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What Causes Vicodin Addiction?

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Vicodin plays a major role as a remedy from the pain and discomfort caused by surgical procedures, illnesses and other injuries. Physicians usually prescribe Vicodin to help alleviate a patient’s pain. However, people who use prescription pain killers in ways other than prescribed by a physician can quickly become addicted.

This is especially true for people with a personal or family history or addiction, or those who struggle with undiagnosed or untreated mental illness. But those with a history of addition or mental illness aren’t the only ones being trapped by opioid addiction. According to the United States Center for Disease Control, more than 60,000 people died from drug overdose in 2016 — the deadliest year of the opioid addiction recorded.1 And because of the power of these drugs to impact people’s lives, oftentimes, finances, families and relationships fall apart due to Vicodin addiction.

Physiological dependence on a drug can occur with or without an actual drug addiction. Anyone can have physical dependence and experience withdrawal symptoms if drug is stopped abruptly. Addiction to Vicodin happens when a person taking Vicodin develops an uncontrollable urge to abuse the drug.

Causes of Addiction

Brain synapsesVicodin addiction is a brain disease.2 And just like other forms of addiction, it is treatable. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that creates pleasure in the human body, is often overproduced because of addiction to this drug. Increasing levels of dopamine creates a sudden rush of euphoria beyond what the brain’s natural pleasure system is able to do. For people experiencing Vicodin addiction, the dopamine rush tends to last longer than the effects of natural dopamine released in the body. This phenomenon motivates a user to repeatedly take Vicodin. Over time, the brain decreases its natural production of dopamine to help neutralize the shooting levels of the neurotransmitter from Vicodin abuse. This then requires the user to take more of the drug just to achieve the same level of pain relief or experience.

How Does Addiction Begin?

Addiction can strike anyone at any time. A family history or personal history of substance abuse can increase the risk for some people. Environment plays a role as well as the age of a person’s first experimentation with recreational drugs. The following are a few ways addiction to Vicodin can develop:

  • From a doctor’s prescription. Millions of people use Vicodin (or the generic Hydrocodone) to help them cope with pain from an injury, illness or during recovery from surgery. Once the pain subsides, individuals keep using the drug because they have become dependent on the feelings of euphoria effects the drug produces.
  • From a friend. It’s an all too common refrain: an individual complains to her friend that she’s experiencing back pain and doesn’t know how to cope. Her friend has a couple of “old” Vicodin lying around and hands them over with the best of intentions. Because of the powerful nature of the opiate, this can quickly lead the individual down a slippery slope of addiction -where they will do anything to obtain more of the drug.
  • As an alternative to another opiate. How powerfully addictive is Vicodin? Many individuals with a heroin addiction actually turn to the drug as an alternative when they cannot find a “fix.” Many individuals who are addicted to another opiate will begin to use Vicodin because it is easier to find and offers many of the same euphoric effects as heroin, opium or other substance. Vicodin abuse can also quickly lead to heroin addiction when prescriptions run out.

Situations That May Lead to Vicodin Dependence

Woman with headache graphicVicodin is often prescribed for pain relief. The most common path that leads to Vicodin addiction begins with the best of intentions. Perhaps an individual has recently had a root canal, a surgery, or was involved in a car accident. Vicodin works wonders for these patients, and they soon discover that it does not only help relieve pain but also brings them to a state of euphoria that makes them feel great all over. The pain eventually dies down with healing but the pull of euphoria stays. Patients continue to tell lies to their doctor regarding their pain sensation in order for them to get a prescription.

Vicodin is also used as a substitute for other analgesics. The fact that the drug is legal and often prescribed by physicians doesn’t mean it’s safe for long-term use.

Vicodin is taken from a friend’s medicine cabinets. In many cases, an addicted person’s first experience with the drug is from a friend or neighbor’s medicine cabinet. This scenario is probably the most common among teenagers and adolescents. Word about the euphoric effects of Vicodin spreads among peer circles, and sooner or later, parents and grandparents see their medicine cabinets raided.

Finding Help for Vicodin Addiction

No matter how your Vicodin addiction developed, there is help available. Through medically-supervised detox, treatment and follow-up care, you or your loved one can live a life free from substance abuse. Call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.


1 Kounang, Nadia. “Opioids now kill more people than breast cancer.” CNN, Cable News Network. 21 Dec. 2017.

2What is Addiction.” The American Psychiatric Association. Jan. 2017.