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Hydrocodone Addiction Symptoms and Signs

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.

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.

Taking prescription drugs without a prescription is always dangerous, and the practice can lead to addictions, overdoses or other major complications. Sometimes, the method you use in order to take in the medication can hold its own special kind of risks, above and beyond the risks represented by the active ingredient in the drugs. If you’re addicted to prescription pills like hydrocodone, Lortab or Vicodin and you shoot those drugs, you could experience these problems firsthand.

Health Effects Are Unknown or Unclear

When scientists develop a new medication, they’re required to perform a significant amount of research that details how the drug should be taken, and how much should be included in each and every dose of the drug the person takes. Sliding away from those guidelines means moving into uncharted territory.

It’s hard to know exactly what the drugs will do, when you’re taking them in ways that haven’t yet been studied. For example, Vicodin tablets are sometimes coated with a powdery substance that protects the drug’s ingredients as the pill slides down your throat. Researchers aren’t really sure what that powder might do inside your veins. It could cause no side effect, or it could cause blockages. Researchers also don’t know how much of the drug is safe for you to take through your veins. Perhaps the dose you think is safe could cause an overdose. Each time you use these drugs with a needle, you’re performing an experiment, and the results could be catastrophic.

*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.

*A Hidden Pattern

“My dealer suggested that I crush my Vicodin tablets and inject them for a bigger punch. Once I did that, my addiction just went on overdrive. I would have done anything to get that sensation back. It was only when my wife threatened to take my kids away that I saw how serious my problem really was, and I agreed to get help. The injections blinded me to the reality of what was going on.” — Chris

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.

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.

Risky Behavior

Hydrocodone, Lortab and Vicodin all contain an opioid ingredient that can make you feel relaxed and at ease. When you inject these drugs, and you feel the impact of the drugs all at once, you may be coaxed into doing things and making choices you might never make while sober. For example, in a study in the journal Addiction, 29 percent of people who injected opioids shared needles, and 20.7 percent of people had casual sex without a condom in the month prior. Either of these actions could lead to infections with HIV/AIDS. Casual sex could also result in hepatitis, gonorrhea or syphilis.

Shooting pills like this might also make you more comfortable with the concept of injecting other drugs, including heroin. It seems to be a common transition, as a study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that 24 percent of people who abused prescription opioids abused heroin later in life. While both opioids and heroin are dangerous, using heroin could expose you to all sorts of other issues, including:

  • Contaminated batches of drugs
  • Violence from drug dealers
  • Law enforcement action
  • Stiff prison sentences

Each time you inject drugs, and each time you become a little more comfortable with a needle, you make that transition to heroin a little easier to accomplish. If you’d like to break the cycle, please call our toll-free line. We can help you find the best private inpatient treatment program for your addiction, and help you learn how to maintain your sobriety for the rest of your life.

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.

As your addiction progresses, you might find that you need to take higher and higher doses of Vicodin in order to feel the same sense of elation and euphoria. Between doses of Vicodin, you might feel nervous, jittery and nauseated. In order to keep those low feelings away and make the positive feelings return, you might begin to look for ways to make the Vicodin take hold faster and provide a bigger punch. You might crush your pills and snort them, crunch them between your teeth and swallow the paste, or combine the pills with water and inject them. These are all signs that you are no longer using the drug as it is designed to be used, and that you need help for addiction.

Vicodin addiction can also be isolating and depressing. You might find it hard to connect with other people, as you’re either high or planning to get high in the very near future. Making plans for the future is hard, as much of what you will be able to do depends on your access to drugs. You might feel constipated and uncomfortable much of the time, or feel sluggish and sleepy. When people ask you why you won’t spend time with them, you might feel a surge of anger or depression.

While you might desperately want to quit, you may be unable to do so. There are a variety of reasons for this failure including:

  • Persistent brain changes due to addiction that cause cravings for Vicodin
  • Additional brain changes that make it hard for you to control your impulses
  • Lack of insight about your addiction, making you believe that you can quit if only you’ll try hard enough
  • Onset of withdrawal symptoms when you do try to quit, that force you back into Vicodin use

*Risk Factors for Addiction

While almost anyone could fall prey to a Vicodin addiction, there are some groups of people who might be at special risk for developing the disorder. For example, a study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that histories of mental illness were found in 42.7 percent of people who overdosed on prescription medications. It could be that mental illnesses make you more vulnerable to addiction syndromes, or a mental illness could make an addiction much more severe than it might be if you did not have a mental illness. There is also some evidence that women are more vulnerable to painkiller addiction when compared to men. For example, a study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that 29.8 percent of women reported abusing prescription painkillers, compared to 21.1 percent of men. It could be that women are prescribed painkillers more often than men, or it could be that women are more vulnerable to the addictive properties of these drugs.

*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

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of websites that contain laundry lists of symptoms you can look for in order to diagnose your addiction to Vicodin. In the end, though, there are really only a few questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. Do you think your Vicodin use is appropriate?
  2. Is your use hurting you or those you love?
  3. Do you want to stop?
  4. Are you ready to get started?

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.

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