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Why is Hydrocodone so Addictive?

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Like other opioid drugs, hydrocodone (Vicodin) is a powerful pain reliever with a strong addictive potential. In unregulated doses, drugs in the opioid class create feelings of peace and euphoria. Once addicted to opioids, users lose the ability to feel happy and only feel normal when taking the drug.

Dangers of Hydrocodone

pillsHydrocodone provides relief from serious pain associated with illness or injury. When used as intended, to treat post-surgical pain or chronic pain for limited periods, the drug has a low chance of addiction. According to the CDC, when taken for longer periods or in larger doses than prescribed, hydrocodone more often leads to addiction, especially for people with a past history of substance abuse.[1]

People who misuse hydrocodone do it to feel euphoric or blissful. At some point, the euphoria hydrocodone brings lessens because the body develops a tolerance to the drug. It takes more and more of the drug to achieve the same effect and it never feels as pleasurable as the first time. Prolonged misuse causes addiction, which is an obsessive searching and craving for hydrocodone. The National Institutes on Drug Addiction reports that people with an addiction are willing to use the drug even when they experience negative consequences, such as relationship problems, job loss and legal troubles.[2]

But What Makes Hydrocodone So Addictive?

Hydrocodone changes the way the brain functions. The drug alters the balance of chemicals in the brain and creates ongoing cravings that are difficult to overcome without professional treatment. Essentially, the drug stops the natural production of positive feelings, so when a person no longer takes hydrocodone, he feels anxious and depressed and experiences physical withdrawal symptoms. At this point, according to an article at, many people rely on hydrocodone to avoid bad feelings, instead of using it just for a euphoric effect.[3]

As an opioid, hydrocodone blocks sensations of pain and causes sedation or euphoria as it binds to opioid receptor cells in the brain. In its molecular structure, the drug is closely related to morphine, a powerful analgesic that occurs naturally in the opium poppy. Someone who takes hydrocodone quickly converts the drug to a form that provides a rush of pleasure and profound relaxation. Studies by the NIDA show these pleasurable feelings bring users back to heroin again and again, in spite of its dangerous side effects.[4]

Hydrocodone addiction isn’t a reflection of a person’s character or willpower. Instead, it’s an indication of the power of a drug that interferes directly with the way a person’s brain experiences pain and pleasure. Recovering from hydrocodone addiction requires changing the way a person experiences the drug physically and psychologically

Brain retro xrayMedication assisted therapy is an evidence-based method that helps patients control physical reactions to the drug. Also known as opioid replacement therapy, it’s one of the best ways to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and prevent a relapse. Many users rely on drugs like methadone or buprenorphine to help them get through the detoxification phase and recover from heroin addiction. These drugs, as reported by the NIDA, prevent withdrawal symptoms, but also keep a person from feeling high.[5]

Only qualified medical professionals prescribe medications that treat heroin addiction. They work best as part of an integrated treatment plan that includes mental health screening, individual therapy, peer group meetings and family counseling. In the period following treatment, aftercare services should offer support. Patients should discuss the need to stay on opioid replacement drugs with medical professionals. According to SAMHSA data, some people need to take them for months or years to avoid relapse.[6]

What Hydrocodone Addiction Means to You

Because of the severe mental stress someone experiences during hydrocodone withdrawal, it’s important patients are under the care of professionals while detoxing. Michael’s House provides expertise and a caring staff to ensure patients have a safe zone to manage withdrawal symptoms.

At Michael’s House, we provide expert care for hydrocodone (Vicodin) addiction and the emotional and psychological conditions that lead to despair, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Call us at 760.548.4032 for more information.


[1] Dowell D., “CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain — United States.” March 18, 2016.

[2] “Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. November, 2015.

[3] Stuckert, Jeffrey. “Opioid Dependence and Withdrawal.” PsychCentral.2016.

[4] “Heroin.” NIDA. 2016.

[5] “Buprenorphine Benefits Waitlisted Seekers of Opioid Treatment.” NIDA. 2016.

[6] “Mental and Substance Use Disorders.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2016.