Hydrocodone is an opioid analgesic commonly prescribed for severe or moderate to severe pain control. As an opioid, it has similar effects as morphine and fentanyl on the body. Along with these effects and the powerful pain relieving it can provide, hydrocodone also holds a high risk for addiction and dependence.
Hydrocodone is most often prescribed for pain control, generally after a major trauma or surgery, but can also be prescribed in smaller doses to help suppress aggressive coughs. It is only available with a medical prescription, and as an opioid it is considered a highly controlled substance.
What Is Hydrocodone?
Hydrocodone is a type of narcotic known as an opioid. You may have heard the term opioid before with the epidemic we currently have underway in the United States. Opioids are considered addictive and dangerous when abused, and for good reason. While the number of hydrocodone prescriptions has decreased since 2010, the frequency of abuse has gone up. Abuse is defined as an individual taking hydrocodone without a prescription or in a higher dose or frequency than their prescription states.
Hydrocodone, also known as dihydrocodeinone, is derived from a form of codeine. It is considered a ‘semi-synthetic opioid’ because the codeine it is synthesized from is derived from the natural opium poppy plant, however it undergoes partial chemical synthesis to reach its final form of hydrocodone.
As an opioid analgesic, hydrocodone is considered a popular medication for physicians to prescribe patients after major surgeries or patients in need of short-term, severe pain relief. When made into a liquid or syrup form, hydrocodone can be prescribed as a cough suppressant or antitussive. In liquid form, hydrocodone will have similar effects as oxycodone, but it is estimated that oxycodone in this form is almost 50% stronger than hydrocodone.
How Do You Get Addicted To Hydrocodone?
Like other opioids such as morphine and codeine, hydrocodone works by binding to opioid receptors located at the end of neurons in the brain. The opioid receptors are tied to your brain’s ‘reward’ system, which directly affects the emotions and feelings you perceive in return from any given action.
The reward system in your brain is a tool that is intended to drive you to do more things that your body instinctively wants you to do again. For example, when you eat something sweet like a fresh piece of fruit, your body will naturally reward you with feelings of pleasure and satisfaction in an attempt to get you to eat it again. This is one of the reasons many experts consider sugar to have addictive properties on the brain.
When opioids like hydrocodone are introduced to the brain, however, this reward system is taken over by the drug which sets off opioid receptors to produce feelings of euphoria and pleasure without having been technically ‘earned’ by an action your body instinctively desires. Following its natural instincts, your body will want to receive the reward of these feelings again and will therefore crave more hydrocodone. This destructive cycle is what drives opioid dependence and addiction.
What Medications Contain Hydrocodone?
Hydrocodone is available by prescription in many different forms, all of which are administered orally. It is most commonly seen in four varieties, including immediate-release with ibuprofen, immediate-release with aspirin, immediate-release with acetaminophen, and controlled-release hydrocodone.
Do you know if hydrocodone is in the drugs you have been prescribed in the past? Here are a few brand names of prescription medications that contain hydrocodone:
- Hysingla ER
- Zohydro ER
It is always important to ask your doctor what is in the brand name medications you are prescribed. Understand what risks are involved with your medications, and never hesitate to mention if you have had a history of addiction or drug abuse in the past. There are many alternatives to prescription painkillers, and opioids are not always the best choice.
What Are The Side Effects Of Taking Too Much Hydrocodone?
Like all prescription medications, hydrocodone comes with its own long list of ‘possible side effects’. This list includes adverse effects such as:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Waves of abnormally happy or sad feelings
- Difficulty urinating
- Itching and rash
While these side effects may be inconvenient, when taken as prescribed for a short period of time they will generally not interfere with day-to-day life. When hydrocodone is taken without a prescription, or taken in larger doses or increased frequencies, these inconvenient side effects can become increasingly life threatening.
Death from hydrocodone overdose is most commonly caused by a such a severe decrease in breathing that oxygen is cut off from the brain. While this scenario may seem extreme, hydrocodone overdose is not unusual in the United States. Even less extreme scenarios can cause devastating effects. Hallucinations, depression, malnutrition, insomnia, uncontrollable shaking, and coma are all possible side effects of prolonged hydrocodone use.
Get Help For Hydrocodone Abuse Today
If you believe a loved one is suffering from hydrocodone dependence or addiction, there is hope for a full recovery. Call one of our addiction treatment specialists today to learn more about our rehab centers that specialize in hydrocodone dependency and other types opioid addictions. Your call is always confidential, and you will be able to learn more about a customizable treatment program for your loved one.