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Vicodin Addiction: Warning Signs

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Do you think you would know if a loved one was abusing Vicodin®? Can you describe the signs of a Vicodin addiction? Taking the time to be informed could make the difference between life and death for someone you care about.

Vicodin pills

Vicodin (generically known as hydrocodone) is the most commonly prescribed opioid (painkiller) in the U.S. So, it’s not surprising that more drug abuse and diversion occur with this medication than with any other legal or illicit opioid.1

Vicodin can be a safe and effective way to treat severe pain. However, it can also be addictive. Addiction can lead to personal crises. It can affect relationships, employment and other important parts of a person’s life.

If you have personal concerns about taking Vicodin, discuss them with your physician. If addiction has been an issue in the past, an alternative pain reliever may be a better option.2

Common Side Effects of Vicodin

Vicodin can cause various reactions in users. Some examples are drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, constipation, breathing difficulty and urinary pain or retention. Long-term use can lead to dependence and addiction.

Signs of Vicodin Overdose

Overuse or abuse of this drug produces seemingly harmless symptoms such as cold and clammy or excessive drowsiness, but make no mistake, overdose is not only possible. It’s all too common. Most concerning is that too much Vicodin can cause breathing to slow down. This can lead to a loss of consciousness and even death.1

Signs of Vicodin overdose include:

  • Narrowed or widened pupils
  • Slow, shallow, or stopped breathing
  • Decreased or stopped heartbeat
  • Cold, clammy or blue skin
  • Severely constricted pupils
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Death

DO NOT crush, break or open an extended-release any type of hydrocodone pill. Swallow it whole to avoid exposure to a potentially fatal dose.3

Expect Withdrawal Symptoms

Vicodin is strongly addictive in a physical way. The body can quickly become dependent on it. That is, the user feels a need for the drug in order to “feel right” (avert withdrawal symptoms). When a user attempts to curb or decrease use of the drug, withdrawal symptoms are to be expected.

Withdrawal symptoms can include: restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, loss of appetite, digestive problems, sweating, irritability and panic. If these symptoms are noticed, it is important to ask questions, find out more, and don’t give up until you learn the truth – the whole truth. A life may depend upon it.4

Is Vicodin Safe for You?

To make sure that Vicodin is safe for you or a loved one, be sure to inform your doctor of these pre-existing conditions:

  • Any type of breathing problem or lung disease
  • A history of seizures, head injury or brain tumor
  • Past or present drug abuse, alcohol addiction or other mental health issue
  • Urination problems
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • A heart rhythm disorder called “long QT syndrome”
  • Any blockage in the stomach or intestines
  • Problems with the gallbladder, pancreas or thyroid

Your doctor should also be aware of any other medications you are currently taking. Taking or stopping to take certain drugs can present a problem to Vicodin users.5

It is inconclusive whether Vicodin harms fetuses. However, caution should be taken if pregnant or planning to become pregnant. There is a chance that the baby could become dependent on the drug. If so, this can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in the baby after birth. Likewise, nursing by a Vicodin user is still being studied.6

How to Avoid Vicodin Abuse

The best way to prevent a Vicodin addiction is to take the drug exactly as your doctor prescribes. It might be helpful to keep a record of pain in a diary while on medication. This will help to analyze progress being made. If pain is decreasing while on this drug, let your doctor know. Perhaps the dosage can be gradually decreased. It might also be possible to get off Vicodin sooner than expected.

If a craving for Vicodin develops – even when there’s little or no pain – talk with the doctor immediately. This is a sign that an addiction to Vicodin has begun.7

Treatment for Vicodin Addiction

Vicodin is so strongly addictive that most people cannot get off the drug “cold turkey.” The withdrawal symptoms are just too uncomfortable to handle alone. It is no statement about people’s willpower or ability when choosing to seek expert help for their addiction. Professional detox and drug treatment from a highly reputable center is really the only reliable way to start the journey of getting free from Vicodin.

Distraught woman with counselor

Many types of treatment programs are available today. Some of these programs use medications to help ease the withdrawal symptoms, while others do not. The best approach for a specific patient will depend greatly on the nature of that person’s addiction and any other mental health issues. A long-term addiction that involves high doses of Vicodin may involve a longer recovery period than a short-term addiction. A mental health evaluation should be part of a good addiction treatment program, along with screening for depression, anxiety and other mental issues.7

Find a program that is evidence-based. That is essential. Care should be comprehensive (treat the “whole person”). Services should integrate treatment of both the addiction itself and any other mental issues at the same time. Treating all health issues simultaneously is best for long-term results.

Michael’s House is known for its quality service and solid results. If you have questions about our Vicodin rehab program, contact us anytime at 760.548.4032. We want to help.

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1 “Hydrocodone.” Drug Fact Sheet, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Prescription Pain Medications (Opioid).” NIDA for Teens, National Institute on Drug Abuse. Web. Accessed 13 July 2017.

3Hydrocodone Combination Products.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. 15 January 2017.Web. Accessed 13 July 2017.

4Symptoms of Vicodin Withdrawal.” Healthline. December 2016.Web. Accessed 13 July 2017.

Hydrocodone.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. 15 December 2016. Web. Accessed 13 July 2017.

6What Is Hydrocodone?Everyday Health. Web. Accessed 13 July 2017.

7Understanding Hydrocodone Addiction.” Healthline 12 December 2016. Web. Accessed 13 July 2017.