Vicodin is a medication prescribed to relieve pain that is moderate to severe in intensity. It is a narcotic drug that contains both acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol) and hydrocodone. Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid. The pain relieving effects of the hydrocodone in Vicodin are enhanced by the acetaminophen. As one of the most commonly prescribed medications for pain, Vicodin is also very frequently abused.
Risk of Dependence
As with all narcotics, prolonged use of Vicodin can result in physical dependence. The body slowly develops a tolerance to the substance. As a result, individuals taking it require increasingly higher doses of the medication in order to achieve the pain relief they desire. If they abruptly stop taking the medication they will experience symptoms of withdrawal. Serious consequences can occur if high doses of Vicodin are taken, including extreme drowsiness, respiratory problems, coma, liver failure and death.
It is possible to become addicted to Vicodin with legitimate use of the drug. The addiction isn’t necessarily the result of Vicodin abuse – rather it is the result of chronic use of the drug. However, abuse often occurs when someone has been prescribed Vicodin after a surgery or injury, but the prescribed amount doesn’t provide sufficient pain relief. Since some people have difficulties tolerating any pain, they will start taking more than the prescribed dose. Sadly, this often leads to addiction.
Symptoms of Vicodin Addiction
It can take just a few weeks to develop a physiological dependence on Vicodin. But it can be psychologically addictive as well. Vicodin works in the brain by hindering the production of endorphins - brain chemicals which cause feelings of pleasure. Vicodin creates pleasurable feelings similar to those normally produced by endorphins. For Vicodin addicts, functioning normally seems impossible without the drug.
When you develop an addiction to Vicodin, there are usually several common indicators. These include the following:
• Using up your prescription too quickly because you are taking more than the prescribed dose
• Seeing several different doctors or frequently switching from one doctor to the next in order to obtain more prescriptions of Vicodin - this is often referred to as “doctor shopping”
• Getting or purchasing Vicodin from illegitimate sources
• Frequently saying your prescription has been lost or stolen, or requesting a prescription in advance because you’re going out of town and won’t be able to get it filled when normally indicated
• Experiencing feelings of guilt about how much Vicodin you are taking or how you are going about acquiring more of the drug.
• Vicodin is your preferred narcotic, and you don’t want any substitutes; or, stating that you are allergic to any alternative medications.
• Lying, stealing, or engaging in other types of dishonest behavior related to using or obtaining Vicodin
• Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking it – these include difficulties sleeping, agitation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, trembling, hot or cold flashes, muscle aches, bone pain, vomiting, and night sweats
Who Is at Risk?
While some say that, if taken long enough, anyone can develop a dependence on Vicodin, many experts believe that only those with a propensity to substance abuse and addiction are at risk. Unfortunately, there is no sure way to predict this risk in advance. However, you have a higher risk if you have struggled with substance abuse or addiction in the past, or if you have a family history of substance abuse or addiction. Treatment for Vicodin addiction
If you are addicted to Vicodin it is unlikely that you will be able to quit on your own. Treatment often requires medically supervised detox, followed by residential treatment at an appropriate rehab facility. Once residential treatment is completed, continued treatment on an outpatient basis is often recommended in order to provide support and prevent relapse.