Vicodin is a powerful narcotic painkiller that is prescribed after serious injury, surgery, or during dire medical conditions, such as advanced cancer. Vicodin contains a combination of a common painkiller, acetaminophen, and the hydrocodone, a powerful narcotic opioid.
Vicodin is so effective at helping people deal with pain that it’s become one of the most widely prescribed drugs in the world today. In 2015 alone, enough opioids were prescribed in the U.S. that every American could have shared them and remained fully medicated for up to three weeks straight, day and night.1
It’s a bit staggering to think that there are so many of these pills available and in use within the country at any given time, but it does explain why the Vicodin addiction problem is so prevalent. With a market filled with an incredible amount of opioid drugs, almost anyone could gain access to Vicodin.
Understanding How Vicodin Works
When a person takes Vicodin, the drug latches onto receptors scattered throughout the brain and body, and it numbs the sensation of physical pain. Some people also experience a sedative or euphoric effect, which makes them sleepy or careless. This relaxed sensation can become psychologically addicting, while the pain-numbing effects become physically addictive.
Since Vicodin is prescribed so often, and its use is so widespread, many people don’t quite understand the strength of the drug when it’s prescribed to them. Some may not know the drug contains acetaminophen, for example, while others may not understand that they’re being provided with a narcotic drug that can lead to addiction. While this information is often provided in a booklet that is dispensed along with the drug, many people don’t read those booklets and they remain blissfully unaware of the risks they are taking by ingesting Vicodin.
This drug will eventually slow down the brain’s natural, internal painkiller production. Once this happens, it can become difficult to suddenly stop using these painkillers. Other people develop serious and longstanding addictions to Vicodin (or similar drugs) as they move from taking the drug appropriately to misusing the drug.
Some people begin misusing Vicodin without ever seeing a doctor. These people may borrow drugs from others when they are in pain, or they may take the pills for simple recreational purposes, hoping to feel extraordinary sensations that can help them step out of their own lives for a while. They may mistakenly think that Vicodin is harmless, since they can access it easily.
When Does Vicodin Addiction Begin?
If you have become dependent on Vicodin, you may feel terrible once you stop using this substance. Withdrawal symptoms often drive people to return to Vicodin use, even when they desperately wish to quit. Because the brain becomes accustomed to having access to narcotic painkillers, you may feel symptoms of nausea, sweating, and chills when Vicodin use is discontinued.
“When my health insurance ran out, so did my supply of pills,” says Tony S. for Heroes in Recovery. “By that time, I had been a recreational user for seven years and a daily user for four or more years and never experienced withdrawal. Withdrawal for me starts with constant sneezing and my saliva glands produce so much saliva that I have to spit or swallow a lot, followed by vomiting. That continues for several hours and is then joined by diarrhea. Then comes the sweating, even though I would be freezing. Then the shakes set in as well as that feeling of impending doom… it was about a week-long process (for others it can take longer).”
People who are addicted to Vicodin may take dozens of pills each and every day to keep their addictions alive and the symptoms of withdrawal at bay. People who are addicted to Vicodin may spend hundreds of dollars each day on their addiction. This impacts every part of their lives, including financial security, relationships, and possibly even their health and freedom.
While each person addicted to Vicodin is likely to behave in different ways due to the abuse, many people who are addicted may:
- Have an increased need for privacy
- Seem sleepy or dazed much of the time
- Become defensive or hostile when asked about drug use
- Steal money or drugs from others
- Visit a series of doctors, asking for prescriptions
- Make up illnesses or injuries, in order to get more prescriptions
The Consequences of Opioid Addiction
Addictions can cause people to make disastrous decisions about their personal lives. People might steal from their employers, lie to their family members, or refuse to spend time with their friends. Over time, people with addictions may become so isolated that the addiction is their only real friend. The consequences of a Vicodin addiction might also go far beyond a simple disruption in social status and employment.
Vicodin contains acetaminophen, as mentioned, and while most people who abuse Vicodin are likely focused on the narcotic and the symptoms it can provide, the acetaminophen is also coursing through the bloodstream and doing its work each time a person takes Vicodin. Acetaminophen is processed by the liver, and people who are addicted to Vicodin can do a serious amount of damage to their liver, and the consequences can be dire. Up to 63 percent of people who enter to hospitals with liver failure not caused during a suicide attempt had taken an acetaminophen narcotic combination. Out of those patients, only approximately 65 percent survive. Liver damage can be fatal.3
Vicodin can also affect the health of unborn babies. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that as many as six out of every 1,000 infants are diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome, or acute opioid withdrawal. This number is assumed to be largely under-reported, and most experts agree that the number may be much higher.3
Babies who are born to mothers who use Vicodin may:
- Develop stiff, rigid muscles
- Develop seizures
- Breathe improperly
- Resist feeding
Medications may help in the short term, but these babies may struggle with developmental issues throughout their lives. It is incredibly important for all parents who struggle with opioid use to enter treatment. Getting help now will help your children have a brighter future.3
A Healthier Life Without Vicodin
It’s important to note that not everyone who is prescribed Vicodin will become addicted. Some people need to take the drug for legitimate medical conditions, and they may not ever resort to abusing the drug in any way. However, people who begin using the drug, and then start misusing it, or people who take this drug on a compulsive basis for recreational purposes may need help in order to stop the abuse and move forward with their lives.
The team at Michael’s House specializes in assisting people who have both Vicodin addictions and underlying mental health concerns that contribute to their addiction issues. Our integrated Vicodin treatment program works, and we’d like to tell you more about it. Please call us today at 760.548.4032 to talk to a recovery specialist to learn more.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infographic: Opioid Prescribing. July 2017. Web. Accessed 15 Nov 2017.
2 Larson, A., Polson, J., Fontana, R., et. al. Acetaminophen-induced acute liver failure: Results of a United States multicenter, prospective study. Hepatology. 29 November 2005. Web. Accessed 15 Nov 2017.
3 Rappleye, H., McHugh, R., Farrow, R. Born Addicted: The Number of Opioid-Addicted Babies Is Soaring. NBC News. 9 Oct 2017. Web. Accessed 15 Nov 2017.