Hydrocodone Addiction Treatment

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What is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is a painkiller prescribed for acute, chronic or long-lasting pain. Lortab and Vicodin use hydrocodone as a main active ingredient. Hydrocodone is an opioid, meaning it is a synthetic compound that mimics the effects of opiates, or pain medicines which are derived from the opium poppy flower. Misuse of hydrocodone and other prescription opioids can result in physical dependency, abuse and addiction.

Hydrocodone is a controversial medication for its role in the recent and ongoing opioid epidemic. Hydrocodone is prescribed to patients dealing with chronic pain problems, although it should only be prescribed for acute pain in non-cancer pain patients. Finding the correct dosage and length of treatment can be difficult. If the pain-relieving effects of hydrocodone wear off and leave the patient in pain, there is potential for misuse by taking excessive additional doses of it. Hydrocodone is labeled by the DEA as a Schedule III controlled substance for its addictive properties, making it dangerous to increase your dosage without your doctor’s instructions. Hydrocodone’s addictive properties have led to Vicodin and Lortab being sold on the street, under names such as vikes, tabs or hydros.

Hydrocodone side effects and dangers

Even when taking it correctly, you may experience the following hydrocodone side effects:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness and lethargy
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Skin rash
  • Mood changes such as anxiety and fear

Hydrocodone addiction crosses the line into abuse and addiction when it is misused. Taking more than the prescribed dosage is considered misuse because it goes against your doctor’s instructions and recommendations. If your current hydrocodone dosage is not providing effective relief, it is important to talk to your doctor about what to do, instead of self-medicating with excessive additional doses.

It is illegal to share, give away or sell hydrocodone because of its dangerous overdose risks. Prescriptions are filled for specific people in specific doses, and the effects can have adverse reactions in others. Taking an incorrect hydrocodone dose can result in a life-threatening overdose.

Opioid overdose symptoms include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Fast heartbeat or chest pain
  • Extreme drowsiness leading to coma
  • Circulatory collapse
  • Heart attack
  • Death

The path to serious abuse of hydrocodone can begin when the desired effect is the high produced by the drug instead of pain relief. What users may not understand is that hydrocodone prescriptions like Lortab and Vicodin contain both hydrocodone and acetaminophen, commonly known as Tylenol. Taking high doses of acetaminophen can permanently damage the liver and can result in overdose, regardless of the user’s tolerance to hydrocodone.

Signs of acetaminophen overdose include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive sweating

The dangerous effects of hydrocodone and acetaminophen increase when Lortab or Vicodin are tampered with: crushing, chewing or dissolving the pills (or drinking too much of the liquid form) allow the body to absorb the drugs faster. Snorting or injecting hydrocodone is an even faster method of absorption, but it is incredibly damaging to the body and the brain. The euphoric high comes faster, but so does bodily harm and the potential for addiction.

If a person with a hydrocodone addiction is unable to access the drug, they may look for ways to buy it illegally. Even worse, a person’s craving for hydrocodone can be relieved by a cheap, plentiful alternative: heroin. This is a very common scenario in today’s opioid epidemic.

Hydrocodone abuse and addiction signs

Any use of hydrocodone outside of a doctor’s instructions is considered drug abuse. This includes tampering with hydrocodone pills by chewing, crushing, cutting or dissolving them in order to ingest, snort or inject a higher dose than prescribed. Even if the hydrocodone pills are not tampered with, taking more pills than prescribed is also abuse of the drug.

Hydrocodone addiction signs include:

  • Taking more than the prescribed dosage
  • “Doctor shopping” for multiple prescriptions
  • Not correctly measuring doses by using other utensils (hydrocodone cough syrup)
  • Tampering with hydrocodone before taking it
  • Refusal to undergo appropriate examination, testing or referral
  • Repeated “loss” of prescription

Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms and treatment

It is possible to develop a physical dependency on hydrocodone, which should be discussed with your doctor. A physical opioid dependency occurs when the body adjusts to the presence of the medication and depends on that medication to function normally. A hydrocodone prescription can include dosing instructions from your doctor to taper off the dosage to reduce and eliminate this physical dependency. This type of medication management is important – those who are physically dependent on hydrocodone will experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop their hydrocodone prescription too suddenly. If the opioid withdrawal symptoms are extreme, they could drive the patient to continue using the substance despite significant harm – the definition of addiction.

Opioid withdrawal signs and symptoms include:

  • Restlessness
  • Tearing eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Yawning
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Dilated pupils
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability, anxiety
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Faster heart rate or breathing

Hydrocodone withdrawal stabilization, also known as detoxification or detox, is usually done in a similar way as other opioid withdrawal treatments. In general, the opioid withdrawal stabilization procedures resemble those used for withdrawal from sedatives: longer-acting opioids are substituted for shorter-acting ones and the patient is stabilized on the longer-acting opioid medication, such as Suboxone. The patient will be most uncomfortable during the first one to three days of the opioid withdrawal phase, so a combination of clonidine (an alpha-adrenergic agonist), a sedative such as phenobarbital, and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as Motrin (generic name ibuprofen) is frequently combined with the longer-acting opioid to help make the patient more comfortable for the first two to three days of the conversion to Suboxone. Usually after day three of the correct dose of Suboxone, a patient’s opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings have almost completely subsided.

Opioid addiction treatment options

Most users of hydrocodone, Lortab, or Vicodin need help with their addiction and require residential drug treatment. Few people can safely stop using without a drug and alcohol detox and evidence-based addiction treatment program.

Withdrawal and recovery from opioid addiction is most effectively accomplished under the supervision of board-certified medical professionals, who can assist with the intense cravings for the drug, along with dangerous opioid withdrawal symptoms, such as disturbed sleep patterns, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rate, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, muscle aches and flu-like symptoms.

Typically, hydrocodone abusers go through supervised drug and alcohol detox program – or withdrawal stabilization – before beginning a long-term treatment program. Patients can be prescribed anti-addiction medications to lessen the opiate withdrawal symptoms.

The detoxification process alone is not a cure for opioid addiction. A comprehensive, personalized addiction treatment program, like the program at Enterhealth, is crucial for a successful recovery. A combination of therapeutic and pharmacological addiction treatment can help those with hydrocodone addiction regain a stable and productive life and address the underlying issues creating the desire to use. Research shows that integrating both types of treatment is the most effective approach to restoring a degree of normal function to the brain – and provide a more positive, life-long outcome.

Effective behavioral treatments for opioid addiction can be administered in a residential or outpatient setting after withdrawal stabilization. A treatment plan may include:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy sessions
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
  • Wellness, nutritional and stress management treatment services

Anti-addiction medications approved for opioid addiction treatment work through the same opioid receptors in the brain that hydrocodone prescriptions affect. Medications such as Suboxone (buprenorphine) and Vivitrol (naltrexone), block the effects of opioids like hydrocodone, reduce cravings and allow healing to continue. These medicines treat opioid addiction through the same receptors as the addictive drug, but are safer and less likely to result in addiction.

Hydrocodone addiction recovery with Enterhealth

People suffering from hydrocodone addiction may feel hopeless, but they are not alone. Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence can help you or a loved one begin recovery at our 43-acre residential hydrocodone addiction treatment center just north of Dallas-Fort Worth, and our outpatient opioid addiction treatment center located in the Preston Center area of Dallas, Texas.

At Enterhealth, our goal is to treat the whole person for a lifetime. We offer a better chance to recover through our advanced, evidence-based treatment approach, designed and administered by board-certified addiction psychiatrists, physicians and other experts, that is proven to be more effective than traditional twelve-step approaches.