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Hydrocodone Addiction Symptoms and Signs

Of all of the opiate drugs available in the United States, hydrocodone is the most frequently prescribed. According to a report produced by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, more than 139 million prescriptions were written for hydrocodone-containing products in 2010 alone. While these drugs can provide a remarkable amount of relief for people who are ill or in pain, they can also be remarkably addictive. Simple use can quickly turn into abuse, and that abuse can morph into addiction.

A Variety of Products

Hydrocodone is a painkiller in the opiate family. It works by attaching to specific receptors in the brain and causing those receptors to release chemicals. The chemicals released can help to reduce the sensation of pain, and they can also reduce the body’s need to cough. The chemicals can also cause a release of pleasurable chemicals that make you feel happy and relaxed. This sensation of euphoria is often quite mild when the drug is taken at low doses.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, hydrocodone is only available in combination with other ingredients. You might have been introduced to hydrocodone when you developed a serious cough and were given a sticky-sweet cough syrup to control your symptoms. You might also have been introduced to hydrocodone when you were given pills for pain. These pills might have been designed to relieve pain for a short period of time, or they might have been extended-release tablets meant to control pain for 12 hours or more.

When your doctor prescribed these medications, it’s likely that you were told exactly how to use the medication and how often to take it. If you’d followed these instructions to the letter, the medications are considered perfectly safe to take. Moving away from these instructions in some way is a hallmark of addiction.

*Specific Dangers

Vicodin, which contains both hydrocodone and acetaminophen, can be particularly dangerous for addicts. As the addiction grows, and you begin to take more and more pills each day, you can do a serious amount of damage to your liver. According to Drugs.com, the adults can tolerate a maximum amount of 4000 mg of acetaminophen per day. One Vicodin tablet might contain this amount. If you’re taking six, eight or even 15 tablets each day, you could be severely damaging your liver.

Breaking the Rules

As your body becomes acclimated to having access to hydrocodone, you may find that you need to take larger doses of the medication in order to experience the euphoria associated with that first dose. This tolerance to the medication is natural and normal, but if you violate the instructions your doctor gave you about using the medication, and you violate those instructions in order to obtain a high, you might be crossing the line from use to addiction. Examples of these violations include:

  • Crushing extended-release tablets in order to feel the impact of the drugs all at once
  • Snorting crushed tablets to allow the drugs to work faster
  • Taking higher doses than your doctor recommends
  • Using the drug for recreation, not to relieve symptoms

In order to augment the feeling of euphoria hydrocodone brings, you might supplement the drug with alcohol or other drugs. This can be a particularly dangerous practice, as both drugs can cause you to become sedated and sleepy. Your breathing might slow and grow more and more shallow. You might even stop breathing altogether. While it’s likely you know that using alcohol in combination with drugs is never a good idea, your addiction might progress to such a degree that you’re no longer concerned with your own safety. Your interest in getting high has superseded your interest in staying safe.

*Defining Addiction

Experts define addiction as the compulsive use and abuse of a substance, even though that use and abuse is causing the person serious harm or distress. It’s considered a chronic condition that can never be cured, although it can be effectively controlled with medications and therapy.

Maintaining Supplies

People who are addicted to hydrocodone may use staggeringly high doses of the drug, each and every day. It’s not uncommon for people with addictions to use 15 or more pills in a single day, which means they’re likely outpacing prescriptions provided by their doctors. If you’re addicted to hydrocodone, you’ll probably go to desperate measures to get the drugs you need.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics, 75 percent of people addicted to prescription painkillers got those drugs from doctors. As your addiction strengthens, you might become adept at lying to doctors in order to get the drugs you crave. You might:

  • Use multiple doctors to access multiple prescriptions
  • Tamper with written prescriptions, to allow you to access more pills at once
  • Feign pain in order to obtain refills
  • Injure yourself in order to get access to painkillers

You might also consider buying drugs from the Internet. According to a study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, some of these online stores charge prices that are about 20 percent higher than prices at local pharmacies. This could mean that your addiction could become incredibly costly. Buying low-cost alternatives from other countries could help you to save money, but those companies might sell you tainted or expired drugs. They might even sell you pills that don’t contain hydrocodone at all.

You might also steal hydrocodone from your friends or family members. A quick trip to the bathroom can become a frantic search for drugs you think might help to quell your cravings. If you don’t know people who have access to hydrocodone through their doctors, you might be forced to buy the drugs from street dealers. Again, these drugs might not be safe for you to take. Dealers might cut the drugs with inert substances, in order to make their supplies go farther. They might even sell you pills that contain no hydrocodone at all.

*Why Prescribe Hydrocodone?

Since hydrocodone is so addictive, and so many people struggle to control their use of the drug, you might wonder why doctors even bother to prescribe the drug in the first place. It’s worth repeating that the drug is safe to use if you consistently follow the directions your doctor provides. Many people are able to use hydrocodone for their symptoms and they never develop an addiction in response to that use. Removing the drug from the market could cause a significant amount of distress for people who use the drug for pain control, and it could make coughs harder to treat.

Taking Over Your Life

As your use and abuse of hydrocodone become habitual, your life may begin to change in some not-so-subtle ways. You may develop a series of habits that help you to maintain your addiction, such as:

  • Taking the drug throughout the day
  • Always keeping pills with you
  • Setting aside money to buy drugs
  • Looking for drugs in each home you enter
  • Looking for misplaced prescription pads in doctors’ offices

You might also find that your thoughts are consumed with hydrocodone. Some part of your brain is always thinking about the drug, wondering when you can take it again. You might be tempted to stop going to work, so you can stay home and get high. Over time, you might feel as through you’re not normal and not happy unless you’re high.

People who are addicted to hydrocodone may vow to quit, and they may have every intention of never taking the drug again. Unfortunately, the body often adjusts to the presence of hydrocodone, and if you attempt to stop using the drug, your body might react by developing withdrawal symptoms. You might feel as though you’ve been hit with a sudden case of the flu, combining a headache with nausea and deep muscle pain. Only by taking the drug again can you make these symptoms disappear.

*How Many People Are Impacted?

If you abuse hydrocodone, you’re not alone. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, an estimated 20 percent of people in the United States have used prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes. The abuse of prescription drugs in this country has been called an epidemic, and as a result, researchers are frantically performing studies to determine how people become addicted to these drugs, and what can be done to help them recover.

Preparing for a Talk

If you’re addicted to hydrocodone, you’ll need to discuss your addiction with your doctor. It might feel awkward, especially if you’ve used this doctor’s services in order to feed your addiction, but it is an important part of your recovery process. You’ll need to disclose how much hydrocodone you’ve been taking, how long the abuse has been occurring and what you’ve tried to do on your own to ease the abuse. With this information, your doctor can help you to find a treatment program that can help you learn how to control your addiction.

If you don’t have this discussion voluntarily, your doctor might also bring it up with you during your next appointment. As the number of people with prescription drug abuse habits starts to grow, and as more newspapers and media outlets cover the rising tide of addiction, doctors are becoming savvier about prescription drug addiction. Your doctor might be monitoring how many prescriptions you’ve been filling. Your doctor might even know that you’re seeing more than one doctor. If your doctor does bring up the subject, remember to be open and honest about your use. Your doctor can be your greatest ally in helping you to recover.

We’re also here to offer help if you need it. Just call us today at the number above for help locating the best inpatient hydrocodone addiction treatment center.