Hydrocodone addiction, like other forms of opioid addiction, often begins with a legitimate prescription. This powerful opioid painkiller, available as a generic drug as well as under brand names such as Vicodin, Lortab, and Norco, is highly effective at treating moderate to severe pain. For someone who has been dealing with sleep problems, decreased cognitive function, trouble regulating emotions, and an overall decline in their general quality of life as the result of chronic pain, the drug can seem like a miracle cure.
A Prescription for Trouble?
Unfortunately, prescription opioid painkillers like hydrocodone are highly addictive. When they’re not used precisely as directed, there is a very real risk of developing a substance use disorder.
How Hydrocodone Is Used
Hydrocodone is a semisynthetic opioid created by chemically modifying codeine, which is a naturally occurring opium derivative. The drug can be sold as tablets, capsules, or syrups. The extended-release formulations are intended to provide all-day pain relief.
Hydrocodone is a Schedule II drug under the United States Controlled Substances Act. This means that while it has an accepted medical use, it also carries a high potential for abuse.
Schedule II drugs are often limited to a 30-day prescription that must be in writing unless the medication is needed for an emergency. Refills can’t be given automatically, so a person must visit their care provider for a new prescription when necessary.
Signs of a Hydrocodone Addiction
It’s not always easy to spot the signs of hydrocodone addiction because the condition often develops over time. Being alert to subtle changes in mood and behavior is key. Some warning signs of a substance use disorder include:
- Erratic moods
- Declining performance at work or school
- Trouble maintaining relationships with friends and family
- Lack of interest in hobbies or activities that were previously a source of pleasure
- Financial problems due to the amount of money spent on substance abuse
- Chronic drowsiness
- Complaints of dizziness, nausea, and/or constipation with no other medical cause
A person with a hydrocodone addiction might also:
- Be preoccupied with obtaining a steady supply of hydrocodone
- Take higher than recommended doses of hydrocodone
- Take the medication more often than prescribed
- Visit multiple doctors to obtain additional prescriptions
- Borrow pills from others or purchase them on the black market
- Crush and snort the tablets to obtain a more intense high
- Mix the medication with alcohol or other opioids
- Take the medication even when there is no underlying pain or the pain is manageable with simple lifestyle modifications
- Believe it’s impossible to feel normal without hydrocodone use
- Be unable to regulate their hydrocodone usage despite expressing a desire to do so
Risks of Hydrocodone Addiction
Addiction to hydrocodone is associated with a number of negative long-term effects, including:
- Liver failure due to the acetaminophen and ibuprofen in hydrocodone-containing drugs
- Cognitive impairment
- Worsening of pre-existing mental health conditions such as depression
- Sleep problems
- Sensorineural hearing loss
- Impaired pulmonary function
A potentially fatal overdose is also a possibility—especially if hydrocodone is being combined with alcohol or other opioids.
Convincing Your Loved One to Seek Treatment
People struggling with opioid addiction often don’t want to admit they have a problem. They may see prescription painkillers as “safe” because they come from a doctor and are necessary to control their pain.
Addressing the topic of substance abuse can be uncomfortable, but it’s vital that you speak up. Substance use disorders are chronic and progressive illnesses. Your loved one won’t get better without access to professional care. Addiction isn’t a character defect or a behavior caused by a lack of willpower.
If your loved one isn’t responsive to your efforts to convince them to seek help, you may want to consider planning an intervention. This is a structured meeting where a group of concerned friends and family outline why they are worried about a person’s drug use, what treatment they believe the person should receive, and what consequences they are willing to impose if the person refuses to get help. Mountain Laurel Recovery Center offers intervention services guided by trained professionals who understand how to best overcome a person’s resistance to seeking addiction treatment.
Building the Foundation for a Lasting Recovery
Although no two people with an addiction are exactly alike, Mountain Laurel Recovery Center typically recommends that treatment begin with detox to rid the body of all addictive substances. Once a sober baseline is established, intensive individual, group, and family therapy combined with 12-Step support and holistic services designed to promote the development of a wellness-focused lifestyle help to build the skills necessary for sober living. Medication-assisted treatment may also be recommended to help manage cravings and reduce the risk of relapse.
Following graduation from our Pennsylvania residential inpatient substance abuse treatment program, we offer clients the option of participating in our extended care program to ease the transition back to independent living with sober peer support, accountability, and intensive outpatient treatment. Our goal is to provide each of our clients with the opportunity for continuous improvement, deeper relationships, and greater joy as they progress through this new chapter in their lives.