attempt to obtain prescriptions however they can and may begin stealing or fraudulently acquiring the drug.

Vicodin Effects

An addiction to Vicodin will result in consequences that negatively impact all areas of an abuser’s life, both short and long term. A Vicodin addiction does not create only physical effects, though this is a major aspect of the suffering involved. A person abusing Vicodin will also struggle with damaging outcomes to their social life, financial responsibilities, and relationships with family, and psychological health. Vicodin addicts will continue to experience these consequences until professional help is sought and appropriate treatment is received.

Vicodin Withdrawal

Opiate based drugs, such as Vicodin, can cause a physical dependence. Once an individual has become addicted to Vicodin, any reduction in the dose normally take can result detrimental consequences. Symptoms can vary from person to person depending on how long Vicodin has been used and the amount normally consumed. Withdrawal symptoms will typically being anywhere from 6-36 hours after the last use of the drug and can include the following:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle Aches

Withdrawal from Vicodin should take place under the supervision of medical professionals, as complications can occur. There are instances when physicians can prescribe approved drugs to help alleviate symptoms experienced during withdrawal from Vicodin. Clonidine is a common drug used to help decrease agitation, anxiety, muscle aching and cramping during the withdrawal period.

The duration of the withdrawal period will depend on the individual, severity of the Vicodin addiction, and length of time the drug was abused. Vicodin treatment programs often have the necessary resources to safely and efficiently withdraw from the drug and should be considered as part of the process.

Vicodin Treatment and Help

If you or a loved one is struggling with a Vicodin addiction, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Your life is valuable and worth of recovery and you are deserving of the freedom that is experienced apart from dependence on a drug. Though you might feel it may never be possible to live a peaceful life without Vicodin, take hope in knowing that recovery is always possible. With the right resources, tools, and support, you can be well on your way on the recovery journey towards freedom from Vicodin. Learn about rehab programs that work with Vicodin addictions. By receiving the help you need, you will ultimately have the ability to overcome this addiction.


[1]: National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Accessed 23 Jan 2013

[2]: Monitoring the Future, A continuing study of American Youth Accessed 23 Jan 2013

  • Vicodin is currently one of the most popular painkillers utilized by Americans across the US.  This is largely due to the effectiveness of Vicodin as a painkiller and the accessibility of the drug.  If not taken as prescribed, an addiction to Vicodin can rapidly develop.  The path to a Vicodin addiction can easily develop.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 19, 2014
Published on, Online Information About Substance Abuse