Not all addictions to drugs relate to notorious illegal substances like heroin or cocaine. Often, a drug addiction involves a perfectly legal prescription medication. When used improperly, drugs like hydrocodone can lead to addictions that may do serious mental and physical harm to those struggling with those addictions. By learning more about hydrocodone, addiction and treatment, addicted individuals and their loved ones might be better prepared for a successful recovery.
What is Hydrocodone?
Hydrocodone is a prescription medication that is used to treat significant pain. Since hydrocodone is an opioid medication, it’s classified as a narcotic. Although hydrocodone can be abused and has addictive qualities, it isn’t inherently a problematic substance.
Many people are prescribed hydrocodone by their doctors for things like pain management after a car accident, an injury or a major surgery. Hydrocodone, when prescribed, should be swallowed whole and in the correct dosage amounts and frequencies. Most hydrocodone is taken every four to six hours, although delayed-release forms are only taken twice every 24 hours.
Unfortunately, since hydrocodone is a narcotic, it can be abused. Those in search of an opiate high similar to other prescription painkillers or even heroin may rely on hydrocodone for its opioid ingredients.
Effects of Hydrocodone Use
When administered correctly and used under medical supervision, hydrocodone can block pain receptors and prevent patients from feeling pain or discomfort. However, even when taken as a prescription medication, there’s the potential for immediate side effects. It isn’t unusual for patients to experience things like labored breathing, confusion and fatigue.
Hydrocodone is never intended to be a long-term prescription medication. It’s intended only to relieve severe pain, and it shouldn’t be prescribed or taken for extended periods of time. While the benefits of pain relief may outweigh the side effects in the short term, the long-term consequences, such as acute liver damage, are certainly not worth it from a medical perspective.
Causes of a Hydrocodone Addiction
Although hydrocodone has perfectly legitimate medical benefits and can be used with a prescription, it is still an addictive substance. Becoming addicted to hydrocodone is easier than many people imagine, and this opioid addiction is one of the hardest in the world to break. The primary cause of a hydrocodone addiction is unsupervised or improper consumption. However, even those who take the drug appropriately are still at risk of developing addictions.
Many people who become addicted to hydrocodone have no intention of developing an addiction or abusing a drug. Instead, they rely on prescription painkillers like hydrocodone and then have trouble reducing or eliminating consumption. When withdrawal symptoms begin to kick in, many individuals continue to take hydrocodone rather than face the withdrawal.
There’s also an overall lack of understanding regarding narcotic medications and addiction. Even some physicians don’t properly inform patients about the risks of taking these incredibly strong medications, and they don’t always follow up to explore how weaning has worked. Patients who take hydrocodone with an understanding about the long-term risks are less likely to develop addictions.
There may also be some individual factors at play that can foster the development of a hydrocodone addiction. For example, people with mental health disorders are more likely to become addicted to prescription medications than the general population. Similarly, those with a history of trauma or abuse are more likely to become addicted to drugs like hydrocodone. There’s also scientific evidence suggesting that some individuals are genetically predisposed to become addicted to substances faster than others.
Signs of a Hydrocodone Addiction
Since some individuals may be using hydrocodone as prescribed by their physician, spotting an addiction can be challenging. Individuals may be suffering from a hydrocodone addiction if they’re unable to withstand a single day without the medication. Unpleasant physical side effects, known as withdrawal symptoms, may crop up if a single dose is skipped or delayed.
Individuals may be addicted to hydrocodone if their prescription stops but they begin to seek out alternatives. Other opioid medications, as well as illegal drugs like heroin, can be used to stave off withdrawal symptoms and replicate the feelings of hydrocodone. It’s important to note that patients don’t usually turn to these alternatives to enjoy some kind of high. Instead, they simply need a dose of opiates in any form to be able to function without discomfort and pain.
Preventing an Addiction to Hydrocodone
With everything that is known about hydrocodone, addictions are still something that have to be actively prevented. Perhaps the best way to prevent the formation of a hydrocodone addiction is through education. Patients who are prescribed hydrocodone need to be informed about how addictive the medication can be, and they should know exactly what symptoms to look for and how to wean themselves from the drug properly.
In addition, patients should be educated on how to dispose of hydrocodone if pills go unused. All too often, individuals save their remaining pills in case of pain that appears in the future. Unfortunately, this makes it easy for family members, friend or neighbors to access a potent narcotic. Proper disposal can keep addictive substances out of the hands of others who aren’t aware of the medication’s dangerous properties.
What to Expect from a Hydrocodone Withdrawal
Individuals who are addicted to hydrocodone have to detox from the drug in order to begin proper rehabilitation and treatment. Detoxing from an opioid substance like hydrocodone is challenging, and it’s important to complete the process in a licensed facility rather than at home. This ensures medical supervision, mental health treatment as necessary and better management of withdrawal symptoms.
Many people are reluctant to detox from hydrocodone because of the prospect of withdrawal symptoms. While unpleasant, they can be managed in a number of ways. Some of the most common symptoms to expect include:
- Aching or stiff muscles
- Diarrhea and stomach pains
- Difficulty regulating temperature
- Runny nose or nasal congestion
Although hydrocodone can be beneficial to some patients, its addictive properties can also be problematic. Withdrawing from hydrocodone is difficult, but the process is necessary in order to recover from addiction.