Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opiate derived from the opium poppy. It is a narcotic analgesic used orally for the relief of moderate to severe pain. The medication is also commonly taken in liquid form as an antitussive/cough suppressant.
- What is Hydrocodone?
- Hydrocodone vs Oxycodone: What's the Difference?
- What Are the Effects and Side Effects of Hydrocodone?
- How to Tell if Someone is Overdosing on Hydrocodone
- How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your System?
- What Are the Symptoms of Hydrocodone Addiction?
- Are There Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms to Watch for?
- How Can You Get Help for Hydrocodone Addiction?
WHAT IS HYDROCODONE?
This medication is one of a class of semi-synthetic pain relievers that are derived from opiates, namely codeine. The drug is prescribed under the brand names Vicodin, Lortab, Zohydro, and Norco. It’s intended as a temporary solution for relieving pain after serious injuries and minor surgery or as a cough suppressant in liquid form. Because it’s combined with acetaminophen, it’s sometimes called Tylenol 3. This association with the over-the-counter pain reliever makes people underestimate its strength and potential for abuse.
Because the body builds a tolerance for hydrocodone, it’s easy to become dependent on the drug without even realizing it. That’s also one of the late-stage hydrocodone side effects. The usual dosage is one or two tablets taken every four to six hours. Addiction sets in when you realize that your dosage is no longer helping your pain, so you take an extra pill or take your next dosage a little sooner than you really need it. Before you know it, you’re subconsciously exaggerating your pain to a new prescription or a refill. Although it has been on the market longer than other, more notorious prescription painkillers, there’s still a hydrocodone vs oxycodone debate over which is more dangerous and addictive.
Because hydrocodone-based drugs are marketed under different brand names, it’s important for patients and those close to them to know the associations. Some who are addicted to one form will pillage other people’s medicine cabinets looking for painkillers. These are the most common brand names, but the drug is also sold as a generic under the name hydrocodone.
Vicodin: White, oval scored tablet available in strengths of 5, 7.5, or 10mg/300mg. The first number is the milligram dosage of hydrocodone, the second is how many milligrams of acetaminophen the pill contains.
Lortab: An oval-shaped pink, white, or blue tablet. Lortab is prescribed in strengths of 5, 7.5, and 10mg/325mg.
Norco: Also a white, oval-shaped, scored tabled, It isn’t as fat as Vicodin, and both medications have their brand name stamped into them. This pill is prescribed in dosages of 7 or 10mg/325mg.
Zohydro: This drug is the only FDA-approved prescription medication that’s pure hydrocodone with no other pain relievers added. It’s manufactured as an extended-release capsule to manage more severe pain. Zohydro is sold in strengths of 10mg, 15mg, 20mg, 30mg, 40mg, and 50mg.
Both are prescription narcotic pain medications that contain an opiate. Those who are addicted to opioids tend to favor oxycodone for several reasons, but they will take any opiate-based drug to get a fix. Both attach to the opioid receptors in the brain and disrupt normal brain function when abused. Oxycodone and hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms, signs of addiction, and side-effects are also the same. The main reason that oxycodone wins the hydrocodone vs oxycodone debate among substance abusers is the fact that they’re stronger. Oxycodone also tends to be manufactured and prescribed as a single ingredient medication. That means it is a pure opiate without the acetaminophen.
The main effect of hydrocodone is that it gets rid of the pain. It also causes the user to enter a state of euphoria with enhanced feelings of well-being. This is also one of the attractions of those who take it as a recreational drug, which is crushed and snorted or dissolved in water and injected. Using alcohol or other drugs with hydrocodone enhances the effects and can also lead to overdose.
Hydrocodone side effects vary depending on whether you’re using it as prescribed or abusing the medication. Pain suffers may experience mild nausea and drowsiness when taking hydrocodone, which is also why there are precautions against driving or operating machinery. The drowsiness can linger long after the pain-relieving effects have worn off.
Hydrocodone side effects are increased when someone becomes addicted, with the addition of dizziness, muscle aches, confusion, insomnia, and irritability. Because hydrocodone is mixed with acetaminophen, prolonged use and overdoses can lead to liver damage or failure. It’s important to distinguish between late-stage hydrocodone side effects and the signs of an overdose, which can look the same to the untrained eye.
When someone is overdosing on hydrocodone, they'll become increasingly drowsy, difficult to rouse, confused, and nauseous. The acetaminophen may also cause ringing in the ears. Mild overdoses can be counteracted if caught in time; severe overdoses due to taking large amounts of the drug or combining it with alcohol and other drugs can be life-threatening.
Prescriptions usually state to take your dosage every 4 - 6 hours, This is how long the effective pain-relieving properties last. The reason for this recommended dosage on a regular schedule is to make sure you have a consistent level of the drug in your bloodstream while you're recovering from an injury or for chronic pain management. That doesn't mean that the drug leaves your system every four hours.
How long hydrocodone stays in your system depends on how much was taken, how often, your size and metabolic rate, and the length of time you've been using hydrocodone. A typical10mg/300 dosage will reach peak levels after about 1.3 hours, and it has a half-life of 3.8 hours. That's the amount of time it takes for half of the concentration to leave your system. Usually, it is completely out of your system within 24 hours provided no more was taken.
How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in your Urine, Hair, and Saliva?
- Hydrocodone can be detected in saliva for up to 36 hours after the last dose.
- In the urine for up to four days after the last dose.
- It can be traced in a hair sample for up to 90 days.
One of the first signs is that someone becomes preoccupied with their prescription. They seem to always be looking for it, are obsessed with when it's time to take their next dose, and they always know exactly how many pills are left in the bottle. Some people will even go to emergency rooms with fake or exaggerated symptoms in an attempt to get a new prescription. Substances abusers may become secretive or withdraw from social engagement. If confronted, they may become angry or defensive. There are also physical symptoms, which include:
- Skin Rashes
- Constricted pupils
- Extreme drowsiness
- Dry mouth
- Blurred vision
- Slow or shallow breathing
- Nausea and vomiting
Addiction to hydrocodone and similar prescription painkillers is partially responsible for the recent surge in heroin addiction as well. In most cases, these medications weren't meant to be a long-term solution to pain. Pharmacists might notice someone getting too many prescriptions filled or doctors notice a patient requesting refills that aren't indicated by their condition, and they'll cut them off. That's when individuals turn to cheaper, more readily available, and far more dangerous street drugs like heroin.
No matter how well someone may be able to hide their substance dependence, masking hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms is a little more difficult. When someone is trying to quit taking hydrocodone or can't find a supply of the drug, they can appear nervous, irritated, depressed, anxious, or sad. These symptoms can set within 6 - 48 hours of taking the last dose. Emotional symptoms are often accompanied by physical signs that include:
- Muscle and joint pain
- Cold flashes
- Sweating and fever
Withdrawal from hydrocodone can be a long and uncomfortable process, but that shouldn't stop you from wanting to turn your life around. These symptoms can even lead to death in some cases, but the worst of it will be over after about three days. Supervised detox will help make the process easier. You should also know that you don't have to go through it alone.
The good news is there's help for hydrocodone addiction, Lakeview Health will help you find the best treatment program for your addiction and financial situation or insurance plan. Intensive inpatient or outpatient care will help you through hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms with expert medical supervision. Detox takes about a week. Once you're physically detoxed, treatment will be followed by group and individual therapy to help you cope with the emotional and life circumstances that often accompany substances abuse.
Lakeview Health is available 24/7 to ensure that there's someone there to help whenever you need it. If you or someone you care about is struggling with hydrocodone addiction, call 866.812.8231 today. All calls and treatment programs are completely confidential.