According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50 million Americans are currently living with chronic pain, which translates to 20 percent of the adult population. “Pain is a component of many chronic conditions, and chronic pain is emerging as a health concern on its own, with negative consequences to individual persons, their families, and society as a whole.”

Another 20 million have “high-impact chronic pain,” which is so severe that it frequently limits life and work activities. The high quantity of people suffering from chronic pain has contributed to the opioid crisis. Painkillers are sought out to treat debilitating problems, and drugs like hydrocodone have seemingly done more harm than good.

Hydrocodone is the active ingredient in popular prescription drugs such as Norco and Vicodin. It’s one of the most commonly prescribed opioid painkillers in the U.S. Hydrocodone is used to treat mild to moderate pain. It’s more beneficial than codeine, but not as potent as morphine. Individuals using hydrocodone to manage their pain have found it to be highly effective, but it can cause some users to have life-altering consequences.

One common misconception about hydrocodone is that it’s safe because a doctor prescribes it. The risk of abuse remains very high. Hydrocodone can take the pain away, but it can also create different types of pain brought on by addiction.

Statistics show that 75 percent of heroin users started out using prescription opioids. Becoming addicted to hydrocodone is very likely, even when used as prescribed. Once a substance use disorder has been developed, it can lead to deadly outcomes.

How Does Hydrocodone Work?

After someone consumes opioids, the drug enters the brain and binds to opioid receptors that we naturally produce. Natural opioids are neurotransmitters responsible for blocking nerve signals in the central nervous system (CNS), which is how your body regulates pain without medication. When opioids activate these receptors, they’re used for stronger pain symptoms.

Once the receptors are stimulated, they’re pushed into creating an overproduction of these pain blockers. The CNS is dramatically slowed down, which is when euphoria and pain relief take over. The pain receptors around the spinal cord and brainstem are blocked, which create a more effective way to relieve pain. This state will be accompanied by sedation and relaxation, so dopamine is responsible for the rush the user feels.

Dopamine is the facilitator of pleasure in the brain. It’s responsible for regulating cognition and emotions, including the way we process rewards. The effects that hydrocodone produce can push someone into becoming addicted, and the brain will eventually rewire itself to associate the use of hydrocodone with rewards.

What are the Signs of Hydrocodone Addiction?

The beginning stages of addiction are much more difficult to spot than one would think. It’s easy to overlook someone becoming addicted to hydrocodone because it carries a specific purpose.  Narcotic medications are used to treat pain. Even when used as prescribed, users can fall into the grips of an addiction. Therefore, they can start spiraling downward and show no outward signs of addiction when there’s damage occurring.

If you’re taking hydrocodone, it’s imperative to be familiar with the symptoms of opioid addiction. If you believe that you or a loved one has become addicted to the drug, early detection is vital for survival. If you’re not looking for the signs, they can fall under the radar.

Side effects will determine if an addiction to hydrocodone is becoming prevalent. Here are some of the most common physical and mental effects of hydrocodone abuse:

  • Rashes and itching
  • Dizziness
  • Constant drowsiness
  • Chronic constipation
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Difficult urination
  • Pinprick pupils

Occasionally, hydrocodone abuse leads to addiction without anyone realizing it until it’s too late. Unfortunately, it can all start spiraling out of control. Once someone reaches this point, there can be severe consequences.

Many factors separate symptoms of substance abuse result in uncontrollable addiction. The transition will often involve the person in question disregarding anything else in their lives. Obtaining hydrocodone will become the top priority in their life. As a direct result, friendships, family, and work obligations can start deteriorating.

The user will be consumed by the thought of having hydrocodone in their system, or by getting more if they run out. At this point, their behaviors will start becoming extremely unusual as a result of the addiction. The response is consistent with substance abuse as a whole, but opioids pose their own particular signs. They include:

  • Consuming hydrocodone without a prescription
  • Forging prescriptions
  • Shopping for doctors
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Developing an increased tolerance
  • Using savings or valuables to buy it
  • Isolating
  • Experiencing a decline in personal hygiene
  • Lying about hydrocodone use
  • Having an inability to function
  • Being unable to stop using it

What’s Involved in Addiction Treatment to Hydrocodone?

The first stage in addiction treatment is attending medical detoxification, which causes the removal of any and all toxins from the body. Detox ensures the body and mind are stable, and it prepares them for the next phase of treatment and recovery. Doctors and addiction specialists advise that patients never go through this process on your own. While hydrocodone withdrawal isn’t life-threatening, it can be uncomfortable and push someone right back into using the drug.

Upon successful completion of detox, the client has some options for placement. Depending on the severity of the addiction, placement can either involve a residential treatment center or an outpatient facility. These programs will offer access to therapies that allow them to seamlessly reintegrate into society. The therapies will get to the root of the addiction and help the client understand why they started using it in the first place.

Detox isn’t enough to prevent relapsing. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) mentions that at least90 days in treatment will yield the most success. If someone is taking sobriety seriously, they shouldn’t avoid the second phase.

How Dangerous is Hydrocodone?

Even if hydrocodone is prescribed, it can be dangerous when abused, especially since it can become a gateway drug to heroin and fentanyl.

If you suspect someone has overdosed on hydrocodone, you must call 911 immediately. Signs of an overdose can involve:

  • Clammy skin
  • Shallow breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Falling in and out of consciousness
  • Blue skin around nails and lips
  • Low blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Comas

Hydrocodone Abuse Statistics

  • Hydrocodone is the most frequently prescribed opiate. It’s been prescribed over 136 million times.
  • In 2013, 36 deaths were associated with hydrocodone in the U.S.
  • Since 2009, hydrocodone has been one of the Top 2 pharmaceutical opioids associated with crimes.
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