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The Dangers of Zohydro Abuse

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Zohydro is an opioid-based painkiller, released in March of 2014 by Zogenix as a treatment for the relief of chronic pain. The FDA describes Zohydro ER as an extended-release medication that slowly puts the hydrocodone into the bloodstream for a period of 12 hours. The drug’s intended use is to treat pain in need of continuous daily management. Zohydro contains no acetaminophen or other additives that can cause damage to the liver, which makes it a good choice for people struggling with chronic pain.

Opioid medications like Zohydro are derived from the opium poppy plant. Opioids work by binding to receptor sites in the brain, increasing endorphins, decreasing pain sensations, and creating feelings of euphoria. This flood of happy cells in the brain can lead to tolerance, dependence and addiction. People who take opioid medications can develop tolerance to the drugs over time, opening the door for drug companies to create new versions of them.

Cause for Concern

Woman taking pill in bedPeople have been abusing opioid-based painkillers like Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin since their inception. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, ten times more prescriptions for opioid medications have been issued since 1990.1 Even with a legitimate prescription, users can easily become dependent. The brain relies on the drug to create feelings of euphoria, the person using the needs more of the substance to achieve the same experience. Increasing the amount of the drug can lead to dependence and addiction and increase the risk of accidental drug overdose. In recent years, the abuse of opioid drugs has grown to epidemic proportions, with more than 40 people dying from opioid overdose each day in the United States.2

Another reason people are concerned about Zohydro, specifically, is that its extended-release format contains five times the dosage – 50 milligrams – of its immediate-release counterparts, as published by Fox News. Users who crush the pill and snort or inject the entire dosage at once dramatically increase the odds of an overdose.3

Other extended-release formats of hydrocodone, like OxyContin, have safety measures in place that turn the capsule into a jelly-like substance when crushed, making it impossible to snort or inject the drug. At this point, no such measures exist for Zohydro outside of combination locks and warnings on bottles.

Health Issues

Along with addiction, the biggest concern when abusing an opioid like Zohydro is accidental overdose. Opioid drugs suppress the central nervous system, which controls things like breathing and heart rate. When more of the drug is used than prescribed, heart rate and respirations can drop to dangerous levels, resulting in death. Physical addiction also includes changes in brain chemistry that can take long periods of time to reverse. Some other health concerns involving Zohydro include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle pain
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Sedation
  • Irritability
  • Depressed respiration
  • Unconsciousness

Combining Zohydro with substances like alcohol or other illicit drugs can increase the risk of substance-related death. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that at least half of all prescription painkiller drug overdose fatalities involved at least one other substance.4 Alcohol is often a factor in overdose as well.

How to Spot Zohydro Abuse

While Zohydro is fairly young as a narcotic pain reliever, its abuse potential is staggering. OxyContin and other hydrocodone-based prescription medications have proven how dangerous and addictive these drugs can be. Abuse of prescription medication is defined as using a drug or medication beyond its intended use. This includes taking the medication beyond the timeframe it was prescribed, diverting the prescription to someone else, taking more of the medication than intended, or taking the medication without a prescription. Additional warning signs of opioid abuse include the following:

  • Changes in weight
  • Loss of appetite
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Loss of interest in activities or people and situations previously enjoyed
  • Overuse of laxatives to combat constipation
  • Piled up pill bottles or stashes of pills
  • Fixed and pinpoint pupils
  • Decrease in personal hygiene5

People who have become dependent on an opioid prescription may shop around for different doctors to get new prescriptions or even seek out multiple prescriptions from various sources.

Seeking Help

If you or someone you know has become addicted to Zohydro, it is important to seek help. Withdrawal symptoms can be intense and stopping the drug cold turkey can be dangerous. Detox should be monitored by professionals with the help of consulting doctors. Withdrawal symptoms can mimic certain flu symptoms and may include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Dilates pupils
  • Increased tearing
  • Insomnia
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle weakness6

People with mental illness require specialized treatment in which both disorders are addressed simultaneously. Care for co-occurring disorders can help ensure a more complete recovery and a lower chance of relapse.

Finding Help for Zohydro Addiction

Michael’s House offers unique Zohydro treatment options with standalone men’s and women’s facilities that address each individual’s specific needs. A combination of therapies is employed to treat the whole person and not just the addiction. Evidence-based treatments are used to help people begin a life of recovery that lasts. Real help is only a phone call away. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions about Zohydro treatment options.


1 “Chronic Pain, Addiction, and Zohydro | NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine, 29 May 2014.

2 Baderinwa, Sarah. “Consumer Reports: Push for Ban on New Pain Pill Zohydro E-R.” ABC7 New York, 1 Aug. 2014.

3 Grush, Lauren. “Zohydro: Why This New Painkiller Could Spark Another Addiction Epidemic.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 28 Apr. 2014.

4 “Opioid Overdose.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 Dec. 2017.

5 “Prescription Drug Abuse.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 19 Sept. 2015.

6 “Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal.” MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, 20 Apr. 2016.