Vicodin was designed to help people deal with pain. Each little pill contains a potent painkiller, along with a secondary ingredient that can reduce inflammation, and swallowing a pill can bring a person in intense pain a significant amount of relief. In 2011, doctors wrote 47 million prescriptions for this drug, according to USA Today, making this one of the most popular drugs prescribed within the United States, and it’s likely that many people would have experienced significant misery without access to Vicodin. However, it’s also true that the drug can bring people intense suffering, and as a result, legislators are looking for ways to reign in the use of the drug. For people who are addicted, this could be just the prompt they need to enter treatment programs and get better.
The painkiller locked inside a Vicodin pill is in the opiate family. These drugs attach to receptors deep inside the brain and the body, and when they arrive, they trigger a series of chemical reactions that can deliver a feeling of pleasure. Sometimes, they can even make a person feel a little euphoric and powerful. All of these amendments don’t come without a price, however, and people who take Vicodin may learn this all too well. As they continue to take this very powerful drug, their bodies begin to morph and change. Their pleasure receptors turn inward or turn off. Their ability to experience joy diminishes. Their bodies feel unhealthy or unwell without access to the drug. In time, they may need to take larger and larger doses of Vicodin just to keep from feeling ill. These are the same steps followed by people who develop an addiction to heroin, and while people might never dabble in heroin abuse due to concerns about addiction, they may not have the same kinds of fears about Vicodin. Since the drug comes from a pharmacy, it seems to be wrapped in a veil of safety. The low control of the drug also seems to add to the drug’s safety quotient. At the moment, the drug is under a relatively low level of control at Schedule II. According to National Public Radio, a panel voted to transition the drug to a Schedule III level of control, which would mean tighter regulatory controls would apply. People would need to see doctors every 30 days for a prescription, for example, and doctors would be encouraged to use the drug only when patients were in short-term, severe pain. These kinds of regulatory changes could be a boon for people who aren’t yet addicted to Vicodin, as the chances they’ll be given the drug would go down and down as a result. But people who are already addicted may find the changes to be incredibly distressing. They may struggle to obtain the drugs the love, for example, and they may be forced to pay very high prices for the pills they can obtain. It might be time for people who are addicted to get help, before the rules are applied and the drug becomes more difficult to obtain.
Addiction Can Happen to Anyone
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says, quite plainly, that prescription painkillers like Vicodin can be “as addictive as heroin.” The drugs work on the same receptors, working inside the body in much the same way, and anyone who abuses these drugs can fall sway to an addiction. These abuse issues don’t need personal weakness, physical ailments or mental illnesses to build upon. Anyone who abuses Vicodin can develop an addiction. The drug is just that powerful. People who take Vicodin to help them deal with a pain issue can, at times, become addicted to the euphoria the drug can bring about. It’s much more common, however, for people to store Vicodin pills in their cupboards when their pain has dissipated, and when bad times come around, the drugs can seem like an excellent way to soothe pain and distress. People with no physical pain may turn on their leftover pain pills in order to soothe psychological pain, and an addiction can quickly blossom. Some people, however, use Vicodin as part of a larger drug-using pattern. The actress Kristen Johnson, for example, wrote about her addictions in a memoir entitled Guts, and here, she admits that she developed a taste for alcohol at a young age and moved on to Vicodin in later years. When her addiction was in full swing, she stole pills from friends and she even took pills that were prescribed for her dog. She was successful and doing well in her life, yet the Vicodin pills seemed to call out to her and she had a hard time resisting the call. She seems to have sought out the pills as well, perhaps knowing what they would do and knowing they would work for her, rather than obtaining the drugs via legal channels.
Some people who have Vicodin abuse issues know all too well that their use is out of control, and people like this might even ask their friends or family members for assistance, so they can get back on their feet once more. There are other people, however, who remain unaware of the dangers of the drugs they take, and they may blissfully pop pills for years before their friends and family members spot the signs and ask them to get help. Families that look for signs earlier may be able to intervene earlier, and the person might heal just a little quicker as a result. Common warning signs to watch for include:
- Sudden mood changes
- Forgetfulness or distraction
- Neglecting work or school responsibilities
- Visiting many different doctors in order to obtain more pills
- Asking for pills from ill friends or family members
- Asking for money to buy drugs with
- Claiming to lose pills
- Stockpiling pills
- Withdrawing from friends and family
People who abuse Vicodin may also experience flu-like symptoms when they try to curb their behaviors. They may sweat and feel queasy, and their muscles might hurt and jerk. They may also have extreme difficulty sleeping or relaxing, and their thoughts might be consumed with cravings for drugs. It’s hard for people like this to envision a life without Vicodin, as mere moments spent without the drug seem to cause such intense sensations of pain. They may relapse to drug use quite rapidly, just to make the pain stop, and when the episode is over, they may believe that they simply can’t live without Vicodin. The sense of hopelessness and helplessness they feel might be hard to take. It’s not uncommon for people in this situation to consider suicide, and Vicodin provides an attractive path that leads to oblivion. The drug can slow breathing and heart rates, allowing a person to drift away to death. Without help for the addiction, some people may try to overdose on Vicodin to make the pain stop. Others may overdose inadvertently, taking doses that are too high without realizing they’re doing so. It’s a sad fact that overdoses like this are part of the spectrum of a Vicodin addiction, but they’re certainly possible for people who don’t get the help they need.
Much of the legislative work regarding Vicodin addiction has focused on doctors and the illegal drug trade. However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 70 percent of 12th graders who abuse prescription painkillers like Vicodin get their drugs from friends or relatives. If these statistics are true, all of the legal changes in the world won’t stop the abuse issue. Instead, each person who abuses Vicodin needs to make a choice to make the addiction stop. A treatment program can make that happen. A Vicodin recovery program begins with detox, allowing the person’s body to slowly transition to the sober life without experiencing intense feelings of pain or loss. Once the person is sober, therapies can help people to explore their Vicodin use and learn how to control their cravings in the future.
Therapy techniques can vary, but common options include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy, in which people learn how to identify and deal with the thoughts and situations that cause drug cravings
- Motivational enhancement therapy, in which people are encouraged to do more than just think about recovery; they’re encouraged to act upon it
- Group therapy, in which people practice their sober skills on other recovering addicts
- Family therapy, in which the whole group comes together to discuss the addiction and how it can be treated
Some people also need individualized psychotherapies that can help them to work through the mental illnesses that might lie beneath an addiction issue. They might learn how to handle a prior episode of trauma, for example, rather than sedating the pain with Vicodin. They might also learn how to apply the same self-control techniques in order to deal with a mental illness issue. The work is hard, to be sure, but when it’s complete, people have a full and complete understanding of the addiction and they can go forward in a more healthful manner. If you need help like this, we encourage you to contact us at Futures of Palm Beach. Our residential treatment program will provide you with structure and support, and our followup care will ensure that you’ll have help when you’re living at home once more. We hope you’ll call us to find out more about the help we can provide.