What Is Hydrocodone?
A semi-synthetic medication, hydrocodone is classified as a narcotic drug. It is an opiate analgesic that is prescribed for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. This painkiller is a DEA Schedule II controlled substance. Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse and addiction, may lead to severe physical or psychological dependence, and have a currently accepted medical use in the United States.
Most pain medications containing hydrocodone also contain acetaminophen. These drugs are sold under the names Vicodin, Norco, Dolorex Forte, Lortab, Anexsia, Lorcet, and several others. When hydrocodone is taken exactly as prescribed by a physician for a short duration of time, it is safe to use. But addiction can develop if the drug is abused.
How Does Hydrocodone Work?
Hydrocodone is available as tablets, capsules, and liquid. The drug can be swallowed, snorted, or injected. Hydros, Fluff, Watsons, and 357s are common slang or street names for hydrocodone.
Hydrocodone works by changing the way the nervous system and brain respond to pain. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that opioids activate opioid receptors located on cells throughout the spinal cord, brain, and organs of the body, particularly those responsible for feelings of pleasure and pain. The receptors with the attached opioids block the brain’s pain signals and release a considerable amount of dopamine, causing pain relief and feelings of intense euphoria, happiness, and calmness. Hydrocodone does not heal the source of pain; it changes how the user perceives the pain.
Hydrocodone addiction occurs when the brain gets used to the increased levels of dopamine. Over time, as the brain adapts to the drug, tolerance develops, and the user needs more hydrocodone to achieve the same results as before. Higher doses of the drug can lead to dependence, meaning that the body requires the drug to function normally and will go through withdrawal if the drug is taken away. Once dependence develops, addiction may follow. Addiction involves a psychological dependence on the drug, such that the person has a hard time stopping the drug even if they want to and are aware of the negative consequences.
Withdrawal symptoms from hydrocodone vary based on several factors, including:
- The current dose of hydrocodone and how often it was taken
- Whether or not hydrocodone was taken with another substance such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, heroin, or oxycontin
- Whether the drug was swallowed, snorted, or injected
- The length of time the person has been using hydrocodone or other drugs
- The person’s current mental and physical health
- Whether or not the individual has any past experiences with substance use disorders
Withdrawal Symptoms of Hydrocodone
Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms typically begin between eight to twenty-four hours after the last dose was taken. The person may feel like they have the flu. They may have a headache, runny nose, watery eyes, chills, and a fever. Their bones, muscles, and joints may ache. Stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may occur. Feelings of sadness, anxiety, agitation, irritability, frustration, and restlessness are common. They may experience extreme tiredness, excessive sweating, crawling skin, yawning, and goosebumps. There is a constant, strong craving for the drug.
The withdrawal timeline for hydrocodone varies from one person to another. It depends on the person’s age, size, genetics, metabolism, liver and kidney health, and how long they were using the drug and at what dose.
Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms usually begin within eight to 24 hours from the last dose. During the next 24 to 48 hours, physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal start. The severity of the symptoms generally peaks during the third to the fifth day of withdrawal. By the fifth to the seventh day, most people feel better.
Post-Acute-Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)
Post-Acute-Withdrawal Syndrome, also referred to as protracted withdrawal, often occurs after acute withdrawal ends. During protracted withdrawal, physical symptoms rarely occur. The symptoms are mostly psychological and less severe. Insomnia, mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and depression may occur. Symptoms may come in waves and can last for six months or more.
Now Is the Time to Get Help
Addiction is a disease that can happen to anyone. If you or a loved one is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, you are not alone. Help is available. English Mountain Recovery is located in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Our caring, professional staff will provide you with the tools you need to become sober and live your best life.
About the Author:
Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.