I happen to work in a drug rehab center so I see an awful lot of Hydrocodone addiction. To be quite honest I believe the number of opiate users we treat is now exceeding the number of alcoholics that come in, if you can believe that. Prescription painkillers seem to be the new drug of choice these days. Is Hydrocodone addictive? You bet it is.
Hydrocodone is a synthetic opiate that is slightly more powerful than Codeine (as measured by the opiate molecules strength in binding to opiate receptors in the human brain). Some of the common brand names for Hydrocodone are Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab, and Norco. Doctors prescribe it for all sorts of different issues and it tends to work really well for most types of pain. Too well in fact, because many people can and do get addicted to it. This makes for a complicated situation because now you have a drug addiction that is actually there for a specific reason: to medicate a person’s physical pain.
So one of the major questions becomes: if you are trying to overcome Hydrocodone addiction, how are you going to manage your pain? What are you going to do when your body is suffering and in pain?
Managing pain without opiates
It is important to understand the difference between opiate based painkillers and other medications. When you take a medicine such as Ibuprofen, the medicine actually works to help reduce the pain right at the source of the pain. It does this by reducing inflammation and swelling in the body. So it literally goes to the source of your physical pain and makes it smaller.
With an opiate drug (such as Hydrocodone), there is no such reduction in pain. In fact, the medicine does not really reduce pain at all. What it does is it simply dopes the human brain so that it does not care about the pain as much. The pain is still there. But if you are taking Hydrocodone, the effect that the drug has is that it makes it so that you don’t pay as much attention to the pain.
If your pain is a ringing alarm clock with bells, then taking an opiate is like sticking a rag in between the bells. It simply dulls the ringing. It does not reduce the pain itself though.
So if you understand this then you can see how any condition that results in chronic pain should really be treated with something other than an opiate drug. If the physical pain you are experiencing is temporary (or very short term), then taking an opiate might work out pretty well. But if your pain is chronic (or longer lasting), then taking an opiate is not going to help you in the long run.
So if you are trying to get off of an opiate drug, then you need to have a plan for how you are going to manage your pain without using addictive painkillers. You might start experimenting with alternative ways of treating your pain before you even try to get off the opiates, so that you are more prepared in how you will deal with the pain. For example, you might look into some of these ideas for managing pain without addictive drugs:
1) TENS units.
2) Using non-narcotic painkillers (ask your doctor for details).
3) Meditation and relaxation techniques
And so on. If you start experimenting right now with these sorts of ideas, your chances at staying clean and sober will increase because you will be better able to handle the pain when you are no longer using opiates. If you are struggling to make progress in this area, you might consider going to a pain clinic or finding a different doctor who is more accommodating.
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Options for dealing with Vicodin addiction
There are a few different ways that you might treat Vicodin addiction. One thing that you might do is to simply check into a residential rehab center that has a medical detox. This is usually expensive but it might be the best option for most people.
Another form of treatment is to use drug therapy. So an addict might switch to a medication such as Suboxone in order to treat their addiction to Vicodin. Some would argue that this is not much better, as you are still ingesting an opiate based drug. However, the abuse potential of Suboxone is much lower than that of hydrocodone, so this is still a decent option for some people. Most people who have a short term addiction to hydrocodone will not need drug therapy like this, however. But it can be useful for some people who suffer from severe chronic pain issues, as the Suboxone will help treat their chronic pain as well.
Obviously, Vicodin addicts who are dealing with these types of questions will want to speak with a doctor at great length and carefully weigh their options before making any decisions.
Typical hydrocodone doses range from taking one per day as needed, all the way up to taking 1 to 2 tablets every 4 to 6 hours, usually not to exceed 8 tablets in a 24 hour period. Most hydrocodone addicts eventually start consuming more of the drug than these recommended dosages, however. This can become dangerous, too, for people with liver problems, because of the potential for taking too much Acetaminophen as well.
Of course you will want to check with your doctor as to what dose you should be taking in the first place, and you would not want to exceed their recommendation. Anyone who deliberately does so runs the risk of developing dependence from abusing the drug by taking a higher dosage.
Detoxing from hydrocodone will produce typical opiate withdrawal symptoms, that normally resemble a case of the flu. Sweats and chills, upset stomach (including possible cramps, nausea, or diarrhea), anxiety, tremors, and dilated pupils may all be present during detox. These symptoms can best be treated in a drug rehab center with a synthetic opiate drug called Suboxone. The person can then be tapered off of the Suboxone in a matter of days and experience very little discomfort throughout the entire process.
Some people seeking detox from opiates may look to a newer method called ultra rapid detox. This is where they put you under and then flush your body from all opiates, detoxing you in a matter of hours rather than days. It sounds nice but there are a lot of problems with it at this early stage, and it is prohibitively expensive in many cases. Plus there is no guarantee that the person will stay clean.
Typical hydrocodone addiction symptoms
The symptoms of hydrocodone addiction may include:
1) Abusing the drug, taking more quantity than what is prescribed.
2) Hiding, stealing, or hoarding supply. Keeping amounts taken a secret. Stashing pills.
3) Buying pills off the street or manipulating doctors to get more.
4) Inventing injuries or illnesses to get more supply, deliberately hurting oneself to get more pills.
There are other symptoms as well but basically if you cannot stop taking the drug on your own (and you want to) then that is a strong sign of dependence.
Some signs of hydrocodone addiction
If you suspect someone in your life of being addicted to hydrocodone, then watch for the above symptoms, and also:
1) Lying about how much they have taken or how many pills they have left.
2) Hiding pills or sneaking them around, protecting supply.
3) Nodding off from taking way to much of the drug.
4) Withdrawal symptoms when they don’t have pills left.
5) Obsession on getting more pills, especially when running low on supply.
As mentioned above, the withdrawal symptoms of hydrocodone will typically resemble the flu. This will generally last from about 3 to 5 days, and sometimes it will stretch out a bit longer than this, depending on the person and also on how much they have been taking and how long they have been abusing opiates. Detox in a drug rehab center can really help the addict to get through the discomfort, because they can treat the withdrawal using medication without allowing the addict to become addicted to the medicine. People who fear becoming addicted to another medication are just using an excuse to avoid getting clean and sober. Drug rehabs do not resort to drug therapy and get addicts hooked on new medicines. This is a bunch of crap. Instead, they taper you down and when you walk out of the door, you do it completely clean and sober, not addicted to anything.
It is possible to overdose on Hydrocodone, especially since it is usually (but not always) packaged with Acetaminophen. Of course the opiate itself is a going to depress the nervous system and at some point just the opiate alone would become lethal if enough of it were taken. All opiates carry some risk of overdose and hydrocodone is no different in this regard. Those who are abusing the drug and dependent on it obviously run a greater risk of having this happen.
Hydrocodone side effects
Anyone can experience any number of different side effects when taking just about any medication, but most people who use hydrocodone at normal dosages do not experience any major problems. If you do, obviously, you should talk with your doctor. If you happen to be taking more than the prescribed dosage and are abusing hydrocdone, then the obvious answer is to get some help and stop abusing the drug so that undesired side effects will no longer occur.
Some of these side effects might include:
1) Being nervous or anxious.
2) Getting dizzy.
3) Dry mouth.
4) Heart burn.
6) Trouble sleeping.
7) Not eating as much.
8) Feeling weak.
Obviously if you have any adverse effects that are really bothersome, consult your doctor.
Getting through withdrawal
Depending on how much your body is addicted to the Hydrocodone, you may want to go to a treatment center in order to get fully detoxed from the drug. Most drug rehabs that have a medical detox unit will be able to treat your withdrawal symptoms from the Hydrocodone with their own medications. In other words, they will help to make the withdrawal process a lot more comfortable than if you simply went off of the medication cold turkey.
The best way to get through any withdrawal is to sleep through it. Depending on how severe your symptoms are, this may or may not be possible. Also, if you suffer from a great deal of physical pain, this will make it more difficult to sleep when you are going through withdrawal from Hydrocodone. These are the types of factors you will need to consider when deciding if you need to actually go to a drug rehab in order to get off the drug.
Basically, if you have easy access to opiates, and you are going through very heavy withdrawals, then it is going to be almost impossible for you to get off the drug without getting some sort of help. If you try to do so and fail several times, you might want to look into the possibility of going to treatment for it. There is no shame in going to drug rehab. They can help you get through the withdrawals and possibly even help you learn how to start managing your pain.
If you’ve been using narcotics to manage your pain for a long time, or if you just use opiate based drugs for fund and recreation in your life, then it’s going to take quite a large effort in order to become clean and sober and to really make it stick. Like with any addiction, there are at least 2 distinct stages to overcoming Hydrocodone addiction: early recovery and long term recovery.
In early recovery, you are basically focusing on the immediate problem of getting off the pills and learning how to live a life without narcotics again. This stage of recovery can last anywhere from a few months to several months, depending on the person. If you ask for help, get professional treatment of some sort, and start interacting with a strong support system on a regular basis, then you might very well be entering the second phase of your recovery in less than a year. Of course, this is all about action. You have to initiate these positive changes in your life and actually follow through with them in order to establish a successful recovery.
Long term recovery from Hydrocodone addiction
Moving into long term recovery happens naturally as your life gets “back on track.” By now you will have found alternative ways to handle any physical pain, and you will no longer struggle to make it through each day without using drugs. But this does not mean that there is no threat of relapse. There will always be the possibility there to tempt you. The key, therefore, becomes constant vigilance in your life when it comes to putting drugs into your body. You have to adopt a zero tolerance policy when it comes to narcotics and addictive drugs.
Anyone who has successfully kicked an opiate addiction but ends up relapsing over and over again needs to find a new way to live. This is the cycle of addiction and the only way to defeat it is to get clean and sober (physically detox from the drugs) and then find a way to live drug free so that you are satisfied with your life. If you are restless, irritable, discontent, bored, or uninspired then chances are you will end up relapsing eventually. In this case the opiate addict can either follow a program of recovery (such as the 12 step program) or design their own program of recovery and create a new life for themselves. Either way, they need to take action and start living a drug free live of passion and purpose if they want to remain clean in the long run.
If you or someone you know is suffering from Hydrocodone addiction then I would recommend professional help. If you cannot quit on your own and make it last then you need to ask for help. Inpatient treatment or professional counseling are both good starting points. Go into either with an open mind and you can find a new way to live.