Hydrocodone (Vicodin)  belongs to the class of prescription opioids used in medicines to treat moderate to severe pain, and to relax the body. Due to its potent relaxing effects, hydrocodone is often misused for recreational purposes to get high.  Hydrocodone is in the same group of prescription opioids as oxycodone, oxymorphone, morphine, codeine, and fentanyl. While using the medications as prescribed may produce intended effects, the abuse of hydrocodone (or Vicodin) can have life-threatening consequences often associated with coma or death.


Hydrocodone (Vicodin) is usually safe to take as prescribed by a doctor, and within a short period. Unfortunately, some people misuse this opioid to their peril, by taking the medicine in higher dosages, and longer than instructed by a physician; taking the medication by means other than prescribed (snorting, crushing and dissolving with water, injecting as a liquid); taking a prescription that was intended for another person.

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Hydrocodone effects on the brain

Hydrocodone attaches to an opioid receptor and activates the cells in certain areas of the brain, such as the brain, spinal cord, and other body organs. This area of the brain called the reward system, and is responsible for controlling feelings, pain, and pleasure.  The pleasure induced by the effect of a large number of dopamines released into the brain causes the user to keep taking the drugs.

Some of the common physical and psychological effects of hydrocodone are:

  • confusion
  • drowsiness
  • euphoria
  • nausea
  • constipation
  • slowed breathing

In more severe cases when this opioid abused it may cause a condition called hypoxia.  This condition is associated with a decreased amount of oxygen flowing to the brain, and resulting in coma, permanent brain damage or death.

Hydrocodone and addiction

Frequent and recurring misuse of this opioid may lead to an addiction disorder called substance abuse disorder. SUD is a chronic condition, that varies from mild to severe, and causes permanent changes in the brain function. An addiction takes precedence when a person continues to use drugs despite damaging health effects, neglects daily responsibilities, and is unable to stop using drugs.

Withdrawal symptoms of Hydrocodone use

The physical manifestations of hydrocodone withdrawal appear when a person stops using drugs abruptly or tries to taper the habit. Withdrawal symptoms may start within a few hours after the drug was taken. Depending on the severity of addiction, the withdrawal symptoms can be very painful and unbearable to overcome.  For this reason many addicts find it impossible to quit using opioids on their own. Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms are:

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  • insomnia
  • diarrhea and vomiting
  • muscle stiffness and bone pain
  • cold flashes
  • severe cravings
  • uncontrollable leg movements
  • rapid heart rate
  • tremors
  • elevated blood pressure
  • hallucinations
  • restlessness
  • anxiety
  • excessive sweating and fever
  • seizure

Hydrocodone detox and treatment

There are several types and phases of treatment available for hydrocodone addiction. First step is to undergo a medically assisted detoxification process, to cleanse the body from harmful toxins, and help you to prevent uncomfortable symptoms. Medical professionals specializing in recovery may conduct an initial physical exam, discuss opioid use history, and check the vital signs in order to determine the best treatment options for the patient.  A comprehensive treatment plan should be based on the patient’s individual needs and modified based on the following progress.

During a detox process, the patient may be prescribed medications like buprenorphine and methadone, to help to reverse to the normal brain function and reduce cravings. Other medications may help with blocking hydrocodone effects.  The most important part of the hydrocodone detox is the safety and medical attention provided to the suffering addict during a withdrawal process.  Medical professionals will monitor a detox program to ensure the patient’s safe and stable condition.

The next, and most important step in hydrocodone treatment is to undergo behavioral therapy, that can help recovering patients to modify their drug use attitudes and adopt healthy life skills. Cognitive-behavioral therapy may help teach patients coping techniques to deal with life’s stresses, and learn to manage triggers and prevent relapse.

Individual and group counseling may help patients to share their addiction experience to learn to change their behaviors from other peers.

Family support is one of the most important elements in the hydrocodone recovery process.