Vicodin Addiction Rehab Treatment
Prescription medications can ease pain, making it easier for patients to recover from surgeries or cope with chronic conditions that can’t be cured with surgeries. Pain relievers called opioids can be particularly effective in helping people overcome pain but the medications can be risky. The relief they provide can become addictive.
Vicodin, a prescription opioid used to control moderate to severe pain, is one of the most commonly abused prescription medications in the United States.
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While Vicodin addiction can strike anyone at any age, young people seem particularly drawn to abuse the drug. According to a report from the National Institute on Drug Addiction, one in 12 high school seniors reported using Vicodin for recreation (rather than for pain control) within the previous year.
While Vicodin addiction may be common, it isn’t inevitable. There are some steps patients can take to avoid addiction, and if addiction does occur, there are several therapies that can provide relief.
What Is Vicodin?
Vicodin is a brand name, and it’s sometimes misspelled as “Vicodine.” This medication blends the opioid medication hydrocodone with the painkilling medication acetaminophen. When experts discuss Vicodin addiction, they’re often focusing solely on the effects of the hydrocodone in Vicodin. While acetaminophen does cause health effects, it doesn’t cause the symptoms that addicts crave, and it’s rarely the cause behind an addiction.
When hydrocodone enters the bloodstream, it binds to certain pain receptors along the brain and nervous system. The pain signals may still be sent but they are dulled and softened, and the patient may feel significant relief. But hydrocodone may do more than just soften pain signals. The drug can cause all kinds of secondary symptoms, including:
- Slow breathing
- Cough suppression
Dependence and Addiction
Over time, the body becomes accustomed to having Vicodin in the bloodstream, and it begins to make adjustments in the amount of chemicals it secretes. In general, the body doesn’t like to be ignored for long periods of time, so it may work hard to ensure that the brain and nervous system receive the signals it intends to send. This may mean that the person must take more and more Vicodin over time, in order to feel the same amount of relief and euphoria. These chemical changes in the body can take place within weeks of beginning to take Vicodin, and according to a study published in the journal Pain, those effects can last in the body up to 4.7 months after a person stops taking Vicodin.
People who take Vicodin as prescribed by their doctors can develop a dependence on the drug. They have difficulty functioning without the drug, and their bodies may show subtle signs of withdrawal when they attempt to stop taking the drug. This sort of dependence is to be expected, given the strength of the medication and the fact that it causes changes in the physical structure of the body. To prevent a dependence or addiction from forming, patients should use the medication for the smallest amount of time possible and talk to their doctors frequently about other methods of pain control they can try as symptoms begin to ease. Patients who have a history of chemical or alcohol abuse should avoid taking Vicodin at all costs, just to avoid the risk of developing an addiction to the medication.
When patients are no longer taking Vicodin, they should talk to their pharmacists about the extra pills they have in their homes. Teens and children may be tempted to take these pills for recreation and start their own cycle of abuse. It’s best to remove those medications from the home long before this is allowed to happen.
People who are addicted to Vicodin start by becoming dependent on the drug, and then they move on to a series of destructive behaviors in order to experience a high and avoid withdrawal.
People with addiction may:
- Ask their doctors for multiple prescriptions, and then fill them at various pharmacies.
- Lie about their use and become defensive when asked to stop taking Vicodin.
- Steal pills or purchase pills illegally.
- Hurt themselves intentionally, in order to get new prescriptions for Vicodin.
Family members and friends may be the first to notice the behavior, and they may feel helpless to stop the behavior from occurring. While confronting the addict with the behavior is never easy, it is important. Even though Vicodin is a prescribed medication, it’s far from benign. Addicts may take incredibly large doses of the drug in order to feel a high, and that can lead to an overdose. People taking large doses may simply stop breathing due to an overdose. The acetaminophen in Vicodin is also dangerous when taken at high doses for long periods of time, as it can cause fatal liver damage. Concerned family members and friends can hire an intervention specialist to help them stage a conversation with the addict and air their concerns. Ideally, at the end of the intervention conversation, the addict will enter a structured treatment plan and get needed attention. Staging a constructive intervention, where the addict feels supported and educated, may help turn the tide of addiction.
Medical Treatment for Vicodin Addiction
While family members and friends of people addicted to Vicodin may encourage the addict to simply stop taking the medication “cold turkey” during an intervention, this is never a good idea. Vicodin withdrawal symptoms can be particularly nasty and can include:
- Intense cravings
- Muscle pains and cramping
- Sleep disturbances or insomnia
Subjecting an addict to this sort of intense pain and discomfort could drive them right back into using the drug. It’s not necessary to subject addicted people to these unpleasant symptoms. Instead, most experts suggest that people with Vicodin addiction should be given a synthetic drug under a doctor’s supervision in order to reduce their body’s dependence on the drug. In the beginning, the addicted person may receive a high dose of the synthetic drug but over time, the dose is tapered down until the addict is taking no drugs at all. Methadone is often the drug used to treat opioid addiction, but doctors can also choose medications such as Buprenorphine or Naltrexone. Some medications can be given in the doctor’s office just once or twice per week so the addicted person doesn’t need to keep track of complicated pill schedules. This can be particularly helpful for addicted people who are struggling with depression. They won’t have access to the medications in their homes so they won’t be tempted to abuse these medications in the hopes of feeling a high.
This method has long been in use for people with heroin addictions, and it’s remarkably effective. Instead of subjecting the addict to painful and dangerous withdrawal symptoms, the addict slowly works to reprogram the body to function without the drug. The addict may feel mild withdrawal symptoms during this time but the pain and discomfort is kept to a minimum, to allow the addict to focus on the other parts of therapy.
Talk Therapy in Vicodin Rehab
People who are addicted to Vicodin may be accustomed to turning to the drug during times of stress and anxiety. They may also find it hard to experience joy without the help of the drug. Enrolling in a therapy program can be incredibly beneficial for people struggling with addiction, as they’ll learn new coping mechanisms to help them deal with stress, anger, disappointment and loss. Some people enroll in counseling sessions on a one-on-one basis, while other people enjoy working with a large group of addicts. These group therapy sessions, of which Narcotics Anonymous is just one example, allow addicted people to swap stories, share best practices and learn from one another. Some addicts take strength from the idea that they aren’t alone in their addiction, and they may be inspired to hear stories of other addicts’ recovery.
Therapy may have to last for years, since the body takes a long time to completely clear the Vicodin out of the system and function normally once more on both physical and psychological levels. The addict may continue to feel physical cravings for years, even when he or she is feeling mentally stable. Vicodin is remarkably easy to get, so it’s important for the addict to stay strong and resolve to leave drugs behind for good. For example, a study from CASA found that 85 percent of websites selling Vicodin and other opioids do so without requiring buyers to have a prescription. Without therapy, it would be easy for a despondent former addict to simply buy drugs online and start the cycle of abuse once more.