Hydrocodone belongs to a class of drugs known as narcotic analgesics (pain relievers). Acetaminophen, also an analgesic, is often added to hydrocodone to increase its pain-relieving effects. Hydrocodone is a psychotherapeutic drug used to treat moderate to severe pain, and it is available by prescription only. Brand names for the hydrocodone and acetaminophen combination include:
Hydrocodone is part of the American painkiller abuse epidemic. Although these drugs are intended for prescription purposes only, they are highly susceptible to abuse. Hydrocodone misuse occurs either when a person consumes more than the prescribed amount, or a person who does not have a lawful prescription acquires hydrocodone from an unlawful source. Even though hydrocodone is manufactured lawfully by regulated pharmaceutical companies, this drug is dangerous to consume when not under a doctor’s supervision as part of a structured pain management program. I
In short, hydrocodone and other prescription painkillers are not safe when used unlawfully. According to the results of the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 8.7 million Americans aged 12 and older (3.3 percent of the entire population) were current users of illicit drugs other than marijuana. Of this group, 4.5 million (1.7 percent) were prescription painkiller abusers. While these survey results did not isolate the amount of people who specifically abused hydrocodone, this drug was definitely part of the pool of prescription painkillers abused.
Side Effects of Abuse
Hydrocodone abuse can lead to uncomfortable and dangerous side effects. Some of these effects can include the following:
- Slower heart rate
- Depression, fear, and confusion
- Blurred vision
- Ear ringing
- Nausea and vomiting
Hydrocodone abuse can cause addiction (i.e., not only physical dependence, but a mental dependence that makes sourcing and taking this drug a priority). If hydrocodone use stops, or the familiar dosage is reduced, withdrawal symptoms may occur, including:
- Muscle aches
- Unusual sweating
- Sleep problems
Lawful users of hydrocodone are not immune from side effects. The difference between a lawful and unlawful user is that the former has the supervision of a doctor. However, in order to receive appropriate and safe treatment, it is critical for lawful hydrocodone users to report all details of their usage to their doctor. Sometimes lawful users with the best intentions can slip into dependency. When using hydrocodone as part of a pain management plan, it is vital to remain vigilant of the line between use and abuse.
The State of Hydrocodone Abuse
The Gulf Coast Addiction Technology Transfer Center, in association with the University of Texas at Austin, has provided a research report on the growing prescription painkiller abuse crisis in America. The report pointed out an increase in both the sale and diversion of prescription painkillers into the street drug market. The heightened sales of these drugs on the legal market may demonstrate that they are beneficial for their intended patients, but at the same time, these sales are also supplying the street market with more drugs. Vicodin is one of the drugs most commonly abused among prescription painkillers.
The report also includes the findings of the Community Epidemiology Work Group (CEWG), a group of 21 researchers who meet twice annually to review drug trends across America. The CEWG noted specific trends with hydrocodone in specific cities:
- Atlanta: Hydrocodone is the most commonly abused prescription painkiller (oxycodone is second).
- Chicago: Hydrocodone is one of the top three opiates abused (the other two are methadone and codeine).
- Detroit: Most residents consider hydrocodone legal while law enforcement sees it as a problem.
- Honolulu: The number of hydrocodone- and oxycodone-related deaths and treatment admissions is rising.
- Los Angeles: Hydrocodone recruits more abusers than oxycodone.
- San Diego: In laboratory toxicology reports and emergency room reports, hydrocodone is ahead of oxycodone in terms of substance abuse.
The CEWG findings demonstrate that hydrocodone is commonly abused in comparison to other prescription painkillers.
At Futures of Palm Beach, our expert staff is well versed in the dangers of hydrocodone and other prescription painkiller abuse. While each treatment plan is tailored to the individual client’s needs, hydrocodone dependence rehab will likely feature detox followed by an effective treatment and aftercare plan. Whatever your history of abuse, you have a future in recovery. Call us to learn more.