Vicodin is one of the most commonly prescribed pain relief medications in the United States. Unfortunately, it contains active ingredients that could lead to the development of a substance use disorder, or an addiction. Read on to find out more:
What Is It?
Vicodin is a prescription medication that contains both hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Both of these substances will interact with your body in different ways. The acetaminophen component, for instance, will serve to relieve any pain that you may be feeling. However, this drug can also be toxic to your liver if you take it in high doses.
The hydrocodone component, on the other hand, is also effective at relieving pain. However, it can also slow down activity in the brain as well as in the CNS - the central nervous system.
Since hydrocodone is an opioid drug, it can be habit forming. It is for this reason that the DEA - the Drug Enforcement Administration - lists Vicodin as a schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act passed by the federal government.
Although Vicodin is commonly prescribed for the relief of pain, you may start abusing and misusing it. This is because of the deeply relaxing and euphoric effects that it causes. Even if you have been taking this medication exactly as your doctor advised, you may still develop these feelings and become addicted to it.
Vicodin is also similar to other commonly prescribed opioid substances, including but not limited to:
This drug is effective as a prescription pain killer because it will change your perceptions of pain as well as your emotional responses to it. However, it can also produce other effects - including but not limited to feelings of euphoria and lightheadedness. It is for this effects that you may start abusing it.
Today, Vicodin is among the most commonly abused of all prescription opioids in the United States. For instance, the NSDUH - the National Survey on Drug Use and Health - for 2016 estimated that more than 6.9 million Americans had abused hydrocodone containing products such as Vicodin.
Continued Vicodin abuse can also cause your tolerance to its effects to increase. When this happens, you will find yourself taking more of the drug at higher doses and more frequently than you used to. Only by so doing will you be able to derive its pleasurable effects.
Over time, tolerance will be replaced by both physical and psychological dependence. When this happens, you could be said to be struggling with an opioid use disorder, or an addiction to this opioid-based medication.
What Are The Effects?
But what happens when you take Vicodin? Essentially, the effects of this prescription medication will vary from one person to the other. In the short term, however, you are highly likely to experience the following side effects:
- Brain fog
- Changes in concentration
- Cognitive impairment
- Difficulties with decision making
- Difficulty urinating
- Emotional blunting
- Feelings of euphoria
- Mood swings
- Pain relief
- Poor coordination
- Slowed breathing
- Slowed heart rate
- Stomach pain
- Suppressed respirations
Vicodin can also cause you to suffer some other side effects that are considered to be severe. These additional effects include:
- Changes in eyesight
- Changes in hearing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Mood swings
- Trouble walking
If you have been taking this drug for a long time, you could become tolerant to its effects. It is for this reason that you may find yourself taking it in higher doses or more frequently than you used to - or you are supposed to.
Signs to Look For If Someone Is Abusing Vicodin
But how can you tell if someone has been abusing this medication? Essentially, a loved one who misuses Vicodin will start displaying some warning signs that would be difficult for you to miss. These include:
- Breaking the law
- Buying the drug illegally
- Deteriorating performance at school or work
- Doctor shopping to obtain more than one prescription for Vicodin
- Doing things that are out of their character while trying to get more Vicodin, such as stealing
- Engaging in harmful activities while trying to get this medication
- Experiencing financial problems as a result of their drug habit
- Lying about their drug use
- Medical problems
- Modifying their prescriptions so that they can get more doses of Vicodin
- Problems with the criminal justice system due to ongoing Vicodin use
- Stealing other people's prescriptions for Vicodin
- Stealing so that they can afford their growing drug habit
- Taking more of the drug than they should
- Troubled relationships
Short and Long Term Symptoms of Vicodin Addiction
You may have originally received a prescription for Vicodin to manage your pain. However, you may soon find yourself abusing this drug. This is because it causes pleasurable effects that you would want to replicate over and over again.
Ongoing Vicodin abuse, however, will soon give rise to the development of a substance use disorder. When this happens, you will start displaying some of the common signs and symptoms of a growing drug addiction.
These symptoms may include:
a) Short Term Symptoms
- An euphoric feeling
- Brain fog
- Difficulties urinating
- Feeling of intense and deep calmness
- Reduced amounts of physical pain
- Slower heart rate
- Trouble sleeping
b) Long Term Symptoms
In the long term, using and abusing this drug could give rise to the following symptoms of a growing addiction:
- Blood clots
- Bowel obstruction
- Brain changes
- Brain damage
- Breaking the law so that you can acquire Vicodin
- Cardiovascular health issues
- Career problems
- Changes in blood pressure changes
- Changes in the functioning of your brain, including in your intelligence and memory
- Cravings for Vicodin
- Decreased gastrointestinal motility
- Difficulties relating with other people
- Difficulty feeling normal unless you take Vicodin
- Difficulty sleeping unless you have taken Vicodin
- Endangering others in a bid to get this drug
- Endocrine system issues
- Feeling pain that may not be there (or perceptions of pain)
- Feeling tired most of the time
- Frequent illnesses
- Gastrointestinal damage
- Happiness and confidence while intoxicated on the drug
- Increased anxiety
- Isolating yourself from others
- Lacking in good stress management skills
- Low self-esteem due to your addiction
- Memory issues
- Mood swings
- New and/or worsening mental health disorders
- Not contending with any emotional pain that you feel, but choosing to numb it instead
- Poor immunity
- Pregnancy complications like stillbirths, miscarriages, birth defects, pre-eclampsia, and preterm labor
- Psychological dependence
- Respiratory damage
- Struggling with your personal and professional relationships
Vicodin Overdose Risks
It can be difficult to tell if you are or someone else is overdosing on Vicodin. However, there are certain signs and symptoms of a drug overdose that you should be able to spot when they happen. They include:
- Aspirating on vomit
- Cardiac arrest
- Circulatory collapse
- Cold and clammy skin
- Cyanosis, known as a bluish tint to your lips or fingertips
- Extreme drowsiness
- Hypotension, also known as low blood pressure
- Inability to be woken up if you are unconscious
- Increased sweating
- Irregular heartbeat
- Oxygen deprivation
- Passing out
- Respiratory depression
- Severe sleepiness
- Slow and irregular heartbeat
- Slow, shallow, or irregular breathing
- Trouble breathing
- Unpleasant breath odor
According to the CDC (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), about 91 people lose their lives on any given day to a Vicodin or opioid overdose. Luckily, it is possible to survive from such an overdose.
To be able to do this, however, it is imperative that you seek emergency medical services the moment you realize that you may be overdosing on this drug. Even so, there is still a risk that you could suffer long term or permanent damage as a result of a Vicodin overdose. This damage could be marked by:
- Brain damage due to oxygen deprivation
- Broken bones
- Loss of limbs as a result of reduced blood flow across your body
- Nerve damage
Best Options for Recovery
You can only overcome your Vicodin abuse and addiction by enrolling for drug rehabilitation and treatment programs. these programs will first provide you with medically supervised detox services to help you overcome your physical dependence on the drug, as well as manage any of the following withdrawal symptoms that you may display during this initial stage of treatment:
- Cold sweats
- Difficulty eating
- Overall discomfort
- Trouble sleeping
After the detox stage has been termed successful, you will be provided with other additional addiction treatment services. This could be either in an inpatient or an outpatient drug rehab program.
These services include evidence based therapy, group and individual counseling, aftercare planning and programming, addiction education, skills training, and relapse prevention.
Through an addiction treatment and rehabilitation program, you may be able to overcome your Vicodin abuse, tolerance, dependence, and addiction and turn your life around from this substance to productive living.
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