Every year, millions of Americans misuse prescription pain relievers. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 9.7 million people aged 12 or older misused prescription painkillers in 2019. Hydrocodone products were the most common type of misused prescription pain reliever, with 5.1 million people misusing medications like Vicodin. Over 1 million people had a prescription pain reliever use disorder.
Vicodin or other prescription opioids have a high potential for abuse. Once you’re addicted to Vicodin, you may feel you can’t stop taking the drug, even if it disrupts your life.
If you or a loved one struggles with a Vicodin substance use disorder, you don’t have to fight the battle alone. The first step to overcoming an addiction is acknowledging the problem so you can seek treatment. If you’re ready to get help now, reach out to us at Gateway Foundation.
What Is Vicodin?
Vicodin is a prescription pain reliever containing hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Hydrocodone is an opioid that interacts with the opioid receptors in your brain and blocks your pain perception. Vicodin also activates the brain’s reward regions, causing euphoria. Doctors may prescribe Vicodin to treat mild to severe pain. Sometimes, physicians recommend Vicodin to treat chronic pain.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Vicodin is a Schedule II drug. Schedule II drugs affect users’ mood and may lead to severe physical and psychological dependence. Other Schedule II drugs include methadone, oxycodone and fentanyl.
What Is Vicodin Misuse?
When someone misuses Vicodin or another prescription drug, they take the substance at times or doses that do not follow their doctor’s guidelines. For example, a patient might take Vicodin when they aren’t in pain to experience pleasurable feelings. Using alcohol or other drugs to enhance Vicodin’s effects or taking it without a prescription are additional forms of misuse.
Vicodin misuse increases the risk of addiction. However, even taking the medication as prescribed can lead to a substance use disorder.
Why Do People Misuse Vicodin?
One reason Vicodin abuse is so prevalent is the drug’s widespread availability. Every year, doctors write millions of prescriptions for pain medications like Vicodin to help Americans living with chronic pain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 20% of adults had chronic pain in 2019. In 2017, patients filled over 191 million opioid prescriptions. People may also get Vicodin from friends or family members.
According to the 2019 NSDUH, the most common reason people aged 12 or older misused prescription pain pills was to relieve physical pain. Other reasons people misused prescription drugs like Vicodin include:
- To feel good
- To relax
- To cope with emotions
- To sleep better
Sometimes, addiction begins with a Vicodin prescription given by a doctor. A patient may continue to use the drug even when it’s no longer necessary to manage pain to experience euphoria and relaxation. In some cases, a person might use Vicodin to self-medicate an untreated mental health issue like depression or anxiety.
It’s not unusual for people to develop an opioid addiction after taking prescription pain relievers. According to the CDC, as many as one in four people undergoing long-term treatment with opioids end up having a problematic relationship with these medications. Doctors aren’t sure why some people develop an opioid use disorder after taking Vicodin. However, patients with a personal or family history of addiction may be more prone to an opioid use disorder if they have a legitimate Vicodin prescription or obtain the drug illegally.
Signs of Vicodin Addiction
Addiction is a chronic disease that impacts every aspect of life, and it’s not the same as dependence. Anyone who takes Vicodin for a long time will build up a tolerance to the drug, but only a percentage of them will also feel a compulsion to continue Vicodin use.
If you’re concerned about your or a loved one’s Vicodin use, you may be wondering if there’s an addiction. Someone with a Vicodin addiction might display the following warning signs:
- Lying about pain or exaggerating symptoms to get more Vicodin
- Visiting multiple doctors to obtain Vicodin prescriptions
- Repeatedly telling doctors or pharmacies that they lost their Vicodin or had it stolen
- Using Vicodin prescriptions too quickly
- Combining Vicodin with other substances
- Arguing with loved ones over Vicodin use
- Borrowing or stealing money to buy more Vicodin
- Stealing Vicodin or other opioids from friends or family members
- Experiencing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms from stopping Vicodin use
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Denying there’s a problem
Symptoms and Side Effects of Vicodin Misuse
When a person takes Vicodin, they may initially feel relaxed, blissful or drowsy. Vicodin can also bring a range of unpleasant side effects, including:
- Trouble concentrating
- Memory issues
- Impaired judgment and decision-making skills
- Muscle weakness
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Abdominal pain
- Slow heart rate
- Shallow breathing
Over time, Vicodin misuse and addiction can have devastating consequences. Eventually, a person taking Vicodin requires increasingly higher doses to experience the desired effects, leading to more severe side effects or an overdose. According to the CDC, Vicodin is one of the most common drugs involved in prescription painkiller overdose deaths.
It’s also essential to remember that Vicodin contains acetaminophen, which can cause liver damage when taken in larger doses than prescribed or for too long.
Lastly, Vicodin may lead a person to use other drugs. For example, if someone with a Vicodin addiction can no longer get prescription pills, they might turn to illicit opioids, like heroin or fentanyl, for relief. It’s best to seek treatment if you’re suffering from a Vicodin addiction or encourage your loved one to get help for a substance use disorder.
What Is Vicodin Withdrawal Like?
Vicodin withdrawal can be challenging to cope with alone, and this is why many individuals seek treatment to overcome their addiction. Withdrawal can set in quickly whenever a person quits taking their medication or decreases their dose. Symptoms of Vicodin withdrawal include:
- Intense cravings
- Body aches
- Stuffy or runny nose
How Do You Treat a Vicodin Addiction?
The first step to treating a Vicodin addiction is to remove the drug from your body. Since Vicodin withdrawal symptoms can be severe, it’s best to go to a treatment center for assistance. In a clinical setting, medical professionals can help you safely and comfortably manage withdrawal symptoms. For example, at Gateway Foundation, you can expect medication-assisted treatment to ease withdrawal symptoms and help you focus on your recovery.
After you’ve freed your body from Vicodin, you’ll be ready to nurture your mind. At this point, it’s critical to address the behaviors and thought processes that led you to addiction in the first place.
At Gateway Foundation, we’ll identify the underlying cause of your substance use disorder and work with you to address any co-occurring mental health challenges you may have. For example, we offer cognitive behavioral therapy, one of the most effective methods for treating opioid addiction. CBT teaches clients how to cope with stressors without craving or using Vicodin. Therapists can also use CBT to show clients positive, drug-free ways to handle physical pain.
Get Treatment That Works at Gateway Foundation
Overcoming a Vicodin addiction can be challenging, especially if you’re afraid of experiencing withdrawal. At Gateway Foundation, we understand how hard it is, but we’re here for you. We offer evidence-based therapies and medication-assisted treatment to help you manage withdrawal symptoms and get your life back.
We also appreciate that addiction is a chronic disease that requires ongoing support. That’s why we’re with you for life. To learn more about our treatment programs and services, contact us today.