Substance Use

What Are the Side Effects of Hydrocodone Abuse?

hydrocodone pills spilling out of bottle

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Hydrocodone Abuse and Side Effects

The United States is in the throes of an opioid crisis. As of April 2022, more than 16 million U.S citizens were documented as having opioid use disorder (OUD). Opioid use disorder is the inability to stop abusing opioids despite negative consequences – including an increased risk of death by overdose

Hydrocodone (marketed under the brand names Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet, Hycodan, and Vicoprofen) is the second most encountered opioid entered into drug evidence reported by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. This highly addictive drug is prescribed to more than 70.9 million Americans as a cough suppressant and prescription painkiller. The most commonly prescribed hydrocodone medications contain acetaminophen, such as Norco

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid closely related to morphine. This drug triggers habituation symptoms and euphoria. Unfortunately, these effects create the potential for hydrocodone abuse. 

The side effects of hydrocodone abuse vary from person to person depending on the following:

  • The dosage used
  • Whether it’s being used on or off-label 
  • If the drug is being abused along with another substance
  • If hydrocodone use extends beyond the time prescribed

Side effects of hydrocodone abuse are apparent from the moment you take more of the medication than prescribed; and are particularly troubling when trying to quit abruptly. 

If you or a loved one have a hydrocodone addiction or suffer from hydrocodone abuse, Zinnia Health can help. We offer addiction treatment programs to help you safely taper off hydrocodone and other substances with severe withdrawal symptoms. Call Zinnia Health today at (855) 430-9439 to inquire about our inpatient detox programs and fully-accredited treatment centers. 

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What Are the Common Side Effects of Hydrocodone Abuse?

Hydrocodone is an opiate analgesic (narcotic) that works by changing the way your brain and nervous system react to pain signals. In doing so, it causes depressive side effects that may impair how a person functions mentally and physically.

It also creates a sense of euphoria. When a person uses hydrocodone more than prescribed, they risk becoming physically dependent on the medication. 

Common side effects of hydrocodone abuse (opioid misuse) include the following:

  • Drowsiness 
  • Mental fog
  • Nausea
  • Constipation 
  • Slowed breathing 
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Muscle weakness  

It’s important to note that people who abuse hydrocodone are likely to suffer from polysubstance abuse since they often take the drug with alcohol. This can lead to a potential overdose

Signs of an opioid overdose include:

  • Pale face
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Skin feels cold to the touch
  • Blue fingernails and lips
  • Vomiting or making gurgling noises
  • Unresponsive 
  • Slowed or no signs of breathing 

If you notice any of these side effects, call 9-1-1 immediately. 

What Are the Short-Term Side Effects of Hydrocodone Abuse?

When taken as prescribed, hydrocodone causes minor short-term side effects such as an upset stomach and drowsiness. However, as your body becomes used to the medication, it takes more and more to maintain the same level of pain relief, increasing the risk of abuse and the list of side effects.

The short-term side effects of hydrocodone abuse include the following adverse reactions:

  • CNS changes: Brain fog, fatigue, anxiety, impaired mental performance, and dysphoria.
  • Genitourinary changes: Ureteral spasms and decreased urination and urinary retention.
  • Dermatological changes: Skin rashes. 

Hydrocodone is considered a schedule II-controlled substance due to its high potential for addiction. Opioid addicts who can no longer get this prescription from their physician may purchase synthetic hydrocodone from drug dealers.

These pills contain other substances that are not FDA-approved and may even interact with hydrocodone. For this reason, the short-term side effects of street-manufactured hydrocodone are not well-documented. 

If you or a loved one are struggling to stop using opiates like hydrocodone or codeine, you may need help from an accredited treatment program like Zinnia Health. We can help free you from the symptoms of hydrocodone abuse in a safe and supportive environment. Call us at (855) 430-9439 24/7.

What Are the Long-Term Side Effects of Hydrocodone Abuse?

Since many commercially available hydrocodone prescriptions contain acetaminophen, using this medication in an abusive way can result in liver failure. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, exposure to doses of 4,000mg or more daily can result in life-threatening liver damage, requiring a liver transplant.

Hydrocodone (Vicodin) acts on the brain’s respiratory center, so taking too much of this drug will result in respiratory depression (hypoventilation). Without immediate treatment, hypoventilation results in lower-than-normal oxygen levels (respiratory failure with hypoxia), which is treated with medical oxygen.

Some people may continue to need supplemental oxygen until the lungs heal. Some may need lung medication and supplemental oxygen for life. In some cases, respiratory failure leads to respiratory arrest, which is fatal.

Another long-term side effect of hydrocodone abuse is increased intracranial pressure. When the respiratory system is depressed, cerebrospinal fluid in the brain increase to a dangerous level, leading to head injury. This person can develop lesions on the brain due to intracranial pressure and long-lasting brain and spinal cord injury. 

Does Hydrocodone Abuse Affect Your Personality?

A person who abuses hydrocodone can develop lasting mood changes due to alterations in the central nervous system. These alterations may also create anxiety and dysphoria.

Addicts often shop around for doctors who will prescribe the drug by faking severe pain or coughing attacks. 

Other personality changes in hydrocodone addicts include:

  • Calling in fake prescriptions to local pharmacies.
  • Altering their prescriptions
  • Stealing prescriptions to get high
  • Stealing money or selling important items to fund their addiction
  • Stealing a friend or loved one’s hydrocodone prescription

This person may be moody due to changes in their central nervous system and seem depressed one moment but have feelings of euphoria the next. If they abruptly stop using hydrocodone, they may develop personality changes seen in those with opiate withdrawal syndrome.

These include:

  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

What Drugs, Substances, or Supplements Interact With Hydrocodone?

People who take the following drugs should not use hydrocodone:

  • Narcotics
  • Antihistamines
  • Antianxiety agents
  • CNS depressants
  • Alcohol
  • MAO inhibitors
  • Tricyclic antidepressants

These medications could cause life-threatening depressive effects, including difficulty breathing, involuntary gastrointestinal cramps, and impaired mental and physical reactions. Let your treatment provider know if you are taking any medication or herbal supplement before starting hydrocodone.

Battling substance abuse is hard, and you don’t have to go it alone; Zinnia Health can help. We offer addiction treatment for hydrocodone dependence and medication-assisted detox to lessen dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Our inpatient treatment programs also treat mental health issues arising from substance use disorder. Call a member of our rehab center at (855) 430-9439 to learn more.

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